I spent waaay too much time the other night deciding how many stars to award a product I had bought online a month or so earlier. I was waffling between three and four stars. I LIKE the item. It works. I’m using it. I’m not returning it. But it’s not without some hiccups.

I started thinking (OK, overthinking) about the absolute subjectivity of the reviews we write and compulsively read — what they reveal about the reviewer and what we’re NOT privy to.

Does anything satisfy the “disappointed” reviewer who finds fault with everything? Or is their whole life a two-star existence, filled with bitchy diatribes about every item they purchase and every business they patronize? I think that’s important when we’re evaluating someone else’s opinion of a product we’re considering. 

Product reviews often reveal a lot about the reviewer, but they don’t give us the whole story (thank god!). We know whether people are pet owners, parents, grandparents or married. We often learn their hobbies, musical preferences and proficiency at assembling things. We know whom they bought an item for, how often they’ve used it or whether they’ve had any problems with it.

People, usually women,  even volunteer their height and weight to help us decide on clothing sizes. I like to think they’re being honest with their weight; I always am. I think it’s our duty as a community of online shoppers. Until the garment industry smartens up and standardizes sizing on a global scale, I have to rely on the opinion of a stranger roughly my size. And while we’re on the subject, could online clothing vendors please include more than damn measurements in their online size charts? I don’t know about you, but I have only the vaguest idea of my waist, hip and bust measurements. And at 45, I’d rather not wrap a tape measure around my mid-section, thank you very much.

I much prefer the comparison charts that say a Large is roughly equivalent to a U.S. size 12/14. An Extra Large is a 14/16, and so on. 

Also, a word of marketing advice to some Asian clothing manufacturers: If I need to order a 5XL in your clothes, I don’t need your clothes. Nope, sorry, next item.

I do put some thought into making sure my reviews are factually accurate. And I’ll happily answer someone’s online question about a product I’ve already purchased. But I also acknowledge that my level of satisfaction depends entirely on my expectations. Some online reviewers clearly expected way too much of a $14 lamp. 

We must keep our expectations realistic. That $8 “silver” ring will turn your finger green; I promise. No, the online description doesn’t specify that, but it shouldn’t have to. 

And I love the people who order something for their pet, then blame the company when the animal isn’t instantly and overwhelmingly impressed. They’ll give a cat toy one star because the aloof feline preferred the box it came in.

Peanut Miles makes herself at home in a box while ignoring its contents, which were clearly bought for her, given the sender. MANDY MILES/Keys Weekly

Some people expect their cat — or toddler, for that matter — to react like a teenager to a new car in the driveway.  (Granted, dogs are different — and easily impressed. They’ll prance around, squeaking and showing off their new rubber hamburger. But cats? Nope, not gonna happen.)

Then there’s the people who review items they bought as a gift for someone else.

“I got this for my mom and she absolutely loves it.”

Does she? Really? Have you actually seen her use, wear or otherwise enjoy the item since she first opened it? More importantly, have you ever heard a mother respond to a gift from her child with anything but five-star delight?

“It’s perfect! I love it! Thank you!” Sound familiar? It should. It’s how every mom reacted to those hideous, but handmade, clay bowls we gave her in second grade. It’s what she still says about the flowers we sent for Mother’s Day, even when it’s painfully obvious that we and the florist had vastly different views on what a $65 arrangement should look like.

It’s all relative. And as with all things online these days, consider the source.

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Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.