Opinion: the owner of Venture Electronics is wrong

A controversy has broken out on the headphones reddit, as the owner of Venture Electronics, the makers of the famous VE Monk earbuds (among others) said that anyone who leaves a review lower than five stars out of five on their website will be banned from buying again. He also shared a screenshot of people getting blacklisted from buying their products on their website.

Needless to say, this did not sit well in the sub-reddit, and there are already calls to ignore and boycott VE products in light of this development.

Customer reviews exist so that people can write about their opinions of a product or service. If it is fair to leave a glowing 5-star review when you love a product, it is also fair to leave a 1-star review when you have major issues with a product or service. If only positive reviews are allowed, then it is a fan club, and/or product marketing, not a review.

Customer Reviews on Manufacturer Websites are a problem

Blocking people from buying again if they left a 1-star review is an iffy practice in itself, but threatening everyone who doesn’t leave a 5-star review with a “purchase ban” is flat out wrong. Period. That’s one of the reasons why customer reviews are a bad idea at manufacturer websites. They are much more likely to engage in review manipulation (most of them do it quietly or behind the scenes) than a retailer. Because a retailer, especially one that carries thousands of products, is not affected as much, and I would venture (no pun intended) is much more likely to benefit overall if customers leave negative reviews on sub-par products.

This is more surprising because VE earbuds are bang for the buck and well-liked for the price. I’ve only listened to the VE Monks+ [unboxing and review diary] but if the rest of their products are in the same ballpark, why on earth would you do something like this when you have a winning product? The companies who engage in review manipulation are typically the ones with mediocre products or crooks. A perfect score is a red alert flag for any web-savvy shopper. If two people buy a product, a 100% score is reasonable, but when thousands buy them, there’s no way every single person will love them unconditionally!

The smaller the company, the more likely are the people who make the products, the founders, the owners, and so forth to take every criticism as a stab, a personal affront. This is not unreasonable, however, one must also understand that this is the nature of things. If you write a book and publish it, you can’t go around blocking negative reviews, no matter how much it hurts.