The survey says…

One of the most important lessons I remember being taught in journalism school is to always – always – consider the source. Who is doing the talking, who do they work for, and why are they talking to the media? What do they have to gain and would they lie or exaggerate the truth in order to get their point across? If so, does that mean they have nothing to contribute to the story? And if a source cannot be trusted completely, or makes allegations that cannot be proven, is their perspective even worth considering?

It was a good lesson, and one I completely forgot about a year and a half ago when I purchased a stereo system.

The warranty long expired, that system is now officially broken. I can still use it to listen to the radio or play movies in stereo, but it no longer reads CDs so it’s dead to me. It sits on the shelf gathering dust and knuckles until I can afford a replacement. In the meantime it serves as a sober, and expensive, reminder to always consider the source.

You see, before I purchased the system, I did some research on the Web to find out what other people were saying about the different makes and models that were on the market. Most online stores have message boards where you can rate products and write comments for the benefit of other customers.

The stereo I chose came very highly rated by about half the customers that made comments, and the rest at least gave it a passing grade. It got four stars out of a possible five with more than 20 reviews, and that was good enough for me. I bought the damn thing.

Although I would normally trust the opinions of random strangers, I’m also a bit wary of sales people, having purchased my share of lemons over the years. The low point was a used guitar amplifier that came ungrounded and could have killed me.

Once the stereo was officially broken, I decided to take it apart to see if there was anything I could do to fix it. I took the cover off only to discover that the innards were made out of cheap plastic, and coated with sticky oil and a carpet of dust. The entire mechanism that opens, closes and rotates the heavy plastic disc tray (one of the main problems I’ve been having) is driven by a cheap plastic cog about a centimetre in diameter with a tiny rubber belt about as thick as a piece of spaghetti. Aside from a couple of screws, there wasn’t enough metal in the mechanics to trip off airport security buzzers.


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