Looking to purchase household appliances? – First, understand the importance of reading product reviews
I mean, what's the big deal, right? It's the year 2019. The era of online shopping. Where all you have to do is log on to Amazon or eBay to purchase everything you'll ever need. From alarm clocks, vacuum cleaners to even fridges. It seems a rather trivial matter - to pop in your desired product into a search engine, click on ‘filter by price' and start scrolling through a seemingly endless array of options, filtering from the cheapest to the most popular.
Again, I confess that for me, the cheapest option is usually the one I'd pick. And hey, it's not like some of these less expensive products are aesthetically unpleasant, either. And best of all? You can have your desired products delivered right to your doorstep albeit for an additional, yet minute cost of a couple of bucks.
However, whether you're an online shopper like me, or you still prefer the legwork of heading down to your local mall to pick up your desired household appliance, it does pay to take a good look at a couple of reviews before you make your purchase. We may live in a consumer-friendly era, it is true, with more product choices than ever available for purchase. But this expanded choice is precisely why the onus is on us to make smart, informed decisions when making our next investment. With that said, here are some of the ways that you can benefit from reading the reviews of a household appliance before you open up your wallet and shell out your hard-earned cash.
Functionality and Features
Modern day appliances don't necessarily fulfill their intended functions. As competition in the market intensifies, household appliance products tend to become more and more feature-heavy. Perhaps a little TOO feature heavy.
Back in 2013, The Guardian published an article titled “Are our household appliances getting too complicated?” In the article, the writer outlined the phenomenon of ‘function inflation' - the tendency of household appliance companies adding rather frivolous features to make their product stand out. One example given in the article is the "Freshen Up" and "Baby" cycles on some washing machines. Some toasters even have highly specific "bagel settings." Or even better, "variable browning" settings for that Instagram-worthy Sunday breakfast picture.
That isn't to say that added functionality is a bad thing. As the article points out, gimmicks can eventually become essential functions of household appliances. These include the oven timer and the snooze button. And what's wrong with a gimmick or two anyway? People are attracted to the novel or the unusual. After all, life would be boring if everything were routine and perfunctory.
If you are the kind of person who enjoys a bit of novelty in your household appliances, a useful review can help give a better idea of how well an advertised novelty would work. These added features aim to make the product stand out. Thus, there's a good chance that there isn't any past frame of reference to compare its efficacy too. This means that a review becomes the only way to see if the function truly works as intended.
And you’d want to take advantage of every last function you can, wouldn’t you? After all, if my toaster is going to come with a ‘bagel setting’, you bet I’m going to want to impress my friends with some delicious, perfectly-toasted bagels. For feature-heavy appliances, a good review may be able to teach you how to get the most out of your product.
On the flip side, maybe you're a bit more conservative in your choice of household appliances. Perhaps you're of a more minimalist, ‘no-frills' bent. When it comes to washing machines, you would want to know if it will clean your clothes in an efficient and timely manner. However, this is no reason to skip out on reviews. Even if you intend for your appliance to do just one job, you want to make sure it does that job well. Perhaps a particular fridge might not stay as frigid after a couple of months, or a washing machine makes an inordinate amount of noise when at its work. Whether you're looking for a feature-heavy appliance or a simple but effective one, reading reviews beforehand will help prevent making a choice we may come to regret.
Service and Maintenance
Whatever kind of household appliance you seek, a product's durability is something you need to be well-informed about.
Here’s the thing about modern household appliances - they’re not always built to last. As the Yale Appliance blog states:
“Appliances have changed. Government has mandated more energy efficiency and less packaging. Manufacturers have not helped by outsourcing so much. There is a trade-off for energy savings, better functionality versus more repair.”
Household appliance companies have many different considerations - such as cost - when it comes to manufacturing in a globalized world. The result is that your cheap electric kettle that was put together in a sweatshop somewhere may not be as durable as you'd like it to be. Of course, it's essential not just to read reviews, but also to know the warranty licenses associated with your product, and just what your options for servicing are. From the same article:
“If you buy a kitchen of appliances, then you will statistically need to fix at least one of them within the first year.”
Note that the article only mentions kitchen appliances. When you factor in the various electronic gadgets we use for laundry, house-cleaning, personal grooming.... well, you see where this is going. The reality is that we need to factor in the possibility of service and maintenance with every purchase of household appliances. This is where good reviews of household appliances come in.
A practical review for a given appliance in the area of service or maintenance should come from a reviewer who has been using the product for at least a year or so. The said reviewer will be able to provide a better picture of how often the product required service, and how quick, effective and cost-efficient its servicing was. They might even be able to inform you of how willing the company is to replace the item should repairing it prove futile.
In a consumer-driven era, we need now more than ever to be smart consumers who make sound, informed choices of purchase. Not only is this prudent, but it may save us some money in the long run. For example, what would be the point of saving $50 on a cheaper appliance when you have to service it two or more times to the tune of $30 per maintenance? A minor example, perhaps - but with more expensive appliances, the problem would only exacerbate itself further. By educating ourselves through the experiences of others, we can possibly spare ourselves from the grief that comes from owning an unreliable product.
Reliability of Reviews
Okay, so we know that reviews can help us understand the functionality of an appliance and how much maintenance or servicing it may need. However, one question remains; how reliable are these reviews? As the adage warns us; don’t trust everything you read on the internet.
Indeed, there is a reason to practice caution when reading customer reviews. This is especially true in the internet age, where you can find thousands of reviews of varying lengths to sift through. Fake reviews, both positive and negative, exist, which can dilute the overall product ratings you see on retail sites. Furthermore, a negative reviewer may have used or installed the appliance incorrectly and thus, failed to give an accurate representation of the product.
As with most things in life, a little prudence and common sense go a long way in discerning the facts. Rather than simply disregarding all reviews, we should instead be discriminating of which reviews we trust. As mentioned previously, simple overall ratings should be taken with a grain of salt as they can easily be manipulated or fudged. The lengthier the review, the more likely the reviewer actually cares about what they have written, and the more likely it is to be truthful, if not reliable. Finally, more attention should be spared to reviewers who have frequently taken the time to review products that they have used thoroughly.
Generally speaking, the more detailed the review, the more worthy it is of attention.
It may be tempting to go with the cheapest option or with our aesthetic sensibilities when it comes to household appliances. But as mentioned earlier, doing so may not be the wisest option in the long run. A little bit of due diligence in reading reviews can go a long way. It can educate us about the way a particular product works, and whether the said product meets our needs. More importantly, reviews can also give us a sense of how much maintenance a given appliance may require. While not all reviews are necessarily reliable, reading with a discerning eye helps us to be smart consumers, able to look past the appearances of items and make informed choices.