This is a work of fiction. A short story of 1000 words. It is dedicated to all the Internet reviewers out there.
Rosie looked at the email again.
‘Please review your recent purchase. Help other customers make the right buying choices.’
She chewed her lip. Was it compulsory? Quickly logging on, she checked the terms and conditions. Scanning the unfamiliar prose for a while, she could find nothing that said she had to leave a review. She would have a think about it, and look again later.
The afternoon was bright, and sitting in the garden with a cool drink, Rosie went over her thoughts once more. What can you say about a broom? Surely everyone knows how to use one, and what they do? Perhaps there are some people who don’t. Maybe that’s why they need you to send in those reviews.
Unable to settle, she went back into the house and looked at the laptop screen. Scrolling down the product page, she could find no other reviews of the broom. She then noticed a line that stopped her in her tracks.
‘Be the first to review this product.’
Closing the lid of the device, she she sat staring across the room. Nobody else had yet reviewed this broom. If she did as they asked, hers would be the only opinion. This seemed like a real responsibility. What if someone bought one, simply based on her recommendation? It might break, or they might not like it. She would wait until tomorrow, then check back to see if anyone else had posted a review.
It was no good, she couldn’t get off to sleep. Walking downstairs into the living room, she fired up the laptop. Tossing and turning since midnight, wondering what to do. And it was now almost dawn. Taking a deep breath, Rosie hit the checkbox that asked, ‘Review this product.’ The first instruction was to add a star rating, from a choice of five. She hovered the cursor over, deciding on three stars. That seemed fair. After all, it was just a broom. When she clicked on that, it informed her that her choice was ‘It’s OK.’ She was unsure. It was more than OK, and very reasonably priced, after all.
Rosie regraded her rating to four stars, that seemed about right. Five would be excessive, but ‘It’s OK’ didn’t sit well with her. This time she was informed that her four-star choice meant ‘I Like it.’ Leaving it at that, she thought about what to type in as the actual review. If only she could have left it at the stars, that would be so much easier. As she clicked in the box, a suggestion appeared. It seemed that she had to look at the ‘Review guidelines’, before continuing. That was unexpected. They had guidelines. They were there in bold type, explaining just how to proceed. She had to say ‘Why’ she liked it, or didn’t like it. She must be ‘Specific’ about the features of that particular product. Most important of all, ‘Be sincere’. There was a limit on the number of words too, with a maximum of 5,000.
Rosie leaned back into the soft cushion. The number ran through her head. She had read books of less than five thousand words. How could she ever be expected to write anything that long about a bloody broom? She looked again, and was greatly relieved to see that there was a minimum of twenty words too. She spoke out loud to herself, her words echoing in the room. “Right, Rosie. Let’s get this done girl.”
Typing steadily for a few minutes, she soon ran out of suitable superlatives and descriptive phrases. After counting the words to make sure there were enough, she scrolled the text back to the start, and looked over what she had written.
‘This new broom from Jayco is very well constructed. The plastic handle is weatherproof, and a nice green colour that goes well with my other garden implements. The brush works well, and cleared all the grass cuttings from my patio with a few sweeps. It is also a very good price, even taking into account the delivery charges. I am very happy with it, thank you.’
It didn’t read right. She had another go.
‘After just a few minutes of sweeping with this new Jayco broom, my patio was clean and tidy again. It’s a lovely colour, and comes with a weatherproof handle in a nice shade of green. I am very pleased with it, and glad that I bought it.’
That was better. Friendlier, and more personal. She would go with that.
Before clicking ‘Submit’, Rosie thought again about the star rating. Could you really like a broom? Suddenly, that seemed silly. Who would ever like a broom? It would have been nice if there were more options to choose from. Something like, ‘It’s good’, with three and a half stars. Why didn’t they have that? She wondered. It then occurred to her that anyone could read this review, in almost any country in the world. They might think her very stupid, going on so about something as ordinary as a garden broom. She would have to try again.
‘This is a useful garden broom with a nice green handle that is also weatherproof. The brush head is large, and clears a wide area. The broom feels well-made, and is also excellent value. I can recommend this broom to anyone who needs one.’
That was it. Professional, not too personal, and offering a clear description of the broom, and its uses. Rosie altered the star rating back to three stars. ‘It’s OK’ was enough, she decided. As she was about to hit ‘Submit’, another box appeared. ‘Write a headline for your review’ A headline? How can you have a headline for a garden broom? What sort of nonsense was this? Her head was all over the place. What did they mean by headline? Something like, ‘Garden broom makes a clean sweep’ perhaps? That seemed too jokey though, bordering on sarcasm.
She closed the lid again. She needed some sleep, and would get back to this later.