It's easy to ask questions about shopping:

  • Company A says that their product is better than company B's. Is that true?
  • Company C says their product does X. Is that true?
  • Product D costs more than product E. But why, and is it really worth it?

The claims are kind of notable (i.e. just look at the company's advertising). Are they on-topic?

3 Answers 3


Yes, let them in, with two provisos.

1) To date, we haven't seen any problems, but if they prove to be a problem, we can change the policy.

For example, if we find our site covered with spam about "My company claims that our new ULTIMATIUM™ razor with 26 individual blades has the most blades on the market, and costs less than $5 per blade. Is that true?" we can work out how to limit it.

[Update: Looks like we have had some problems. See this related meta-question.]

2) As always, they must be legitimate claims that can be answered objectively and with empirical evidence. The general question of "Is product A better than product B?" is a subjective one; a StackExchange is not the best place to discuss that.

  • Would you vote to reopen the different brands of tuna question, then?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 2:21
  • I hadn't seen that before. No, not because it is a question about products on the market, but because there is no claim there to investigate.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jun 23, 2011 at 2:37
  • The premise is that there are different brands at different prices, that different prices are an implied claim that some are better than others (some are explicitly described as "premium brands"), but the OP is sceptical about what the differences might be and about whether the differences in price are justified, or a scam.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 2:51
  • "Premium" and "better" are a weasel words used in marketing to avoid actually making claims. They don't have any real meaning (e.g. two competing brands could both be better than the other.)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jun 23, 2011 at 3:07
  • So of the 3 examples that I gave in my OP, you would disagree with the first ("better"), and with the third ("worth it")? Is the second category of claim then (which is actually the narrowest: "product X can do Y") the only one that's on-topic?
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 3:11
  • Good question. Yes, I disagree with the first, and agree with the second. The third depends. "Metallic paint for my new car costs more and they claim it makes it looks better. Is it worth it?" Subjective, off-topic. "Rust-proofing spray for my new car costs more and they claim it makes it last longer. Is it worth it?" Objective economic decision, answerable by scientific facts and figures, on-topic.
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jun 23, 2011 at 3:24
  • What about the tuna question: "It costs more and I don't know why. Is it worth it?"
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 3:27
  • Also, when you have time, would you edit your answer to include your above comments.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 4:07
  • Edited as requested. The tuna OP admits he can taste the difference and there is a calorie difference. Already it is subjective. (I would say the extra price is, in no way, worth it, but that's because I hate the taste of tuna, and spending more money on it would be more wasteful, but that's clearly subjective!)
    – Oddthinking Mod
    Jun 23, 2011 at 6:27
  • As the original poster of the "tuna" question, can I clarify that the question is not about any specific brand - it's more to do with the concept of how can a wild animal food stuff be marketed as of higher or lower quality? I did add a further comment showing some evidence towards a possible answer mentioning fishing techniques, age of the fish etc oregonschoice.com/articles.php?article_id=8
    – TrojanName
    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:03
  • As a side note, guys if you're trying to build a popular site, biting the newbies and making it this difficult to ask a reasonble question, is not the way to go. If I wasn't already a Stack Exchange member, I'd have been out of here ages ago. It's that kind of stuff that killed my interest in the Wikipedia project.
    – TrojanName
    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:04
  • @Oddthinking how can you say it is subjective when there is a clearly stated calorie difference? These are supposedly wild animals pulled randomly from the sea - I want to know why there is a calorie difference.
    – TrojanName
    Jun 23, 2011 at 11:06
  • @Brian - "As a side note, guys if you're trying to build a popular site, biting the newbies ..." - I'm not trying to bite you. If I down-vote a question it's because I don't like the question: not because I don't like you. I (unlike Fabian for example) don't notice much who posted it or whether they're a "newbie". Regular users are told to upvote and downvote question. There's a lot of discussion e.g. here and ...
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:16
  • @Brian ... here and here about what's a good question and what kind of question should be asked. And this answer by Jeff (who's one of the people who designed this site and who's aware of a social forces which shape a successful site/community) suggests (to me) that keeping "newbie questioners" happy with good answers is a good thing ...
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:22
  • @Brian ... but that it isn't always possible. It's more important to keep the expert answerers on the site happy, and to make the site a useful resource for 3rd-parties (e.g. internet searches); and doing that requires that questions be thematically coherent in some way -- so, there are discussions about what an 'on-topic' question is, and people (regular users) try to act by up- and down-voting, and by commenting, according to what they think is the consensus of those discussions. That's the way it works. Hopefully we get 'good questions' and (as a consequence) 'good answers'.
    – ChrisW
    Jun 23, 2011 at 12:30

Verifying claims made about a product is on-topic. In fact, it's incredibly easy to find such questions on the site. To only name one, Do those hologram bracelets do anything at all?

With that said, "Product D costs more than product E. But why, and is it really worth it?" is just a really bad way of asking "Company C says their product does X. Is that true?" Those questions should be closed as "not constructive." Simply put, the value of a product is subjective. Paying $20 more for X may or may not be worth it for you. It's a personal assessment. It's not a question which can be answered objectively. The only question to look at from a skeptical point of view is whether their product indeed does X.


In addition to the other answers, keep in mind whether the question is worth answering at all. This style of question can quickly veer into really lame, boring, uninteresting questions:

Does milk sold in grocery stores actually come from cows?

Do AA batteries fit in appliances expecting AA batteries?

Do vacuum cleaners work?

Some questions of this form are awesome and interesting — I actually think the vacuum question could survive — but a question isn't suitable just because the form is valid. When comparing two products to each other you still need an interesting comparison or claim.

Does Ivory soap clean better than Dove?

Do more dentists actually recommend toothpaste brand X?

Even aside from all of the ambiguity and subjectiveness of terms like "better" and "recommend", questions of this form are not inherently interesting. Some of them could be, sure, but I don't think the general case of comparing brand effectiveness is a very interesting topic.

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