The Pathmark experience

I think my mom was some kind of genius, at least when it came to raising us kids. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she really knew what she was doing.

I’m thinking specifically of taking my brother, sister and I food shopping each week. In the mid-1960’s, the sun was setting on neighborhood markets as a new day dawned for big supermarkets. Our big supermarket was Pathmark, known for big selection and discount prices.

Mom was a devoted coupon cutter. Each time we went shopping, she made a deal with us. If we helped out, stayed out of trouble and didn’t ask for anything, she would split all the money she saved with coupons between the three of us. We could spend it any way we chose. Ka-ching!

So we were usually helpful, fairly well-behaved, and she didn’t have to field constant requests for stuff we wanted. In return, we usually blew the money on candy and learned a bit about shopping. Win-win. I know the money never amounted to much, but we always felt like we had won the lottery!

Genius.

Help! I’m being held hostage by product reviews!

In the good old days before online shopping, I would go to the store, look over the available products, and select one to buy. I’d pick the one that looked good, felt good, and was priced right. Do you remember those days?

I shop on line now. As do many of you. This means I buy a lot of things sight unseen. So I read the reviews. Positive reviews. Negative reviews. And some in-between. In a crazy, scary way, these reviews control my purchases. People I don’t even know are controlling my shopping habits.

And here is what I have noticed: negative reviews wield much power over me. A product may have, let’s say, one hundred reviews. 90% are four or five stars. I will read the one star reviews, the ten percent, to learn why this product is junk and the seller a piece of slime.

The negative responses usually go something like this:

  • “Worked for ten minutes, then quit.”
  • “Instructions were vague; assembly took three days.”
  • “Poor quality, missing pieces, shoddy craftsmanship, disappointing purchase.”
  • “Too hot” “Too cold” “Too hard” ” Too soft” “Too big” “Too small” (Goldilocks responses.)
  • “Arrived broken, seller unresponsive, and my life sucks.”

You know what? I tend to listen to the negative. I read about all the things that go wrong, and decide I need to buy something else. Something better. Something of quality. Whatever. People I don’t even know are controlling my shopping habits!

OK, Bill, take a deep breath. Who is writing these reviews? “Verified purchasers?” How do I know that’s true? Satisfied customers? Unsatisfied customers? Who knows.

Most of the time – the majority of the time – I’ve been happy with my purchases. And they had nothing to do with the reviews. I am not a bad judge of quality. I know that my purchase comes from China (duh!). And I know I can send it back for a refund. No harm. No foul.

You can either choose to be controlled by someone else’s opinion. Or your own discernment. My inner voice is valid, too.