Sunday, January 13, 2008

Lowe's Supressing Product Reviews?

Back in September I had to replace my dishwasher, apparently the one that was installed when the house was built, with a new one after the door gasket failed and it started leaking. I chose this GE model which I purchased from my local Lowe's. Like a lot of on-line merchants, particularly Amazon, Lowe's has a feature on its site that allows consumers to rate the products they have purchased.

After using the new dishwasher for about three months I had some issues with it that I thought worthy of comment and that might help another consumer make an informed decision about whether the prouduct would be suitable. To be quite honest, I gave it less than a rave review, but I was completely factual about what I saw as the machines shortcomings. To date, Lowe's has not posted the review and a follow-up inquiry generated a polite blow-off, but a blow-off none the less.

I don't have the verbatim text of the comment I submitted but here are the main points near enough:
  1. After 3 months, I had to replace the silverware basket (under warranty and GE gave me no problems) because the plastic grid on the bottom had two of the squares broken. The plastic is very thin and apparently, putting in a sharp object such as a steak knife point down is enough to cut through the plastic. The resulting gap is big enough that handles slip through and can therefore block the rotating spray arm.
  2. Placing the silverware basket in the front of the lower rack has the potential to block the detergent door from opening if you put any larger utensils on that end of the basket (easy solution, don't do it).
  3. I frequently have to re-wash items because the dishwasher just doesn't do a very good job and silverware, plates, etc come out still dirty. It is necessary to give everything put in it a thorough pre-rinse. It's more work and it uses more water than it should. I commented that the under $200 builder-grade machine the GE dishwasher replaced, though somewhat noisier, did a better job overall and that I was a little disappointed in the GE in that regard.
  4. As more of an observation than complaint I noted that it is not possible to tell where in the cycle the load is once started. If you find a stray dish that you want to slip in during the wash cycle you can't be sure if it has already moved on to the rinse cycle.
After composing the text comment the site pops up a box with 5 or 6 items to rate on a 1-5 scale. I mostly gave it 3's, neutral but for overall satisfaction and value for money I gave it 2's. This caused another pop-up seeking my contact information, which I supplied, so that Lowe's could reach me to find out why I gave it the lower ratings. I still have not heard from Lowe's.

After checking back a few times to see if my review had been posted, and not seeing it, or any others for that matter, I thought a follow-up email would be in order, seeking to understand the company's policy on posting of reviews. I specifically asked whether it was their policy to not post negative ones. I stated that I hoped that is not the case as I will tend to distrust reviews at that site if I suspect I'm not getting the full story. I got an email back from "Lisa in customer service" who had "forwarded my suggestion" to the website administrator.

I have bought a lot of things from Amazon. Product reviews from Amazon run the gamut from very good to very bad. I look at the balance of comments from reviewers before I make a decision on whether to buy or not buy a particular product. I have bought products that got less than unanimous raves because some of the negatives other people have posted have not been issues for me and I've been perfectly happy with most of those purchases. The point is, I made as fully informed a decision as I could because Amazon provided all the information, good, bad or ugly. I trust Amazon because I am confident that I'm getting a full and honest appraisal of the products there. I'm willing to bet Amazon sees a lot fewer returns for reasons of dissatisfaction because of that sort of up-front transparency. Lowe's (and any other retailer that posts product reviews from consumers) should take a page from Amazon's playbook here. Trust is a valuable commodity in today's competetive environment. I'll still shop at Lowe's, but I'll trust them a little bit less now.

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