There is no such thing as a Bad Gear Review, because there is no such thing as bad gear…only specialized gear.
Let me explain:
Last week I published a post about bad gear reviews and asked “when it was appropriate to publish a bad review?” Part of of the discussion revolved around the idea of contacting companies before publishing a bad review…to see if they would listen.
Most of the responses we received were from the viewpoint of the end-users. different bloggers who are used to using gear…but have probably never designed gear for retail sale. This week, however, I received a response from Rand Lindsly who is the co-founder of Trail Designs and co-creator of the Caldera Cone Alcohol Stove. As a cottage manufacture Rand’s products have received a wide range of reviews, allowing him to comment from the viewpoint of the vendor.
|Trail Designs Team. photo by George “Tin Man” Andrews|
What if “bad” gear doesn’t really exist. Only specialized gear that falls into the hands of reviewers that don’t have the needs designed to be met by the gear they are reviewing. Thus they give the gear a bad review.
Here is part of what Rand had to say:
“I suppose there might be some “bad” products out there that need to be slammed…..but not likely….and if so, not many. More likely, there are just products out there that are designed for certain purposes and needs, and they find their way into the hands of reviewers that either don’t understand their purposes, don’t need their strengths, or have a completely different conceptual paradigm they are comfortable with and can’t get their head around the product.
This is really the danger……getting a “review” that comes from a biased viewpoint that isn’t reviewing the gear, but trying to fit a square peg/solution into a hole they have defined as round.”
A simple example: Suppose you are sent a bivy to review, but have previously always hiked with a (relatively larger) tent. You might review the bivy as “cramped, with no room to change clothes.” Or suppose you need a sleeping bag that can be easily washed. You are sent a down bag to review and throw it in the washer only to find the down gets terribly heavy when wet, ripping through the bags baffling. You might review the bag as “poorly constructed” Or “poor choice of materials” Neither of these reviews would be accurate. The gear isn’t bad gear…it simply wasn’t designed to meet those needs.
Even “cheap” gear made from lesser quality materials is designed to meet a specific need, that of the budget minded end-user. If you are in need of better quality…you have to pay for it. If you review a $20 tent from Wal-mart and say “It didn’t hold up on my through hike of the AT.” Its because it wasn’t designed to.
What it all boils down to is the bias of the reviewer. We need to realize we are all human and have a hard time opening our minds to products that fall outside our preferences. But a good reviewer will look past his bias. As Rand says “the pressure is on the reviewer to be completely open minded about what the vendor is trying to do, and look at the product from the viewpoint of the audience they are trying to reach.” This is something I think print media has managed to do, and something bloggers could learn from.
So the question isn’t “when is it appropriate to write a bad review” but rather “Is this gear designed to meet my needs? And if it isn’t, don’t we have a responsibility to not review the gear in question?
I would really like to know what you think. Is there such a thing as “bad” gear? Are reviewers being unfair when they review gear that doesn’t meet their needs? What happens when gear is designed to meet your needs but fails to? Is it bad gear, or false advertising? I would really like to know what you think.
Please add your comments below.
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