User Reviews Make Life Better

It's the time of year when my life nearly has been taken over by my garden. Between the watering, the weeding, and the picking, I'm thinking about hiring a small staff. Frankly, it's a wonder that I still have a job because come May, my mind is always wandering out into the yard. When the sun goes down or the weather turns bad and I'm stuck inside, I'm combing Pinterest for ideas-most of which I'll never be able to implement. This spring, though, many of my thoughts were consumed by compost ... or the lack thereof.

I had a cheap composter that I'd gotten at a local discount store. The tumbling ones intrigued me, but once you fill them, you have to wait for the matter to cure. What's a girl supposed to do with her kitchen scraps while the decomposition process is taking place? But a year after buying my plain old composter (which was always vulnerable to critters and started to break pretty quickly), I still wasn't sure if there was any usable compost in there.

I'd open up the sides and see a little dirt, but I'd also see leaves and whole avocado pits. I was impatient, so I turned to Amazon, where I quickly discovered dual compartment tumbling composters. You fill up one side, and then let it cure while you're filling up the other side. It was the answer to my (very lame) prayers! Composters have a wide range of price points, and it's kind of hard to understand why one hunk of plastic that holds your kitchen garbage and yard waste is worth more money than the next.

Thank goodness for user reviews! One of the best reviewed dual compartment tumblers I found was also one of the least expensive (and delivery was free thanks to my Amazon Prime subscription). Users assured me that it was easy to assemble, it was suitably sturdy, and it did the job that I needed it to do. One person complained about openings that allowed bugs to get in, but that seemed trivial (especially since many bugs are beneficial to composting). It arrived a couple days after I ordered it, and I was able to put it together by myself. So far, it's working great! (By the time you read this column, I should be harvesting a batch of nutrient-rich compost.)

It just so happened that, shortly after my composter arrived, I received an email telling me that a review I'd written about a different product had been helpful to someone else on Amazon. I decided to go on a bit of a review-writing binge.

Not only did I review the composter, but I wrote up reviews for a dog bed, my iPad case with Bluetooth keyboard, and more. You name it; I reviewed it. I even wrote a quick post about my new glass water bottle that has a silicone sleeve. And that time, I asked a question. I like the bottle, but removing the sleeve to put it all in the dishwasher is a pain. I was hoping that another user might have some tips.

All of this got me thinking. What the heck did people do before user reviews? Certainly not everyone could subscribe to Consumer Reports, and even if they did, they probably wouldn't have found a review of a water bottle or every composter imaginable between those hallowed pages.

I mean, if there had been a review posted in the store next to that first composter I bought, saving, "The lid hinges broke two days after I bought it" or "I have to use bungee cords and boulders to keep possums out," I probably wouldn't have bought it. A review could have saved me $45. Normally, this is where smartphones come in handy, but this was a no-name composter in a discount store. If anyone else owned one of those things, he or she probably wasn't posting internet reviews about it.

In general, if you have a smartphone in your pocket, you have access to an unprecedented amount of product information. Whether you're using a bar code scanner to price match, or you just want to know what other people have to say about the dog food you're thinking about buying (yes, I've actually looked up dog food reviews while in the store), that device virtually ensures that you'll never have to make another uninformed purchase in your life.