A few weeks ago, my friend’s step father posted a link on his Facebook Profile to the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer on Amazon. No explanation. I honestly thought it was a glitchy ad on Facebook’s behalf – I’ve seen more than a few.
But then he did it again, and people started to comment. A few weeks later, I saw more posts about the increasingly famous banana slicer, topped by the coup de grace, a mention by George Takei.
So I finally clicked.
What I found was simply put, incredible, and not just because it’s hilarious.
If you haven’t yet, go to Amazon and check out the reviews for the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. As of right now there are 3,810 reviews.
At first glance, most people would ignore this. Okay, so people really like to slice and eat bananas. But think about it again.
Each of the Twilight movies has less than 2,000 reviews.
The most recent Stephen King book has only 1,000 reviews.
And then there’s the fact that there is no way that many people needed and then bought a banana slicer.
So it’s a joke. The reviews are snarky, smart ass, and often hilarious. Some praise the existence of the great banana slicer while others are irate that it is not only yellow, but released so soon after the 570 model.
I’m not new to the party here – this thing has been making the rounds since December, – but the phenomenon itself is interesting. The idea that a product, any product, released into the wild is fair game to be eviscerated, lampooned, and otherwise mocked openly online, regardless of whether it’s actually useful.
Is It Useful?
To be honest, it doesn’t really matter. I slice a banana every morning for my son in less than 15 seconds. So, this thing would save me, what? Five seconds? Plus I have to wash it?
But that’s not why this is funny. It’s funny because we have now entered an age when writing hilarious posts and reviews of products you DO buy is not enough.
The idea that content creation can reach some kind of aggregate level when thousands people band together and roast a product they’ve probably never used, getting coverage on national news sites like the New York Times and Huffington Post – that’s incredible to me.
At the same time, it’s more than just the banana slicer we’re lampooning. It’s Amazon reviews in general.
People coming to realizations that they used the product wrong all along, but still giving it 2 stars because “the company should have told me how to use it sooner”. Others praising it because it as perfect for slicing carrots, which is not the same thing, but they love using it so much they have to give it five stars.
I’ve you’ve ever spent five minutes reading reviews on Amazon to decide whether to buy a product, you know what I mean. Nearly 75% of those reviews are nonsensical or unrelated – people complaining about little details or praising unrelated uses.
The best part of all this is how the company that’s more or less being mocked openly responds:
“Those hysterical reviews certainly are creating more sales. … We’re all crying with laughter!”
Some companies would be annoyed. Others irate. Hutzler is thrilled. Heck, Amazon is even promoting the posts of people who mention the slicer on Facebook – paying money to keep driving traffic.
The Hutzler 571 is not the first product to get the sarcastic review treatment on Amazon. It definitely won’t be the last, but there is obviously something happening here that transcends stupid products being released to universal ridicule. The promotion, the company taking full advantage of it, the sheer volume of reviews.
It should be a reminder to any blogger or freelancer that, if you hit the right note, you can mobilize an audience of tens of thousands – simultaneously scary and amazing.