Everyone’s a Critic (But Not Everyone Should Be)

imageMost types of writing require that you consider your audience. What is the purpose  of your communication, what do you hope to communicate, and to whom? Knowing these things are a must if you want to be effective.

This is especially true when giving a review, whether it be for a book, a restaurant, a play, or even a pair of socks you bought online. Why are you evaluating the product or service? What do you hope to get across? Who’ll be reading your review?

Know your readership. Who are you addressing? What are his or her needs? What would he or she want to get from this product? How might this product be useful to him or her? Remember that the reader is who you are trying to help. Do not concentrate too much on yourself, the vendor or anyone else more than the reader. Your readers are looking up to you for honest help on where to spend their money. Give them the help they want.

–from “8 Quick Tips to Write a Good Product Review” webwriterspotlight.com

I’ve been collecting fairly worthless reviews that I come across while shopping online. My list began a while back when I was checking out the reviews for a dress I was thinking of ordering. Among a smattering of helpful comments was this one-star review of the dress, in its entirety:

“It made me look fat.”

Really? That’s like saying a restaurant meal gave me gas, or a book made me angry. Without specifics or some explanation of why you think this happened and how likely you think this is to happen to others as well, you’ve told us nothing useful.

The following actual reviews make me wish the general public would stop giving reviews, or at least keep the questions above in mind and write a review that will help the next shopper make an informed decision (all spelling, typos and grammar errors, theirs):

Onlne comment about a decorative hairpin:

“Its not that great, but for the price I decided to keep it – its really not worth ordering.”

[OK, somewhat geared toward informing the next potential buyer, but not quite there. You just keep thinkin’, Butch.]

For a dog food mat, one star:

“Very small, I should have paid attention to the size. A plate dish mat would work just as well.”

[The dimensions were clearly listed.]

Regarding a clothing item:

“Ordered the coral color one, and when it arrived was a pale pink/peach color.”

[Wait–isn’t that what coral is?]image

For another article of clothing, one star:

“I didn’t like the material.”

[Because–?]

For a cat toy, one star:

“I am not sure why but my cat does not like this item.”

[Mostly worthless.]

For a wreath, one star:

“wreath is too thick.. to hang it sticks out too far from the wall”

[And who are you to dictate how far is too far for one’s wreath to stick out? Also, what’s the depth anyway?]

Craft item, four stars:

“Very pretty color but I haven’t used it on a project yet so I cant really give it 5 stars.”

[Hey! Here’s an idea: How about you use the item and then review it?]

About yardage of nylon fabric:

“The Color Choices are very limited. There should be at least 3 more colors. I needed a brown or camel color. The colors available are mostly primary & secondary.”

[Oh, man. Where to begin . . .?]

A blanket:

“Not satisfied, disappointed with this”

[Why? Color? Quality? Itchiness factor?]

Comment about Friskies Party Mix Mixed Grill Crunch Cat Treats:

“I am very disappointed with this product.My son has used Pampers since he was in the hospital.I recently changed to Pampers Cruisers from Swaddlers and Baby Dry.I have tried their Baby Dry Size 3 and they work perfect, so I decided to give Cruisers I try. It leaked once and I ignored it but leaks soon became a routine. It got so annoying and I could not figure out the problem.I changed him every 3 to four hours, I was putting on the diaper right and it was the right size.Overall, I was very disappointed with Pampers.The Cruisers cost more than the Baby Dry but the Baby Dry never leaked. I don’t think I will buy Cruisers again.these diapers are the very best overall..i have twins and the value is great..love these and would recomend them to everyone.. I used Baby Dry diapers with my oldest when she was older – but I would not recommend using them for smaller babies.I bought a package of these for my 6 week old and 90% of the time when she has a BM it comes out the top of the back of diaper.\n\nMy 6 week old is exclusively breast fed so her BM’s are usually loose and these just don’t work.I bought 2 packs and I will be taking one back.”

[This glaringly worthless review may be due to a website glitch and not due to a mental glitch by the reviewer.]

Fabric, printed alphabet panel, one star:

“NOT USEABLE!
Warning…. This is not an alphabet panel! This is a series of columns of letters that are not in the correct order. I purchased this and coordinating backing fabric to make a quick quilt for my niece, who was expecting and using a Dr. Seuss nursery theme. Imagine my horror when I finished the quilt and noticed for the first time that the panel was not correct. The alphabet was out of order! It read, “B-C-D-A” ! I had never even considered an Alphabet Panel would not start with A-B-C! I had used iron-on quilt batting so there was no saving the quilt. WHAT A WASTE!
”

[Oh, the drama! A simple, “The letters are not in alphabetical order,” would have sufficed. It turns out that the panel was cut wrong, but how could a person make an entire quilt and not notice?]

Overall conclusion: Please review responsibly.

Advertisements

Why I’m Not (Very) Bothered that a Certain Retail Bookstore Chain Isn’t Stocking My New Book

The Pickwicks' Picnic
Cover, The Pickwicks’ Picnic

The Pickwicks’ Picnic won’t be on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. It’s available via their online store, and it’s available from other online retailers and many, many independent bookstores. Perhaps I should be worried that B & N chose not to stock my book–but I’m not (much).

There used to be a very nice B & N around the corner from me, but it didn’t survive the last round of closures. So it’s not like I will be going over to my neighborhood B & N store to look wistfully at the space on the shelves where The Pickwicks’ Picnic should be. I haven’t been inside a B & N in over a year.

I don’t miss it, is the weird thing. And I doubt that my neighbors do either. There are a score of top-notch independent bookstores near me–none that I can walk to from my house, mind you, but still easy to drive to. And there’s always the option of buying online. My book is easy to find there. Have a look at one option.

This article from the New Yorker by a guy with the cool name of David Sax, written about a year ago, reveals a lot about why I’m not really missing seeing my book at a B & N store. Some highlights:

. . . sales [at Barnes and Noble] were actually growing in many categories, including board games, vinyl records, and even some categories of books, the non-digital kind (like coloring books for grownups)

My book doesn’t fit any of these categories. For one thing, it is a book. B & N sells lots of things that aren’t books. Which is fine. I sometimes like things that aren’t books.

After two decades in which the number of independent booksellers decreased by half, those bookstores are now coming back. The American Booksellers Association noted a consistent increase in new store openings over the past seven years . . .

See? There are plenty of places to find The Pickwicks Picnic besides that big chain store. MehEven in places where the local B & N is the only bookstore, you can still ask them to stock it (please do!), you can order it, or you can buy it from them online. You can buy it from Powells, iTunes, and so many other places, even online via Target and Walmart.

[Independent bookstores] stock the books that the community wants, and, while their selections are minuscule compared with Barnes & Noble, the staff can speak to the books on those shelves with authority.

No staff member at a B & N I’ve ever been to could hand-sell a beloved book to a reader, or even direct a customer to a specific book off the tops of their heads. Without the computer to search their stock (which I can do myself quite easily, thanks) they didn’t have much to offer in the way of knowledge and rarely showed the enthusiasm you’ll see at an independent store.

Naturally, I’d be very happy if The Pickwicks’ Picnic were available on the shelves at Barnes and Noble for your purchasing convenience, but I’m not going to fret that it’s not. I think it will find its audience.

Road Trips, c. 1968 (Part two: Roadside Picnics!)

05febde9ea16bad4be4ead6d7c57c9a7Sure, kids have it easier today when traveling–fancy rest areas, turnpike oases, all modern conveniences.

Not so when I was a kid. As I said two weeks ago, often a rest stop was just a gravel turnoff with a place to park, a path leading back to an outhouse, maybe a water pump, and a few scattered picnic tables.

The picnic tables were typically rustic, perhaps dotted with fallen maple seeds and stained bluish-red from berries, but sitting down for lunch at them was nevertheless a treat. Sometimes Mom would have a plastic tablecloth to lay down first. Then the Coca-Cola cooler would come out, filled with juice and pop, and things like cole slaw, potato salad, and sandwiches wrapped in cellophane. Peanut butter and jelly was my favorite. 4c666ef307def775198e3b21ff0a6ffaSometimes the jelly had kind of soaked into the bread and made it soggy–but it was still my favorite.

Retro-Images-Picnic-GraphicsFairyJust like at any picnic, then or now, bees would hover over the pop cans and sparrows would hop up to the table as close as they dared, hoping that a crumb or two would drop to the ground. Being in the open air, free and unbent after having been sitting in a car for hours–most of us can relate to that feeling. Maybe things aren’t so different nowadays after all.

And hey, is there any better way to enjoy lunch?

nobleman_picnic.jpg
SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave