It makes good sense to check out fitness equipment ratings posted by consumers who have already experienced the product you are interested in purchasing. Consumers can offer valuable insights about effectiveness, service, and other product qualities you may not have even considered.
Fitness equipment ratings by users, however, may swing excessively high or low for reasons unrelated to the product itself. It helps to understand the human factors that could influence the reliability of consumer reviews and to know how to extract useful information before you buy.
Consumers may rate a fitness product excessively low due to:
-Anger: Users who are truly dissatisfied seek to warn others about the perils of purchasing a fitness product. Their objectivity, perhaps tainted by anger, may cause them to post excessively harsh reviews as they air frustrations.
-Limited Experience: A new, inexperienced user may underrate a quality fitness product because they have not have exercised long enough to realize a training effect.
-The Promise of Fast Fitness: Users may be disappointed if they do not see immediate results because they bought into “fast fitness” marketing claims. Even the best exercise products will not produce rapid body transformations that exceed normal human capabilities for adapting to exercise.
-Competitors: Raters who are claiming poor results or scams may not be consumers at all. They may have another motive for underrating-to promote their own products.
-The Bandwagon Effect: Fitness equipment owners are sometimes influenced by having read negative reviews and they simply jump on the bandwagon.
There could be a bandwagon effect on the positive side, too, of course. Other psychological and emotional factors that can cause consumers to overrate fitness products include:
-Expectation: If the ads convince consumers to buy, they expect results, especially if the product is expensive. Expectations can positively influence initial perceptions of product effectiveness.
-Motivation: When consumers buy a new product, they are usually motivated to work out. Higher levels of motivation create increased effort, which produces better results even if the fitness device contributes only marginally.
-The Learning Effect: Reviewers may enthusiastically report immediate results. However, products that require novel movements or greater skill can appear to produce short-term results. Early gains are more likely due to the effect of learning than to physiological changes from exercise.
-Visible Results: Real measurable changes can occur from exercising with effective products. The excitement of making progress toward achieving one’s goals can also prompt excessively positive fitness equipment ratings.
-Affiliation: Affiliates, who may or may not have purchased a product, stand to earn a commission by posting rave reviews at multiple sites.
How to Use Consumer Ratings
1. Visit a variety of websites to access consumer reviews about the very same product you are considering.
2. As best you can, try to determine whether the website or reviewers are in some way affiliated with the product.
3. Identify raters who have exercised regularly for at least six weeks-long enough to evaluate the physical training effect, as well as the durability of the product.
4. Sort out comments that appear to be fair and objective from those that are emotionally charged.
5. Read at least 30 reviews by users who meet the criteria described in 1-4.
6. Rely more on consistencies and trends, rather than extremes and exceptions, to form your overall impression of the product according to consumers.
Consumer fitness equipment ratings are just one resource for deciding whether or not a product suits your needs. Temper your overall impression of user ratings with published reports from independent consumer groups, such as Consumer Reports and the Federal Trade Commission, before you make your purchase.