Why I Don’t Write Completely Negative Reviews
Tim Esterdahl | Dec 15, 2015 | Comments 17
Thinking more about the post earlier, brought up the question of negative reviews. As my readers may have noticed, I don’t write negative reviews that often. Why? I don’t like being a jerk.
Before we get too far, let’s first understand there are certainly several vehicles throughout the year I receive that I don’t care for. Want an example? The recent Corolla SE is a great example. I’m not a huge fan of the vehicle. It simply feels a bit too harsh on the road and I think the interior could be done better.
Now keep in mind, I drove the 2015 Dodge Dart a week before and I believe the Dart to be a superior vehicle. The interior is much better, it handles road noise a LOT better and the seats are better. However, I know the Toyota Corolla has resale value and long-term quality in its corner. If pressed, I would be hard pressed though to buy the Corolla over the Dart.
Since I feel like the Dart is better, does that mean I should tell everyone how bad the Corolla is? NO. NO IT DOESN’T. Why? People like the Corolla and mine is just one of many opinions on it. Heck, I have a cousin who just bought a 2015 Corolla brand new. Should I walk up to her and tell her I think her new car is crap? What purpose does that serve? It doesn’t.
Besides not being a jerk, another big reason I don’t write overly negative reviews is due to the thousands of people who stand behind the product. Consider this, when Toyota designed the latest generation Corolla, they had a team of engineers, marketers, accountants, communications staff working on building the best product they could within a budget. Then when the vehicle went into production, you have the assembly line workers, parts suppliers (including third-party mom and pop operations) and transportation companies who all work on bringing that vehicle to dealers. Take those thousands of people, toss in the million of dealership employees and you have quite a few people standing behind the product. Is it really “cool” to offend all of those people?
Finally, if I say, “your product sucks” what purpose am I serving? I’m telling the communications team of the car maker thanks for spending the thousand or so to bring me the vehicle, but you can stuff it. I’m also telling the numerous owners of that vehicle that their tastes suck. Lastly, I’m giving a big middle finger to all the companies employees who are doing their best to build the best vehicle they can.
Instead, I see my job as a cross between helping consumers learn about products, give them information they can use as well as reviewing vehicles from an owner’s point of view. For example, as many of you know, I dislike the slide and recline feature of the new Tundra. I’ve typed it right here that I don’t like it. I’ve told Mike Sweers I don’t like it. That’s about as negative as I choose to be. Why? Lots of people like that feature and opinions are just like …
What do you think? Do you respect automotive journalists less because they don’t write negative reviews? Would you prefer if I wrote reviews differently?
Filed Under: TundraHeadquarters.com
I don’t get it. Isn’t that what a reviewer is supposed to do – give his or her critical opinion of a vehicle? At least I now know to avoid “reviews” with your byline on them since you’re apparently just a mouthpiece for the manufacturers’ communication departments.
Really? You got that out of that post. SMH. I give my opinion on every review, but I’m not going say a vehicle is a steaming pile of crap. That is disingenuous, unprofessional and doesn’t do anyone any good. See my example of the Corolla. There are a few people I know who own them. Should I walk up and tell them their choice is awful? Sorry, I’m not that kind of jerk.
What if it is a “steaming pile of crap?”
Isn’t constructive criticism the way people learn to do things better? I believe that’s called progress. Sounds like you’re more interested in regurgitating the specifications and features pages on a car manufacturer’s own website. I might as well just get my information there since someone probably edited it for grammatical errors before posting it up.
Let me flip this around. Is there a vehicle out there that is a “steaming pile of crap?” We could all agree the Aztek was likely such a vehicle, yet there are enthusiast sites and owners out there that love that vehicle. So, you calling it a pile of crap would be a slap in the face to all of those owners then. How is that professional?
Yes, if there are things we don’t like, we should point those out as long as they are constructive items. However, if all you offer is your opinion, you had better temper it. If you don’t, you come across as a loud mouth with zero integrity.
Finally, stop with the cheap shots (grammatical errors).
You are scaring me. Are you a politician now?
Negative or Positive reviews do not affect me one way or another. Honesty is the real critical element. How many automotive journalists can you name that are not honest? Sometimes it is their complete lack of knowledge on a given subject that makes them appear dishonest? The same rule of thumb applies to the general news media. I think most of us take it all with a grain of salt.
Sorry didn’t mean to scare you. My Facebook just exploded today and there is a big debate going on between hundreds of journalists about if they need to own vehicles and the value of their reviews if they don’t write something negative about the vehicle. I’ve literally spent 2 hours responding to comments and I really wanted to get some insight from THQ readers.
Most important of all, to me, is that you do spend as much time as you can to make the reporting as honest as you can. That and that alone makes you stand out in a very crowded field.
You might want to let your journalist friends know, that when they do not have any long term real world experience with a truck; they cannot by default be the self-proclaimed “truck expert” they say they are.
This is why so much of what I read regarding trucks is “laughable” at best; your reporting has always been a several notches higher.
Keep up the great work!
Tim, maybe you wrote your entry in such a way that it makes people forget that your reviews, when warranted, are laced with tons of helpful critique. I think what you are saying (forgive me if I’m putting words in your mouth) is that you are not prone to write “overly negative” reviews…i.e. blast the vehicle and everyone who owns it. In other words, you don’t want to be *mean-spirited* about it. Unfortunately, lots of writers think they have be mean/boisterous/rude to get heard.
I mean, you did just say that the Corolla was “harsh”, you mentioned the road noise, and you even went so far as to say you probably couldn’t even buy the Corolla over the Dart if you were really given the choice.
Alternatively, I’m reminded you are not just a mindless Toyota fanboy when you write reviews like what you did of the Titan. I love that you can praise vehicles, Toyota or not, for their positive attributes while also being critical about their shortcomings.
Hopefully none of us need you to tell us what we want or like in a vehicle. You simply share your observations and we decide what to do with said observations. I say, learn from all the comments and dialogue and use what you can to refine the great job you’re already doing.
Thanks for the comments! Yesterday’s conversation between TTAC’s editor and dozens of other journalists just got me thinking. Am I doing a disservice by not being more critical? I don’t think so. Like you said, you can write reviews without being mean spirited about it. In the end, it is all just an opinion. Why make your opinion so outrageously awful that nobody wants to listen to you anymore? That’s just not who I am.
I read reviews to get info about features and specs.
Interesting. I try to put specs in all my reviews, but honestly I probably miss on some of the features. I don’t find all the features that interesting to be honest.
Earlier you said lots of reviews seem incomplete to you. Do you have a link to share? Are any of my reviews incomplete? Don’t worry, I’m a grown man and I can take the criticism. LOL.
No specific sites or links. I find that most reviews are filled with the reviewers subjective opinions of what he/she like or don’t like. Not much of them are or have factual evidence or discriptions. That is why I look more for specs and features that get mentioned or explained in a little more in dept. I’m more interested in how a feature works and why it works with or without in accordance to the spec. Not so much how the reviewer liked or disliked about it.
A lot of reviews are incomplete because most of review consist mainly of quoting known specs and subjective opinions.
You know, I don’t ever recall any site or review ever explaining the tundra’s vsc, trac/atrac or all that other goody good stuff. Other than mentioning that it has a limited slip but not explanation that it is operated and control by brake force using the same abs sensors along with cutting off engine pwr and what not.. etc… To a newbie, he would automatically think his tundra has a typical clutch lsd.
I guess I’m the type that likes to know how stuff works. Form over function type a guy.
I can see why you are often disappointed. It is really hard for most of us, myself included, to really understand all the ins and outs of new technology. I spend a lot of time with engineers, but I can only grow my limited knowledge to a certain extent. I will say working on vehicles definitely helps. For example, working on International gives me a much better perspective. However, not all journalists do this and you will be hard pressed to find such a technical automotive journalist.
You may find sites like SAE.org as a much better outlet for getting that information. I’m on there often reading about the background information you are looking for.
This is best part about being an independent. I get to tell it like it is. Why doesn’t everyone else get to do what I do, well they have a corporate backing and sensors to worry about. Independent’s don’t have that and are able to tell it like it is. If you really read between the lines of CR, MT or CD articles, you will find that they are neutral on all of their reviews. If you want to tell it like it is become an independent, or a least make a career out of telling it like it is (ie Jeremy Clarkson). You may not always agree with his views, but at least he doesn’t hold back.
You bring up an interesting thought about corporate backing. There can be a lot of finger pointing when someone writes a review of vehicle that seems like it was backed by a wad of cash.
For the record, I don’t get a wad of cash for anything. LOL. I also make the least amount of money on doing reviews. Why do them then? It is such a good way to keep up with what’s going on and it is enjoyable learning about different vehicles and companies.
Good site BTW. I just pulled it up.
And thanks for the comments. This topic has caused quite the reaction. I do stand by what I said. I will NOT write a review calling a vehicle a complete pile of crap. I think there is also something good in a vehicle and calling it a waste is ignoring the prospective buyers, employees who built it and the overall market.