Retail, reviews, Hifi and schools

The other morning there was a big Takealot and Superbalist promotion on the radio. They had sales on their websites based on user ratings, reviews, and wishlists. This was interesting and curious to me.

Then I learned that the concept is not so new. Amazon already has physical “4 star stores” in the USA which are packed with goods rated 4 stars or more.

Hifi of course is a market dominated by reviews. Stars and ratings offer a convenient way to compare one product to another, but are they really what you should be measuring and what you should decide your purchase on? What have you bought lately because of user reviews? What about based on some other measurement such as decibels or resolution? What about subjectively trying the product out before you buy? Personally I have always bought something without even trying it. Maybe that should change with something so subjective as art appreciation (listening to music).

How about another market – choosing a school for your child. Should this be done based on a simple rating/5 star model? To me, the fact that individual personalities are so different means that more care needs to be taken to find a place. But of course socio economic, geographic and other factors come into play. Can you access the school? Can you afford it? Can your child get in with their grades?

I think that the way Amazon and online mass retail has developed means we are perhaps more and more likely to look for the simple star rating, even if this is not a true indicator of what we need.