Friday, August 07, 2009

Product reviews will change the world

Despite my professed dislike of real shops, I ventured into Comet at the weekend for an essential electronic gadget that couldn’t wait. On the way to the till I spotted the Tefal Actifry, which was described as being able to make 1kg of chips using only a tablespoon of oil. Sounds good, huh? Who doesn’t like the idea of low-fat chips that taste just as good as normal chips?

I was tempted to scoop it up as I went past, but mindful of the propensity for kitchen gadgets to disappoint – and the fact that it’s pretty pricey - I resolved to check out the online reviews first.

I’m glad I did.

The Comet site didn’t have very many reviews but the Amazon site has plenty; and the vast majority are positive. But - and it is a big but – the negative reviews are very damning, full of stories of endless broken hinges. That would be bad enough, but it seems that a “small proportion” of Actifrys burst into flames on occasion, and that BBC Watchdog ran a program about this immolation tendency in late 2008. Now I’m sure Tefal will say that the fires were minor and that anyway the current model has been modified, but I’m not ready to take the risk.

This episode illustrates how product reviews have the power to keep manufacturers on their toes. Gone are the days when a few faulty products wouldn’t be noticed! Both the BBC comments page and the Amazon review page are full of would-be buyers posting messages to say that they will not now be buying an Actifry.

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