Today I had to go and get new tyres for my daily drive and my weekender (a 1979 Gemini coupe if anyone’s wondering). I poddled down to my local tyre-shop (where I haven’t been before) and checked in, unsure of how long the process was going to be. They estimated about an hour, but I didn’t want to walk home because it’s quite warm (and honestly, I waddle so slowly I’d get home then have to turn around to come back anyway) so I sat in their waiting room instead. It was an extremely comfortable room, with two leather sofas so soft I could’ve easily gone to sleep, a TV, a coffee machine and a table piled high with books and magazines.
So I got stuck into a book called A Quick Guide to Supercars and promptly learnt more about the Dodge Charger and Ferrari Dino than I previously knew. Almost exactly an hour later, the receptionist came and fetched me from my couch, I paid for my tyres and I left. They’d even positioned my car so I didn’t have to reverse out! I just got in a drove off. It was an extremely pleasant and stress-less experience.
As soon as I got home, I jumped on Google and wrote them a 5-star review. Then I sat back and enjoyed the warm glowy feeling of discovering a great place of business and adding my fingerprint of approval for any others in my area looking for a tyre shop. It got me thinking.
There is so much power through reviews and recommendations. For example, without Goodreads or Amazon, it would be a lot harder for smaller authors to get noticed. It’s only been recently that the power of reviewing has been wrested from the clutches of big newspaper columnists and handed to the everyday reader instead. Now, we have multiple opinions on a singular product, making it easier to get the full picture. I myself have several reviewers on Goodreads that I swear by. A good review by them can prompt me to buy the Kindle version immediately. That is the power of public opinion.
But it’s not only books. The other night, the boyfriend and I were looking for a place to get Chinese take-out in our area, having only lived here for a little while. We’d been eyeing a restaurant up the road from us, but upon finding a nasty review about unhelpful staff and costly food, we were prompted to look elsewhere. We ended up getting takeaway from a little non-descript shop a couple of kilometres away, and while the place wasn’t much to look at, the food was incredible. Hello Mongolian Lamb! We’ll be going back to that little business.
As a self-published author, reviews can make or break me. I proudly share all reviews, but I know that a bad review in the right place could take me off a lot of people’s to-read list, which would be devastating for my career. I never ever want to discourage people from sharing their honest opinion, however, as honesty is a trait I hold most dear. I would rather a one-star review that makes me a little sad than a bald-faced lie of a five star review.
This has been a weird rant, and I’m sorry that it doesn’t seem to follow any structure at all. Lately I’ve been thinking about the power of reviews and it struck me that, whilst my livelihood is concentrated on reviews of my book, other businesses and careers operate under the same umbrella.
I’m interested to know your opinions about public reviews. Would you rather read five unpaid for, unbiased reviews from the public, or do you swear by a newspaper’s reviewing column?