When I buy something from Amazon, especially a piece of electronic gadgetry, I always go through the reviews that were left on the product, paying close attention not to the 5-star reviews, but to the 1- and 2-star reviews to see what potential issues I could run into if I buy the item. There are always a bunch of 1-star issues from people who purchased the item thinking that it would do something that the description of the item made clear that it wouldn’t. For example, I was looking at the Bubba Keg, and it says quite clearly in the description that it’s not dishwasher-safe. Fully half of the 1-star reviews were written by people who put their Bubba Keg in the dishwasher. Another significant portion were written by people bitching about Amazon’s customer service. And there are always one or two people who clearly loved the product based on their review, who probably had no idea that the number of stars you give an item is directly proportional to the enjoyment you derived from it.
Likewise with the books, particularly those with a political slant. A significant percentage of the low ratings come from people who clearly never read the book and just wanted the opportunity to call the author an asshole.
When I was a trainer, at the end of every class we handed out review sheets, sometimes called “smile sheets” because the majority of them come back “oh, everything was great, instructor was fantastic, receptionist is the most beautiful creature God ever put on the face of the earth,” etc. Occasionally, you’d get a real clunker from someone who just plain old didn’t like you, your methods, or the answers they got to the questions they asked, which is fair enough. More often than not, reading what they say reveals what their real problem was. Like the guy who objected strongly to getting peanuts instead of cookies at afternoon break. Or the woman who didn’t want to be there but was told by her boss she had to be. Or they complain about always starting late after a break when it was they who were always coming back late (and you know that if you started on time, they’d complain about that). Or that we didn’t get through all the material because the instructor was responding to the complainer’s constant questions, which were meant as a form of a game called NIGYSOB (Now I Gotcha, You Son Of a Bitch), which is described in some detail in Eric Berne’s 1964 book Games People Play. (An excellent book, by the way.)
If you’ve bought or downloaded an app from the Apple Store or the Google Play Store, you’ve no doubt been asked for your opinion of it, usually after you’ve had it for a week or so, but sometimes before you’ve even had a chance to use it. A popup will ask you if you’d like to leave a review now or later. The better apps will ask you a month later if you chose “later.” The ones developed by needy individuals will nag you constantly for a review. I had one of those, and finally wrote a review giving the app three stars, indicating that I would have given it five if I wasn’t constantly being nagged to write a review. The developer wrote me a nasty email ending with something that sounded like “truck flu,” whereupon I uninstalled his app, which I probably should have done in the first place.