If you are active in social media, you would have already heard of Daryl Aiden Yow who has been faking his Instagram photos. Many of them were stock photos that he purchased, of which he cleverly edited himself in those photos. Others, he posted to suggest he was at that location and snapped those photos. While legally, he seems to have covered himself well by cleverly phrasing the captions, morally he was blasted by everyone. His infamy reached across the globe and covered by various websites, from proper news sites (like The Straits Times and BBC) to gossip sites (Mothership) and even photography sites (like DPreview).

On a separate note, Channel NewsAsia reported about the proliferation of reviews that companies paid for fake reviewers to write.

I won’t blame you for asking this deep question: how can one ever trust what I read online again? Can I ever trust reviews?

As a shopper myself, I do sometimes need to read reviews to determine which products should I buy. I am guilty of excessive contemplation when it comes to purchasing non-perishable items, because I hate the idea of throwing away a product just because I don’t like to use it, not because it’s broken. When it comes to headphones, for instance, I do not like to own many pieces. I mean, how many pairs of ears do I have? Why do I need so many headphones if one is good enough?

So, this is how I do my research.

Read As Many Reviews As Possible

Why stick to one review? Go read widely to get a sense of what everyone says about the product. Here’s the thing: if a reviewer does not say much, merely saying it’s good or it’s bad, then ignore them. Most likely these people either are fake or they have a problem using the product.

After gathering as much review comments, you should be able to get an overall impression of that product. For instance, if most people says the earphones sound too bright, then it probably is. If only few people says it’s treble is amazing, then maybe these few individuals love bright sounding earphones. If you don’t, then you better skip that.

Read Formal Articles As Well As Comments

You might think big-name websites write biased reviews, but still, read them, understand why they give good or poor reviews. An objective article should describe why they come to that conclusion. For instance, someone who recommends a certain smartphone should describe why. If you agree with everything he says, then you got a winner. But if the reasons the reviewer gives are not justified, then you can simply discard the review. I have come across many reviews who claim the product is best among the competitors, but the reasons are not convincing. So, having a title “The Best XXXX” does not necessarily mean you should believe immediately. I really hope more people should read reviews carefully from start till end, pick up the important key points, validate against other articles to see if the same points are coherent. 

Don’t Just Rely On Online Shopping Reviews

When you come across a product on online shopping sites like Amazon, Lazada, Taobao, AliExpress, Shoppee, Qoo10, GearBest, any site, don’t like read the customer reviews and then buy into it. Go open another browser window, type in the product name, and search for more reviews. And don’t just click the top few results that are likely paid to be top of the ranks. Keep browsing to next few pages, or change the search keywords, which may bring up other results.

Check Out Forums

Forum sites are where members post their opinions in conversational style. One person comments, another one asks, then another chips in to debate. It is more time-consuming to form an opinion when reading forum threads, because honestly, no one product is perfect. There will be harsh critics and there will be blind supporters. But when you read enough, you will be able to discern which are objective comments and which are just stirring poop.

Recommended sites: Hardware Zone, Head-Fi.org, Reddit.

Beware of Large Number of Sponsored Product Reviews by Lesser Known Reviewers

Some unknown brands seed their products to a lot of lesser known reviewers. As a result, you might find a lot of positive reviews of that particular product. However, that does not mean the product is good. The truth is, these reviewers have to word their opinions nicely so that consumers will click the affiliate link and that they will earn commission.

But before you jump into conclusions, do browse the other articles written by these “unknown review sites” to understand the style of writing. Make sure you read between the lines to sense how genuine the reviewers are commenting about these products. Also, keep searching if the same “unknown” product has a review written by one of the better known sites.

Insufficient Reviews, How?

If a product has little or no reviews, then you might want to stay clear, unless you have someone you know who you can personally ask, or if you are the adventurous kind who loves to try out new products and then share your opinions online. It boils down to your risk appetite. For instance, you wouldn’t want to risk if the product you are buying is expensive, like a digital camera. No issue if you just want to buy a charging cable. If you do eventually get to test the product, why not leave a review so that the next person can benefit from your genuine experience?

If All Fails, Ask Chester

Chester might not know everything, but Chester could try to do some research and determine if an opinion can be formed based on either his own experience or what’s available online. Read all his reviews here.

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