Cheating at Product Reviews

I recently inherited Nanny’s vacuum cleaner. When we got married, my husband had a Kirby Generation II, which I estimate to have been manufactured sometime in the early 80’s, as my mother had a Generation I that I know was made in 1978.

Mind you, despite the fact the thing is nearly as old as I am, it still works. But it weighs a ton, you have to disassemble it to attach the hose, and I think the beater bar is worn out, because it doesn’t pick up like it used to (although there’s still good suction when the hose is attached).

So, yesterday, I cheated on the faithful old Kirby (right in front of it!) and vacuumed the bathroom (yeah, I know; who the hell puts carpet in a bathroom?) with Nanny’s Eureka Whirlwind. This whole on-board attachment thing is a little weird—especially as I’m missing a few attachments (namely my favorite ones, like a brush; have to see if I can find those at Nanny’s). Mostly, though, it was weird because the hose had been plugged in backwards… I think. It seems to work better my way, anyways.

I went online to see if I could find an owner’s manual for it, but it’s like the model number doesn’t exist (probably a Wal-Mart exclusive or something.) The company seems to be keen on you to call them, though, as they put their phone number on the vacuum cleaner itself, plus all over their website (what a novel concept; a customer service number that’s actually easy to find). But, being the phone-hater that I am, I tried digging around online one more time to see if I could find anyone talking how to use a similar model.

Apparently you can’t look up “how to use a Eureka Whirlwind vacuum cleaner” and actually get websites that demonstrate how the vacuum works; every site that comes up wants to sell you one.

Then I found a blog* that had a review of one. I thought that it might mention how it works or show pictures of it in use, so I took a look.

And laughed.

The Unintentionally Hilarious Product Review

The first line of the actual review was:

I thought that the Eureka Whirlwind 3272AV Bagless Upright was a sleek and stylish vacuum right from the start.

This is the main thing I laughed over. I have never, ever used the phrase “sleek and stylish,” especially when paired with a vacuum cleaner. This is marketing-talk that no one in real life ever uses.

There is no such thing as a sleek and stylish vacuum cleaner. I might allow that out there is some vacuum cleaner shaped like a rocket that I might consider cool and retro, but never sleek and stylish.

My suspicions were aroused that the blogger is using a pre-prepared script from the company.

I loved the black and gray colors used as well as the transparent canister and vacuum hose.

Okay, now I’ll allow you can like the transparent canister and hose because you can see when it’s time to empty it, or if you have a clog. (My mother once had a sock sucked up in her hose, while we got a hard knot of compacted, semi-melted dryer lint stuck in ours.) But who loves the color of a vacuum cleaner? You usually store it in a closet or somewhere where it can’t be seen, right? It’s not like it needs to match the decor.

I happen to know that our Kirby and my mother’s old Kirby are/were predominately dark red with silver as a secondary color, but only because I’ve seen the things my entire life. Nanny’s vacuum cleaner is… um… I think it’s black and green. It’s dark, anyways.

See how important vacuum cleaner color schemes are to normal people? You can transport a vacuum cleaner nearly 100 miles and partially disassemble it and reassemble it and then actually use it, all without noticing what color it is.

This way, it is very easy to see just how much dirt and hair your vacuum is inhaling for you as well as whether or not something is clogging your machine.

Inhaling for you?” (This phrase was used twice in the review.) The blogger in question is supposedly from Texas. I was under the impression that people from Texas kinda sounded like people from Tennessee (where I’m from), but when I read this sentence, I’m not hearing someone who speaks Southern. It almost sounds like someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language.

Where I’m from, vacuum cleaners suck because they have suction. They don’t inhale because they have inhalation.

Did You Know You Can Buy Blog Posts?

A little-known-fact is that I have freelanced for Textbroker.com. Textbroker is a site where people who need something written offer freelance writers jobs, paying per word. Most of the jobs are pieces that wind up on places like eHow and About.com—those brief, almost useless articles telling you what something is and/or how it works. Other jobs include writing things like catalog descriptions.

(I did have one really interesting job, where I had to write a page on the history of the Civil War—I think Gettysburg, specifically—that was actually used as background info for a local tourist site.)

But a lot of the jobs being offered now (or, at least the last time I checked) are product reviews. I’ve been wondering how in the hell someone writes a product review if they don’t actually have a product to review.

Now I know.

It would seem to me that writing a product review is all about turning the specs of a particular product into readable sentences, or rewriting the sentences already on the manufacturer’s website (yes, some clients give you links to websites and tell you to “rewrite this in your own words”). Then all the blogger has to do (if they do it at all) is add a paragraph or two actually saying whether they like it or not, and boom, the post is ready to go. Textbroker articles usually clock in at a penny per word, so a 300-400 word review will only cost you $4.00 at most. (If your blog gets revenue from associate sales and advertising, it can be worth your while to pay someone else a few dollars to write your posts so you can keep the revenue churning in.)

Beware the Keyword Density, My Son,
With Words that Bite and Phrases that Catch!

How do I know that this blogger used Textbroker or something similar? I don’t. But I also know a normal blogger isn’t really concerned with keyword density.

(For those of you who don’t know, keyword density is all about using your keyword(s) as many times in blog post as the English language will possibly allow. Supposedly search engines look at that sort of thing.)

The Eureka Whirlwind came with a dusting brush, crevice tool and extension wand, extra belt and self-cleaning telescopic duster attachment.  If you go by what the Eureka Quick Start Guide states, you might think that you should also have a Power Paw attachment included, but this isn’t the case with the 3272AV model.

Me, I say what I’m going to say, and that’s that. Yes, there blogging books, etc. that tell you to be more keyword dense, in order to make you more visible to search engines, but none of the bloggers I follow—even those who make money on their blog—keyword their posts to death.

This review, however, shuns the term “vacuum cleaner.” Every time a normal person would say “the vacuum cleaner,” it says “The Eureka Whirlwind” or the model name or similar.

One of the things that almost every article request on Textbroker asks for is keyword density. Many clients will even specify that you need to say the keyword (or a selection of keywords) a certain number of times in the article. (I never take writing assignments where you have to use the keyword 5 times in a 100-150 word article. That’s an abuse of the English language that I will just not condone.)

Here’s an example from a bottle of soap we actually have in our house:

Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap is made with an antibacterial formula that eliminates the dirt you see and the germs and odors that you don’t. Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap actually kills germs and bacteria on contact so it’s perfect for use at both the bathroom and kitchen sinks. Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap is effective, yet gentle and mild, so it’s great for the entire family.

Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap likes to talk about Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap. Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap likes to start every sentence with the phrase “Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap.” Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap likes to use silted sentences that don’t flow into each other. Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap should pay a skilled marketing writer more than a penny per word to write a decent label description for Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap. Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap better be glad my husband makes the soap-purchasing decisions in our house, or I might refuse to buy Kroger Antibacterial Hand Soap on principal.

A Power Cord is NOT an Accessory

I loved the 30 foot electrical cord included….

Do vacuum cleaners ever come without a cord? Seems a bit strange to have to tell me that something that always comes with a power cord actually comes with a power cord. It’s kind of like saying “I loved the drawers that were included with this filing cabinet” or “I love the windshield that was included with this car.”

I’m not saying you can’t love a long power cord—just that you shouldn’t point out that it was included. That’s like loving the suction (inhalation?) included with the vacuum cleaner. Surprisingly, they’re both standard.

If Legal Language is “Legalese,” is Marketing Language “Marketese?”

Couple that with the included dusting brush, and you’ve got a powerful assembly perfect for cleaning baseboards, corners, furniture, drapes and vents.

A powerful assembly? Again, this doesn’t sound like a real person talking.

 In order to make this duster a super-cleaning magnet….

Because, like, I always talk about how to turn my appliances into super-cleaning magnets.

This vacuum has an extremely powerful suction due to its dual cyclonic action and 12 Amp motor.

I don’t know what dual cyclonic action is. And I have no idea how many amps my vacuum cleaner’s motor has (although, I suppose if I was shopping for one, the amperage might be one of those things you’re supposed to consider–like knowing how much RAM a good computer has). Still, if you can’t tell me how a dual cyclonic action works and why that’s better than single or non-cyclonic action, then you’re just spewing specs and not telling me anything worthwhile that will help me with my vacuum-purchasing decision.

If you are looking for a top-notch vacuum that won’t break the bank, then I highly recommend the Eureka Whirlwind 3272AV Bagless Upright!

I highly recommend writing your own review next time.

 Conclusion

I’m not saying that this blogger didn’t actually use the product in question. In fact, there’s a YouTube video on her site of the vacuum in action, so I think she really did use it. But she should have just typed up a transcript of what she says in the video for her blog post. Hell, I think it’s fine to copy the specs directly from the company’s website and paste it into the post (because it’s clear that’s where the info came from). But farming out a review ruins your credibility. If there wasn’t a video with this post, I would have assumed she was making it all up.

Given the number of product review jobs I’ve seen on Textbroker, everyone should be careful when reading reviews of any product. If it sounds like this review–if it doesn’t sound like normal, spoken English, and it uses the product name in every single paragraph–then it’s probably not legit.

*The name of the blogger and bog address have been withheld to spare embarrassment. I don’t think she’s a fraud; I just think she made a bad blogging decision. Just say no to bad blog posts! (Or at least pay more for your articles and get a better writer who sounds legit.)

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2 comments on “Cheating at Product Reviews

  1. Textbroker, eh? I’ll keep that in mind when I’m reading reviews, and I’ll take a look at it, too. We finally spent the money on an Oreck when we had our big dogs and so much hair. It was worth the money. Before that, we were throwing out a vacuum about every two years.

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