I do a lot of my toy shopping online. Especially this past holiday season. I found it was very easy to grab the lists to Santa that the kids had drawn up, plop myself in front of the computer and shop away. Very convenient for sure, but by not going out and buying the toys in person, it was difficult for me to judge the quality of what they were asking for. In some cases, when the manufacturer was a company I know and trust, this wasn't a big deal, but with corporations I had never heard of, it made me a slightly wary.
Enter reviews from other consumers. Before I purchase anything online, I'm careful to read what my fellow shoppers have to say. Certainly I take these missives with a grain of salt -- ultra positive remarks usually stem from company employees or PR personnel, while damning negative ones from someone with an axe to grind -- but for the most part I find them informative and helpful.
Reviews have steered me away from many a product and coaxed me into buying others. Even after I've decided to buy a product, reading reviews can provide insight to help me save money. A few years ago, I purchased the Fisher-Price Stand 'n Play Rampway Play Set (compare prices) for my 19-month-old for Christmas right off of the Fisher-Price website. I was all set to buy some extra Wheelies cars to go with it (at $3.99 a pop), when a quick look at the reviews told me they were unnecessary. More than one poster had stated that Matchbox cars worked more than well with the system. And considering that I have a whole binful of those cars at home, I was happy to save my cash and use those instead. (My little guy doesn't seem to mind either.)
Before purchasing a product, do you read customer reviews? Do you find them helpful?