Amateur satirists entertain on Amazon's handy reviews
Samsung's new top-of-range gogglebox, the UN85S9 85in 4K Ultra HD 120Hz 3D Smart LED TV, is now available on Amazon. And, with the world's biggest online shop waiving its shipping fee, it will only set you back $39,997.99 (€29,205.57).
Among the enthusiastic customers to give the television a five-star review was one James O Thach: "My wife and I bought this after selling our daughter Amanda into white slavery. We actually got a refurbished. It's missing the remote, but, oh, well – for $10K off, I can afford a universal, right? The picture is amazing. I've never seen the world with such clarity. Amanda, if you're reading this, hang in there, honey! We'll see you in a year."
Mr Thach, if that is his real name, is among the ranks of amateur satirists who use the internet's most powerful consumer tool – Amazon – to poke fun at the sort of rampant consumerism without which a $40,000 television could never exist. Joining him was Pancakewizard, of Louisiana, who revealed that he or she bought the UN85S9 because, "I needed an additional television for my breezeway, walking from the side courtyard to the master quarters. Ever since Carlton renovated the Elephant exhibit, I only have the noise of the waterfall and the Harp player outside."
Another customer was less effusive about the set, saying, "This is a good television for the money, don't get me wrong. [But] why own this when the neighbours will have one just like it in six months when the price comes down? I'll give this one as a gift to the butler."
Not all of the products that attract such treatment are ruinously expensive. The Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer, for instance, costs a mere $3.73 (reduced from $4.99). Customers who bought it also bought the Chef'n StemGem Strawberry Stem Remover for $7.95. "What can I say about the 571 Banana Slicer that hasn't already been said about the wheel, penicillin or the iPhone?" asks a Mrs Toledo. "For decades, I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana," lamented SW3K. "'Use a knife!' they say. Well... my parole officer won't allow me to be around knives."
Some of the silly reviews reflect current events. In June, after Texas state senator Wendy Davis staged a marathon filibuster in protest at the state's tightening of its abortion laws, her Mizuno Women's Wave Rider trainers quickly received this five-star review: "The next time you have to spend 13 hours on your feet without food, water or bathroom breaks, this is the shoe for you. Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy on race day."
Others are anguished responses to monstrous cultural artefacts, such as Katie Price and Peter Andre's 2006 album of duets, A Whole New World, which boasts a remarkably high number of five-star customer reviews, given that one website's poll later named it the worst LP of the decade. On closer inspection, however, it appears that most of the reviews in question praise not Price and Andre's musical prowess, but the medical applications of the CD, which customers suggested could cure conditions such as asthma and constipation.
One such heart-warming story came from a user calling themselves Chaplinfan, who claimed, "I bought this for my father who had become paralysed from the waist down following a freak unicycle accident back in 1984 and I had barely started playing the CD when he miraculously shot up from his wheelchair, ran across the room shouting 'TURN THAT S*** OFF!' and proceeded to smash it to pieces. It's a testament to the power of this music that it can perform such a miracle. On the downside, my dad is now under investigation by the benefits fraud team for claiming years of disability allowance."
In the UK, the latest and most consistently witty customer review thread is for the Veet for Men Hair Removal Gel Creme: well worth a look, it's as coarsely funny and irreverent as you might expect.
The earliest and most celebrated of spoof Amazon reviewers was Henry Raddick, a British pug-owner who became a cult figure on the web a few years ago, mostly for his pithy reviews of non-fiction tomes such as Picnics with Pizzazz and Pocket Massage for Stress Relief. Of The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure (second edition), Raddick wrote: "[My wife] Marjorie and I have been composting for three years now, but recently we have started to use the term 'manure' and we now have a few more takers for our home-grown vegetables among our dinner guests."