First, let’s walk through 3 types of shopping experiences I had
Buying Mattress Online
A few months ago, we decided to replace our 15-year old spring mattress and we were tempted to try one of those website-based mattress-in-a-box type of shopping experience. After hours and days of reading many different websites, long reviews and comparison reports, as well as watching a lot of videos, we chose Turf and Needle, and picked the most experience line.
We were not happy about the mattress at all. It was too soft and the worst part is, there is no edge support, which is referred to when you sit by the edge, you can easily slide down. Because we used to have a spring-based mattress, we did not know this needs to be a factor. However, the company was very nice dealing with the return procedure, so big plus to them. We later chose a different brand, but I will skip the name here.
In retrospect, those reviews and videos are ambiguous, conflicting to each other, and very useless. Like many other people say, they are paid by the mattress companies, even though the website claims it is independent. Of course the reviews are paid for, who will build a company buying dozens of mattress and writing hundreds lines of words to review them? The money has to come from somewhere.
Buying Running Shoes
Honestly, I haven’t bought running shoes from any store for a long time.
Last pair I bought was Lunarglide 6 and I even paid full price from a store. Not only because it has incredible reviews, but also a runner friend recommended it to me.
See this review: Nike LunarGlide 6
RunRepeat is one of the review site I do use regularly. Unfortunately, that shoes did not match me too well. Running with them was terrible.
I used to like Mizuno Wave Sayonara 2. I had 2, 3, and 4, and multiple pairs. The 4th version was not as good as earlier version already.
It was a good line, until Mizuno decided to retire it and I had trouble of finding it anymore. So I need to switch different shoes.
If you ever have tried looking for running shoes online, you know how many review sites out there. There are tons to read, and in the end, you just don’t remember anything. I had tried different brands: Adidas, Saucony, Asics, New Balance, and Hoka One One. Some of them felt good at the beginning, or even before 10K, but after a while or a certain distance, they did not feel right.
After numerous errors and trials, I am now settled to Altra.
Is Altra the best running shoe? I do not know. I was tempted to try Newton, but I was too afraid that I will not like it. Altra is certainly feeling good now. Unfortunately, after reading the reviews about Escalante 2, I am a little worried.
But how much should I trust those reviews?
See this one on RunRepeat: https://runrepeat.com/altra-escalante-20
The score is definitely much lower than its previous version.
But check this one on Running Shoes Guru: https://www.runningshoesguru.com/2019/09/altra-escalante-2-review/
It has a very high score!
I generally trust people who write reviews for running shoes, even though they might be paid by the shoe company. However, I cannot trust myself being the same as the person who wrote the review. There are so many things could be different, including the shape of my feet, the size, age, height, even endurance during running. All of those, even just a small difference could make the feeling completely different.
Buying a Bike Rack
Lately I just bought this:
Thule Apex XT 4 Hitch Rack
The reviews are not at the top, even from its own official website.
But from this YouTube video, it does not feel too bad.
So far I have used it twice. One was travelling over 40 miles on highway.
Do I like it? I will say it works and I am happy with it, but I am also not very happy with it. Some of those reviews are right: putting bikes on is easy, but unloading bikes is annoying. My wife or my kid will not be able to load bikes because of its height.
If I were given a chance to buy again, will I consider buying a different product? My answer will be yes. However, at this point, this XT 4 does work for our home use. We will not use it every week anyway, so we are not having this unloading problem all the time; and the price is good. Other products? How will I know they will work better?
Therefore, I don’t really have a strong desire to return it. Not like the mattress.
What is the verdict?
I ask the same question to myself.
Even if we pretend all online reviews are real, which they are not, reading reviews is not really useful to buy something that is important to you. The meaning of importance here is referred to something big or something might impact your life. Reading reviews will not only give more confusion, but also waste a lot of time.
An alternative experience will be a software that will ask a few questions (should not be too many, 10 questions should be the maximum), and then it slowly mines the information, and then provides some results:
The results will include:
- the recommended products (cannot be too many, one or two)
- 1 article or 1 video about the product
- the product used to compared to the recommended product
- locations where might be able to find the recommended or the comparing product
I do not need this software immediately gives me the results. It can spend a few days to gather the data and generate the results. Basically, I want a machine to do all the reading for me. More importantly, I do not want the recommendation based on positive review; I want the recommendation is based on what do not work in a different product.
The problem statement here is: how can we use the negative comments on a product to mine what works better in another product so the software can recommend to the users?
This is tricky, because:
- it is no longer a classification problem.
- how do we know those negative comments are real?
- how do we know what is negative in one product will be really a problem to a potential different user?
Conceptually, I have not figured everything out yet. But based on all those 3 shopping experiences, I learn what I really value after trying different products. The bad-experience-based shopping experience enforce me to have a stronger desire for the attributes I want later, and those attributes I did not realize initially. For example, the bike rack, I did not realize I needed to have a height consideration for other people in the family. If there is a better choice, yes, I will buy a different product.