Whenever we didn’t know how to do something, or we had to make a significant purchase, or we were going somewhere new, or in fact we were about to do anything for the first time, our first recourse was to ask somebody else. We’ve always respected the opinion of others, because we valued their perspective on things more than the perspective of someone we didn’t know, especially when that someone we didn’t know was selling us something. This is natural, they haven’t earned our trust yet. ‘I don’t know you, which means I don’t trust you – yet.’

In these days of web 2.0, social media – in short the ever more connected world – reviews are everything, because now it’s really easy to see our peers’ opinions, and the opinions of a thousand other peers we don’t even know. Yes, we don’t know them, but we tend to trust them because they appear to have a genuine, unvested desire to feed back for their community. Nowadays, thanks to sites like Tripadvisor and Trustpilot, you can’t really game the system.  They have sophisticated algorithms for weeding out the fake reviews, or the self-reviews. It then becomes a numbers game, since anyone with the most basic knowledge of statistics will tell you that the more reviews you have, the more they represent a fair and ‘true’ reflection of the product or service you’re interested in.

With good products or services, with lots of good reviews, a funny psychological thing happens. The reviews enhance our experience before we buy and after the purchase when we’re using it. ‘Gee, I see why this restaurant is number 1 on Tripadvisor, the food’s unbelievable isn’t it?’ It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, the good stuff gets the ‘big mo’ as the electioneering Americans would say and the products appear to get better and better. The converse happens, of course, with the bad stuff.

I bought a book the other day on Amazon. It seemed to fit the bill and it was relatively cheap. I didn’t do much more on it and bought it. When the package arrived I thought there was nothing in it. The book was only 44 pages of large, self-published type. I had been ripped off. Worse still, the preface promised me two free tools to help using the book. When I went online to follow the claim process for my free resources, it was nothing more than a double opt-in email subscription process and I’ve received nothing.

I went back to Amazon and checked the listing for the book. It didn’t detail the page numbers, which is normally the case and which I would usually pick up on as it’s a crude indicator of value for money. I missed it, my bad. Then I went further down the listing and saw that there were no reviews, perhaps because it was relatively new. Caveat emptor, and all that. I realised I had been duped but that it was totally my fault. I had been a fool in a hurry.

When I finish this book, which will take about 40 minutes from cover to cover, I can’t wait to do my review on Amazon.