In the past three days, I've gone from supermarket to supermarket searching out an obscure variety of toilet paper, I've run to cookware stores in search of a certain frying pan, and ordered wiper blades and a slew of other items from Amazon. I'm actually going to return the frying pan because once I settled down and my eyes cleared I realized I don't even really need it. I've gone completely out of my mind in a consumerist frenzy.
Such is the power of the terrifyingly sticky web site The Sweethome, which reviews household goods. It's hardly an unusual proposition, but these guys have hit upon the perfect formula, by:
Reviewing a catchy assortment of products not already reviewed to death
I don't need more opinions on Roomba, Game of Thrones, or Toyota Camry. But motor oil, ice cube trays, and LED bulbs? You bet!
Providing a meta synopsis of the usual web dross reviews
I can (and do) spend two hours surfing and weighing web and other reviews before buying stuff, but Sweethome does this for me - and, importantly, seems to do a thoughtful, thorough job of it.
Striking the right tone of smart, level-headed reviewing
There's a temperate, methodical approach here, and the reviews go fairly broad into the constellation of options. What's more, there's a good balance of science and subjective opinion. Consumer Reports is too left-brained, and most web reviews are too right-brained. This one's a "just-right".
Relieving consumer frustration
There's so much hyper-shitty Chinese merchandise on the markets to cut through that it's easy to feel a sense of hopelessness as one shops for household staples. Remember those stainless steel steamer baskets that last forever? You can't buy a decent one anymore.
I actually hate to send you there at this moment, because their featured review, "The Best Sponge", is the only bad one I've seen. Scotch Brites are too soft on one side, too abrasive on the other, and they clog up and fall apart (all over your dishes and pots) in no time. I've found perfection using a Dobie Pad for most tasks, and a copper Chore Boy for killer ones. Of course one of the innate problems with these sorts of reviews is that when your task is to review X, you're necessarily tunnel-visioned from offering solutions of X + Y. That's what leads to anointing tepid compromises such as Scotch Brites.
I can remember my excitement when I first came across Consumer Reports as a teenager, and Sweethome feels a lot like that. Only this incorporates the chaotic Web Hive Mind, while reflecting the judgement of a smart person who's put the time into doing exactly the research I myself would do...as opposed to a panel of CR geeks performing weirdly arcane tests. If you followed CR advice over the years, you'd have made out pretty poorly. But most of the tips on Sweethome seem canny. Except those sponges.
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