Why do we offer recommendations?

Yesterday, my neighbor posed a question on Facebook:

“Where is a good place to buy bedroom furniture?”

I found myself immediately compelled to respond with my recommendations.  We found a store that sells bunk beds and children’s furniture that is both nice to look at and incredibly sturdy, and I commented on her link.

It wasn’t until I read the entire thread that I started to ponder the title of this article.  Why did I do that?  Looking back, the bed we bought, while nice to look at and sturdy, wasn’t particularly inexpensive.  The showroom wasn’t exactly impressive.  The service was actually sub-par.  But that’s where we bought our daughter’s bed.  So why did I recommend them?

This same phenomenon happens with our technology too.  How many times have you seen someone complain about their Android phone, only to then turn around and tell other people that they have to get an Android, there’s just nothing better.  And I don’t want to single out Android.  iPhone, Blackberry, and Windows Phone users do the same thing. (Myself included).

We do it about our cars, our neighborhoods, our phones, our shoes, our computers.  Heck, I’ve even seen people recommend specific credit cards at times. (“If you’re looking to get into debt, I recommend this card.  It makes the debt hurt less.”) I’m not saying that some of these items don’t deserve recommendation, I’m just saying that perhaps our recommendation isn’t exactly as it seems.

Are we recommending this product because it is the best product for the person we’re giving the recommendation to?  Or are we recommending it because if they buy the product, it validates our purchase also?  I think that the latter is where my furniture recommendation came from.  If my neighbor buys a bed from the same store, it validates my decision to buy from them.

I’ve heard many people say that they’re getting an iPhone because all of their friends have iPhones.  That logic is lost on me, but their friends are likely making validation recommendations (now known as a valimendation), which in turn gets fulfilled when their friend gets the same phone as them.  There is no mobile device that is perfect for everyone, so why do we pretend that there is?

When you’re shopping for a mobile phone, ask the clerk for a recommendation based on your requirements.  Let them lead you to the phone they suggest.  Now ask them to show you the phone that they personally use.  I think you’ll find some eerie similarities.

So what do you think?  How many recommendations have you made lately that were specifically in the best interest of the recommendee? How many were valimendations?

9 thoughts on “Why do we offer recommendations?

  1. Interesting question.

    In general, I try to make recommendations rather than valimendations. Or at least that’s what I tell myself 🙂

    But it depends on the context. For example, someone may be asking advice about buying a laptop for the first time. What I will try to do in that situation is (1) share some general information/guidelines I hope will be helpful, (2) offer some advice based on their anticipated usage (based on what they said and/or what I know about them), followed by (3) my personal experiences with brands/models I like (or hate).
    (3) definitely falls into the valimendation category, but (2) may as well — it’s difficult to be completely objective about these things. I do try to qualify this stuff by describing my usage scenarios, “my personal experience has been”, “YMMV”, etc.

  2. I recommend you stay diligent in your rehab so you can golf at the end of September.

  3. I like to recommend things just because I like being able to help other people out. But I have caught myself in the past praising something that I bought just because I feel like I should like it. The two aren’t always intertwined though.

  4. I’ve recommended to several people that they get an iPhone instead of an Android phone in just the past few weeks, and yet I just upgraded my phone to a new Android phone. Its all about staying subjective, which can be very difficult.

  5. Ironically, PennyArcade posted this comic today, and it seems perfectly fitting for this discussion.

  6. Most of my recommendations are just that. Typically, if I’m recommending something, I’m thinking if the recommended thing is truly fitting for the recommendee. Very, very rarely will I recommend something as a valimendation! (Nice word 😉 )

  7. Cognitive dissonance. If you buy something different from me, it sets up a cognitive dissonance. Either you bought the wrong thing or I did. What do you mean I bought the wrong thing?

  8. “I’ve heard many people say that they’re getting an iPhone because all of their friends have iPhones. That logic is lost on me”

    For non-tech people this actually makes a lot of sense. They can get help from any of their friends. They can get app recommendations from any of their friends. And they know a popular product is going to be supported and have content for years to come.

  9. “Or are we recommending it because if they buy the product, it validates our purchase also? I think that the latter is where my furniture recommendation came from. If my neighbor buys a bed from the same store, it validates my decision to buy from them.”

    This is why everyone has such strong opinions about parenting decisions.

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