Sunday, August 21, 2016

Over-the-top Advertising

I was looking to buy a can opener on Amazon and I found an $8 model that looked like what I wanted. There was, however, something off-putting about the product description. Instead of a simple "It opens cans," which was really all I wanted, it advertised:
"High quality parts will last for years"
"Hanging hooks for convenient storage"
"Sharp cutting disc effortlessly cut the sturdiest can"
"Beautiful design to complement kitchen decor"
"Made for Seniors and people with hand mobility issues"
"Perfect gift for wedding, bridal shower, Mother's Day, Father's Day, and birthday"

Instead of the standard 1 or 2 product images, there were 5 pictures showing the can opener from different angles, and even a picture of it opening a can as if to prove it can really do it. Also, the $8 price was actually an 80% discount from the previously listed $40 price, which smells less like a once-in-a-lifetime deal and more like an inventory that really needs selling.

When in doubt on Amazon, I usually look at the reviews to see what's up, and they told the same story as the rest of the page. The can opener had a 4 star average rating, split between a multitude of 5 star ratings (from people whose openers didn't break) and a large minority of 1 star ratings (from people whose openers did break). I suspect that a lot of the 5 star revies were paid for: they have the telltale signs of emphasizing selling points (I am an old person and the large knob made this opener easy to turn and it cut through cans like butter), saying it has no cons (having all 5 star and few 4 star reviews is suspicious), and finally an eerie similarity between many reviews.

I could, of course, be misreading the situation, but one of the things I learned during my summer as a freelance writer is that many online product descriptions and reviews are written by poorly-paid people who have never used the product or anything like it, and are instead given a list of selling points and a word count to fill out. I, for example, wrote reviews of the top selling compound bows on Amazon and didn't even get paid because I used the phrase "compound bow" too many times (it throws off SEO). In the case of this can opener, I would be willing to spend $8 on an openly mediocre product that just opened all of my cans and then broke after a year, but with the sketchy descriptions and reviews of this opener, it's not worth the risk.

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