I grew up in a Consumer Reports family. Whenever my dad needed to buy a thing, whether it was a car, a grill, or a lawnmower (the main things dads buy), he would whip out a relevant issue of Consumer Reports, study its contents as if it were a holy text, and then go out and buy whatever version of the thing that Consumer Reports told him offered the best combination of value and utility. How did he always know which issue of Consumer Reports to turn to in his time of need? Did my father have an eidetic memory specifically for issues of Consumer Reports? Was my dad even that into Consumer Reports, or am I just embellishing my memories in order to make this article more interesting? Whatever, next paragraph.
These days the Consumer Reports mentality has infected the entire media industry. There are so many things on the internet that are for sale, and we live in a world where it is impossible to tell what stuff online is genuine and what’s a stupid social media stunt that’s probably sponsored by a stupid brand. In these troubled times, consumer choices add up until they are oppressive. You want — nay, need — a media company to make your purchasing decisions for you. There are so, so, so many product review websites, owned by everyone from Buzzfeed to Hearst, and unlike Consumer Reports, which is owned by a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people make informed purchases, they are extremely trying to make money. New York Magazine’s vertical The Strategist is so popular that it has its own retail space that sells its highest-rated products, and its existence is garnering enough buzz that I have no doubt that an industrywide “Pivot to Store” is on the horizon. Most of these websites make money off of Amazon affiliate links — meaning they take a cut every time somebody clicks over to Amazon and buys the thing after reading the review of the thing — or through cashing in on what little trust the public still has in media by accepting money from brands to review their products. This all seems a little dark, but seeing as the media’s basically out of ideas, I guess this is the new thing?
Unfortunately, there are now so many websites you can visit to make your consumer decisions for you that you need a guide to the best guides. As of right now, I am that guide.
The Best Product Recommendation Website: Wirecutter
If you’ve ever wished the exacting journalistic standards of The New York Times were applied to, like, an article about the best whisks, then boy have I got a website for you! Wirecutter, founded by writer Brian Lam in 2011 and acquired by the Times in 2016, is a truly staggering operation, offering recommendations for the best everything, from laptops to bathrobes to sex toys, backed up by dozens of hours of testing as well as interviews with experts. In this sense, it is the heir to the Consumer Reports crown. Though I am not a dad, I have a dog, which is the millennial version of having a kid, meaning that when I need to buy a thing, I go to the millennial version of Consumer Reports, see what they recommend, and then try to find a cheaper version of it.
Budget Pick: Kinja Deals
Sometimes you want to know what stuff is good, and at other times, you just want to what stuff is cheap. Kinja Deals, part of the Gizmodo Media multiverse, is the website that will tell you about the deals. Gizmodo Media also has a dedicated product reviews site called The Inventory, but let’s be honest — most of the time, most of us derive more satisfaction from buying stuff than we actually enjoy do from using the stuff, and there is nothing better than the dopamine rush from having scored a sick-ass deal on an Instant Pot and/or mechanical keyboard. Do you actually need this shit? Wrong question, dumbass. It’s a good deal.
“Flaws but not dealbreakers” pick: The Strategist
As we have established, The Strategist, from New York Magazine, is the “hot” product recommendation website right now. It features very nice design, and much like Kinja Deals, it will help you save money on an Instant Pot. It loses points, however, because a lot of its articles are just lists of cheap crap on Amazon that looks kinda nice.
“Cable news junkie” pick: CNN Underscored
I discovered that CNN’s website had a section called CNN Underscored when I saw an ad for the ugly-chic shoe company Allbirds, clicked on it (don’t @ me), and was redirected not to the Allbirds website but to a CNN Underscored article about how great Allbirds are. The existence of CNN Underscored was surprising, made even more surprising by the fact that their article about shoes wasn’t written by foot-fetish correspondent Chris Cilizza. Anyways, I guess it’s good that all those Brian Stelter and Chris Cilizza superfans out there have a place to go where they can find out about the zoodler.
“Business Insider” Pick: Insider Picks
There are many ways to get inside of a business, and all of them involve giving that business money. Sometimes, you must give the business money in order to get inside of it, and sometimes, you will go inside of a business and give them money before you leave. At retail businesses, you can go inside but without giving them money, but in such a case, can you truly say you’ve conducted business with them? No. You are a business observer, not a business insider. Business Insider has an entire section of their website called Insider Picks, whose staff has spelunked through the inner workings of every single business that has ever existed, and they have emerged, injured by alive, to tell you about all the best stuff you can buy at them.
Racists in Bowties Pick: Daily Dealer by The Daily Caller
Leave it to Tucker Carlson, the worst person on Fox News, to have a product recommendation section on the terrible conservative website that he publishes. In addition to featuring the same run-of-the-mill recommendations that everybody else does, they also bowhunt down deals on survivalist gear, DIY jerky makers, as well as (Jesus Christ) their own xenophobic merch. If you have an awful Republican brother-in-law named “Tripp” or some shit you can probably find a gift for him here, although I can’t in good conscience actually recommend clicking on those links.