I was an early adopter of internet shopping because I lived abroad and there were a lot of things I missed about the UK. The first one was being able to get books in English and DVDs (or videos, back in the mid-90s) when they were released. In those days, Amazon was amazing because it remembered your last few book purchases and emailed you with other recommendations from people who’d bought the same books. It may seem commonplace today, but that was cutting-edge stuff nearly twenty years ago! My first experience of that left me thinking ‘Yey, this is what the internet is all about and how online shopping should be!’ All the fun of shopping but without getting sore feet or paying for parking.

Unfortunately, Amazon has now grown into a recommendation-requesting machine. Last week, I ordered an add-on item. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a low-cost item that isn’t worth the postage cost of sending on its own, so it stays in your basket until you have an order worth delivering – which is fine if you need a pack of envelopes but it isn’t urgent. In my case, since we moved house, I couldn’t find the box of drawing pins for the kitchen notice board, so a new packet was added on to the delivery of books I had this week.

Before the drawing pins had even arrived, I got an email from a company I’d never heard of, asking for a recommendation for my recent purchase, without even saying what it was that I’d apparently bought. I thought it was spam and deleted it. Then another one. Then another one. Finally, I noticed that the original Amazon order had said ‘delivered and fulfilled by X’ – the company that had been emailing me.

I am all in favour of giving recommendations, relying on them often and giving them too. I feel uncomfortable asking clients for recommendations (even though they usually give them gladly) so it really gets me annoyed when I’m inundated with requests for something like this. Recommendations should be written for the benefit of future (potential) customers so there are clear etiquette rules to follow:

  • If it’s something technical, people are researching about it to either find out a) does it do what they want it to; or b) how difficult is it to set up/use; or c) how does it compare to its competitors? So, recommendations should be based around that.
  • If it’s a personal service like a beautician or a therapist then it’s all about how well you connected and how qualified/expert you found that person to be – did they perform as expected?
  • If it’s anything non-technical then people are pretty much interested in quality and/or price. Does it do what it’s supposed to and was the cost reasonable?

So, nobody would ever be interested in my opinion on drawing pins, unless, maybe, they didn’t do the job they were intended for. I was left wondering why anybody would write a recommendation for drawing pins. What good could it possibly do?

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