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Reviewing How We Look At Reviewers Part 1: Context Matters



We often forget people who review products, do not necessarily share the same needs, desires, or skill level as us.  We also are in a great (perhaps to a fault) renaissance of detailing that with all of the great options, some products just may work better or differently, which can be a problem.  This issue exists in many industries with regards to customer confusion and often dissatisfaction.

I had a conversation with a product representative of one of the most recognized and respected brands in the auto detailing industry.  He told me “most products are (nowadays) good stuff.”  Paraphrasing ‘they may work a little differently, there are some that are a little bit better in some areas (strengths and weaknesses) or for may be a little better overall.’  To an extent, that is a good thing, that you will tend to have a safety net.  What is the best for MY NEEDS may be incredibly disappointing to you.

I previously wrote an article on a similar topic to address some of the talking points that I am bringing up here.  For those that find this article informative, I highly recommend reading, What Is The Best Product.  I believe this article goes to the heart of customer dissatisfaction and confusion, our dependence on reviewers who tell us what we may think is valuable but might leave out what we need to hear.

How many people on YouTubers describe a wax, sealant or coating the following way?  It cost {insert price} much money, and after this period of time this is what the water beading looks like without context or further content.  Conclusion this product is the greatest or this product is terrible.  Meanwhile the question of ease of application is never brought up.  Do we even ask if the product was applied properly in the right environmental conditions?

A friend, a fellow detailing business owner, and someone who has mentored me had reached out on a public forum in the interest of purchasing a camera.  He wanted to improve the quality of his social media content.  I private messaged him a compact list of suggestions based upon the kind of content I have seen him produce, knowing that he was graduating from a camera phone without extensive knowledge about videography.  I also factored in his budget limits.  He thanked me for the effort I put into my suggestions, commenting everyone else just told him “get this, it’s the best.”  That statement reminds me of the many reviews and attitudes of people who look for approval from strangers before buying hundreds to thousands of dollars in gear.

“Sometimes people just want to pull a camera out of the box and have it look pretty damn good.  Honestly at this point I think if you are shooting everything auto (not using any of the manual camera settings) you are probably going to get better results from your phone.  But if you are willing to spend the time and effort (shutter speed, ISO, color grading, aperture) you can get some professional results.” – Gene Nagata

Two years ago, I invested in camera gear for the same reason many of us invest in gear or products, to solve a problem and have a better experience overall.  Until somewhat recently many of my videos shot with my dedicated cameras looked noticeably worse than from my camera phone.  I can say the same about my photos even more recently.  As I continued to learn about cinematography, it was not until very recently I begin to have a greater appreciation and understanding of the value in some of these $2000, $3000, and $4000 professional and dedicated cinema cameras.  This understanding was mostly unrelated to image quality.  It came from learning how to better utilize my camera features and more importantly, creatively work around the limitations of my $1000 cameras.  Ironically, this has led me to better utilize my camera phone that I was trying to transition away from.  I hope this gives you a new perspective when I say the gap between the best product for the money is in the eye of beholder.  That includes the reviewer and viewer who is watching detailing product comparison videos.

Can you imagine someone saying look at these smartphone pictures and videos that look so much better than this $4000 cinema camera for confirmation bias views on YouTube.  Actually, we all can.  This also exist in the detailing realm.

I remember many conversations about why I use somewhat more expensive products.  I did not answer by saying they are significantly better.  My tolerance for quality control issues and shortcomings in ease of application are very low.  Spending 3 days mentally and physically expending myself (working on a car) in unique environments, leads me to not caring about saving $10, $20, or $30 on a detail.  The peace of mind knowing that I can communicate easily with product representatives of certain brands is important to me.  My lifestyle may be different from yours.

Steps To Get More Out Of Reviews:

  • First put the time in to watch multiple credible and thoughtful reviewers (yes this includes me).  Realistically it is impossible to recreate enough scenarios (experimental controls) to paint an accurate picture or always provide a thoughtful analysis of the benefits of one product.
  • I like more descriptive reviews over those that seem to focus just on critiques and praise.  From my perception, that is where bias is minimized.
  • Learn more about detailing.  I would not necessarily call detailing rocket science.  Having at least a basic understanding of the detailing process will affect your perception of a product.  You will also more easily find better sources for quality feedback on detailing products.
Rodney Tatum
Mirror Reflections Auto Spa
Gainesville, Florida
YouTube | Facebook

10 comments on Reviewing How We Look At Reviewers Part 1: Context Matters

  1. Tony Vega says:

    Excellent point, there may be better products out there but what is best for me may not coincide. You typically do not get that from YouTube, you usually have to pay for that kind of content or hard-earned experience.

  2. Warren Horakh says:

    I find that there is an abundance of products, usually none that are so distinguishable from previous or competitor’s products. They often make exaggerated claims. They are marketed to obsessive compulsive types looking for“the miracle product”, only to be disappointed and having buyers remorse. Let’s face it, most products come from same general chemical company 3M, DuPont or PPG, etc. They are targeting Detailer’s not the driver. Most drivers could care less what I use as long as the vehicle looks good. So I have a resentment with the unmitigated profiteering the detail suppliers engage in. Here is a perfect example. The coatings are sold like we are in a caste system. Why can’t I purchase for example, Carpro Finest Reserve? I can walk into a body shop supplier and buy GLASURIT clear coat? Shame on all these companies and the suppliers, who gouge me and I can’t offer a superior coating to the Honda Accord customer who quite frankly needs the durability more then the garage Queen Lambeau owner. It’s like saying to a patient, you can have triple bypass surgery where we crack chest open, you don’t get the laser noninvasive heart surgery. I’m a retired Attorney and ALJ so I am just critical of business and industry practices . I never hear a bad review on here. That’s lack of integrity and honesty. This won’t get printed but I’m gonna make a YouTube show just tearing the lid off this awful industry practice.
    I’m open to any comments and a persuasive argument that I am wrong, but censorship will reflect poorly on this blog.
    Warren Horakh

    • Reece @ DI says:

      Warren – Thank you for the feedback here! There are a few points I would like to reply to and I am sure Rodney will hop in as well.

      1. At DI we strive to only carry high quality detailing products. If you look at the products we offer, you will notice that you will not see entire lineups for most of the brands we carry. This is due to some products not being requested by customers, items not selling and removed from the site, or some products simply not being up to par. We keep our inventory lean on top of that, so all of our customers only receive new and high quality items.

      2. Our authors are not required to review items and leave positive reviews. All of our authors can review items we carry or items they personally are using. Due to us carrying mainly well reviewed and purchased items, reviews can tend to be more on the positive side. Most authors also do want to share items they personally like and use on a daily basis, but we do have some “negative” reviews on the site. Every post is not overwhelmingly positive, for example:

      3. For coatings, I do agree that there are many pro-only coatings that I wish consumers could purchase directly. The issue with that is many of these coatings have higher concentrations of sio2 and if not applied properly, do require extensive polishing to remove. Not all detailers are the same and there are many weekend warriors coming from waxes and sealants who want to jump into trying out coatings. On the consumer level we carry many that can be fool proof to apply or even a little more finicky, but offer longer durability. The industry offers different options at the consumer level and some pro only coatings that do help push customers who are not as comfortable applying to certified detailers who are applying them in the correct fashion.

      4. For the person with the Honda, they might need more durability but how are they caring for their vehicle? Many of these customers might not take the time to properly care for the coating, go to touch car washes, etc. Just because a customer needs more durability does not mean that we should suggest a coating. We need to look at what they want out of their protection, how they care for the car, etc. A wax or traditional sealant might be a better option for a specific customer and listening to the needs of each customer should take precedence over pushing high detailing packages or more expensive products to buy. I see it many times here at DI. I love the Rupes Mark III 21 but many times recommending a lower cost polisher is a much better option for them personally.

      5. Last point, there is certainly some misinformation within the industry at times, but all of the manufacturers we work with do care about detailers and what works best for them personally. For what detailers are pushing to customers I am sure there is misinformation there at times, but again, I know many detailers that do the right thing by their customers and do care about what works best for them.

      • Warren Horakh says:

        I appreciate your response and I am impressed with your candor. I would not be >2000 wholesale account holder if I did not appreciate your service. I think my ire lies more with the manufacturer’s then with the distributors. I do apologize for the error. I have been in the car business since I was 16. The law stuff was a fluke (lol). But I am 55 and have been shaping cars for a long time. I retired from practicing law and I opened a little shop, including small damage repair, paint, detailing and coatings. I like it, I don’t know why (lol). I still believe that this bourgeois coating business is way over the top as far as access. Nevertheless I appreciate you.

    • Rodney Tatum says:

      Warren I want to start by saying your candor is welcome.  I do not plan or anticipate necessarily changing any feelings you have towards the detailing industry.  From someone who will have a future article that goes deeper into this point, I hope you find that when I am communicating from my perspective that I am coming from an authentic place.

      I understand where you may feel a disconnect with how products are being marketed and sold.  Although I personally do not entirely agree with you, I have had many mixed feelings about representatives of the industry which include candor and ethics (particularly in the coating realm).

      I do hope you look at this from all perspectives.  The company’s side of things.  From me being a business owner as well, the company needs to put its best foot forward.  Yes a lot of the purchases by high volume professional shops our online.  But being totally candid; there are still numerous of your Average Joe consumers who you would not confuse as a car enthusiast that simply grab what is available on the shelf at your local big box department store for car supplies.  Many of these major and smaller company online manufacturers of detailing supplies know that those enthusiasts who they cater are looking online at websites like this possibly getting geeked out ‘the latest and greatest’.  Sometimes we just want try something out just because. The businesses need to market accordingly (competition).  You could look at me for example.  I have accepted the label of being a high end detailer.  That elicits a lot of emotions.  My services are NOT a great value proposition for a lot of people including those who come to me in the interest of getting their car detailed.  This evokes a lot of strong emotions in potential customers.   Personally and professionally it would not be authentic of me and a disservice to everyone (including the success of my business) if I tried to fit more into the mainstream.  I think that is an issue many of these companies who want to remind relevant pushing new detailing supplies.

      Being someone who has tried a lot of products himself and has had a system with little variance for a majority of situations, I have often been uninterested in that NEW product.  It is like having a new Italian cuisine cookbook but there are 1000 others, or seeking out a answer on YouTube and you realize how many aspiring YouTube there are.  2021 it can feel pretty nauseating.  But I can be lured into trying something new as well.  One of the issues and where I agree (or sort of)  with you is a lot of the issues people have in terms of lack of satisfaction with a product are not the fault the product.  They may be used to a variation of the formulation of a product that will get him or her to the same place but assumed and didn’t read the instructions.  Also they may not be as skilled or knowledgeable in detailing so they look at the ‘latest greatest’ as that next crutch, which is in part the point I was trying to make in the article.

      • Warren Horakh says:

        Thank you Rodney, your perspective is greatly appreciated and to be honest I really have no issue at all with you or anyone else in fact I respect and admire your knowledge, skill, and experience. I think I just have product overload syndrome and a little pandemic burnout. Wishing you the best,

  3. Matt says:

    I remember knocking out car after car in the 90’s with Megs 105/205, nothing but heavy 7” rotaries. Cars were coming out blinging! How did we ever do it without all of today’s products? Some of the new stuff is good, but when every other month guys are doing new roundups of 20 products at a time it tells me same old same old! Our local chemical guys even in the 90’s would try to sell the shop on the latest new shmutz on the scene. We tried a few, always went back to our 3M and Meg’s. It just worked. I have a product that “just works” for each category I need. I have a cutting compound, polishing compound, sealant,wax etc…. That I KNOW will give results. No need for anything else. The rabbit hole never ends and the vendors love it!

  4. Dan says:

    I recently came to realize this.

    Even to preface my recommendations with “this works for me”.

    More importantly is communicating the context in which I use the product. Did I try it once and come to a conclusion? Do I use it every day at work or in my home shop. Did I follow manufacturer recommendations?

    A specific example is with ceramic coatings. We all have different needs and expectations. A more respected reviewer hates the coating I use, but he’s only used it once, and didn’t flow manufacturer recommendations. Meanwhile there are guys who use it almost daily making this coating look like a professional grade offering. This was a very important realization for me in taking what even the most well intentioned reviewer with a grain of salt.

    Mike Phillips uses the quote “find what you like and use it often”. This is under utilized but sound advice. This will allow one to become better acquainted with the products, with a better understanding of application procedures, and expectations. You can only benefit from familiarity.

    A personal example:
    I got my first bottle of Optimum Opti-Seal in 2016 or 17. Iwas confused with how underwhelmed I was with it.. I couldn’t figure out if I was applying too heavy, or too light. I was wiping off with a microfiber immediately after application, I was using oily polishes without and panel wipe… Worked great as a drying aid though!

    Fast forward to summer of 2021 and I tried Opti-Seal again – same bottle. Used after polishing with Hyper Polish and the difference was night and day. Since then I’ve had great success using it after 3D polishes without a panel wipe. More recently I’ve found my groove with it in terms of application. Looks like I was applying too heavy. With adjustment the performance gets better and better. And this is just one product that I’ve experienced this with.

    An old friend and now client of mine had a phrase he used to say when we were in high school:
    “Pick a lane and look at the rest”.
    I applied this to my jumping around from product to product, and my results and productivity went through the roof.

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