Biased review websites
Buyer beware is a phrase usually aimed at warning consumers about potentially fraudulent or defective products. However, in a world now dominated by online shopping, a new threat has emerged and it’s one that can be even tougher to recognize.
When you can’t walk into a physical store to test a product yourself, online reviews become your eyes, ears and hands. You suddenly go from trusting your own judgement to putting your faith in a stranger and everything they think or say about a product, along with details you often can’t verify.
A poorly designed product could get a great review, and a good product could get slammed, both for reasons that may have little to do with the product itself. And most concerning is that in either case, the agendas at play definitely don’t have the consumer’s best interests at heart.
So this is our open letter to you, our current and future customers, to offer a buyer beware of biased product review sites.
Warning signs of a biased review site:
- Products are given either a top grade or almost zero. No middle ground.
- Negative reviews that include personal attacks on a company.
- Positive reviews without any constructive criticism at all.
- Comments section that repeats exact phrases from a review.
These sites often show up near the top of the page on a Google search. Some even look great and give very detailed reviews. But they write strategically critical reviews of certain brands while propping up others, and this is where you need to take a second look and start asking some questions.
We get it. Researching products online can be a serious time suck. It’s easy to click the first review site that pops up on Google and take its word as gospel. Why should you dig deeper, especially if you read a review that is so thoroughly negative that it seems like an open-and-shut case?
Well, here’s why: maybe there’s a reason that a certain review reads more like a personal attack than an impartial product review. Maybe it’s because it isn’t impartial at all, and you’ve just had your opinion skewed by a reviewer that’s actually trying to sell you their own product over the product you originally searched for.
These websites are sometimes owned by a sister company that sells the product that gets the top review on the “impartial” site. Of course, they don’t disclose this to their readers. In some cases the site will even give positive reviews to a few different brands, which helps it look even more legitimate, until you find out that the sister company has resale agreements with those brands so they make money off of those positive reviews, also.
But for brands they don’t own or have any prior arrangement with, look out. Over-the-top negative review, coming your way.
If you’re reading the tea leaves here, we’ll save you any further suspense: yes, we were unfortunately a victim of an Autonomous SmartDesk 2 review that can only be described as unnecessarily aggressive and personal.
But this letter isn’t a complaint. We’re not naming names or slinging mud here. There’s a growing awareness for this type of scam and we want to make sure you know about it.
This is about transparency for you, and self respect for us. We know that Autonomous SmartDesk reviews won’t always make us smile, but attacking our ethics as human beings and accusing the worst of us as a company are two steps too far.
So we’re here to offer a reminder of who we really are, where we came from, and what we care about. And also to suggest that you take a few extra minutes to question which product reviews you put your faith in and what ulterior motives might exist behind an overly negative review.
Autonomous early days and growing pains
Autonomous was created to help people, both at work and at home.
Our co-founder, Duy Huynh, saw a growing need for smart office solutions such as standing desks and ergonomic chairs but that many entrepreneurs and other young professionals couldn’t afford what the market had to offer. He wanted to change this and produce quality smart office products at prices people could actually afford.
It didn’t take long for the public to prove that Duy was on to something.
We launched our first two crowdfunding campaigns back in 2015 on Kickstarter and Indiegogo and raised over $500,000 combined in a matter of months.
Now here’s where we admit that we weren’t as prepared as we thought for keeping up with the demand in those early days. There were issues with our supply chain and unfortunately some of our customers didn’t get what they expected, or on the timeline they deserved. This was a tough lesson, but it taught us well.
“Running a business that’s growing 100% month over month is extremely challenging. Every time we caught up with our orders, they came in twice or three times as much the next month. It’s no excuse, though. We worked day and night and added more people to our team to get back on track.” - CEO and co-founder, Duy Huynh
We didn’t shy away from our mistakes. We apologized and worked our tails off to ensure the issues wouldn’t repeat themselves and we reached out to make good with as many customers as possible that felt let down by our products or services.
It’s easy to go on Reddit and pile on a series of bad reviews or experiences, and it would be easy for a company to ignore those threads and pretend they didn’t exist. But Duy joined the online discussions and personally expressed his regret over the growing pains we had faced.
He did his best to explain what had happened, why it happened and how we were dedicated to fixing it. He also gave his personal email address and guaranteed a full refund for any customer that wanted one.
That’s not a CEO that only cares about selling the cheapest products for the greatest profit. It’s a CEO that genuinely cares about his customers.
“We made an important decision at that time to switch motor suppliers and control box suppliers. That is the heart of the product.
We visited the supplier factory multiple times, worked with their technical team and management team, and we tested the components for months until they met our benchmarks.” - CEO and co-founder, Duy Huynh
We acknowledge that you can’t sell the absolute best product on the market for the cheapest price. You don’t get a Porsche for the price of a Pinto. But there’s a reason the Toyota Corolla has been a top-selling car for decades on end: it’s a quality product for an affordable price. It will last just as long as the Porsche, for a fraction of the cost.
Our goal was and remains providing the best value for our customers so they can work smarter and live better. We work hard to find that fine line between quality and affordability so that we can sell products that people and businesses can rely on for a price that makes sense for them. It’s about value. And you don’t strive for value if you don’t care about your customers.
Global sourcing for a global company
We produce our SmartDesks in two locations: Vietnam and Shenzhen, the latter of which just so happens to be in China. You know what else Shenzhen just so happens to be? One of the most advanced and reputable technology hubs on Earth.
Autonomous relies on the talented engineers and designers in Shenzhen to help produce quality, innovative products that set new standards. And thousands of leading tech companies from all over the world do this along with us.
WIRED produced a great documentary on Shenzhen a few years ago as part of their Future Cities series, in case you’d like to learn more about this fascinating tech hub.
Shenzhen: The Silicon Valley of Hardware
As a global company serving global customers, we’re open to working with anybody, anywhere, as long as the end goal is producing a top quality product. We don’t discriminate based on where a company is located or what nationality its engineers might be. That’s not what we’re about.
We’re an inclusive company, from our business partners right down to our employees. And that’s not going to change.
Third-party imposters and resellers
While we’re clearing up some details about who we are and what we represent, we want you to know that we don’t sell our products on Amazon or on any other third-party site.
Our entire business model is selling directly from the manufacturer to you, cutting out the middleman markups of traditional retail. So, if you see our products on Amazon, please know that they are there without our permission. We do not work with retail resellers, Amazon or otherwise.
We do our best to limit this issue but sometimes it still happens, so this is us telling you to beware of any deal you see that doesn’t link directly back to the Autonomous website. When you buy from us directly, you know what you’re getting and we’ll be there to assist you in any way we can.
Real and reputable reviews
We’re grateful to count employees from some of the most recognizable companies in the world among our most satisfied customers, including those working at global tech leaders such as Abbott, Kensho and Tesla. Joining them is a growing list of young startups and problem solvers that we’re psyched to have using our SmartDesks across a wide range of industries.
Our products have also received positive and constructively fair reviews from many online review sites that are actually transparent, unbiased and without an agenda from the get to. Check out a few here, here and here. And if you’d like to dig deeper you can visit our full Press Page.
We didn’t pay for these reviews. We simply offered up a product and asked them to give it a try and let us know what they think. These are people who review products like ours all the time and take pride in providing a public service by testing products and giving honest reviews of them for consumers to consider. And by and large, they endorsed our products.
Finally, just so you know
We care about you.
We are a young company, full of passionate young professionals and when we read bad reviews of our products or services, we feel it. We take it home. It keeps us up at night and it motivates us to be better.
We can’t claim that we’ve had it all figured out from day one, but we didn’t quit or make excuses when things got hard. We owned our mistakes, dug in and found ways to correct them. Now, in 2020 and at the start of a new decade, we’re more committed than ever to helping you work smarter with products that you can rely on to make your life better.
Thanks for joining our movement and for sticking with us.
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