Josh Freed: I'm dissatisfied with my feedback-giving experience

I’m tired of giving reviews, it’s time for a survey strike.

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I ordered a nail trimmer online last week and seconds later I got a pop-up message on my phone, asking me to rate my “shopping experience.”

What experience? How good or bad a life moment can buying a nail clipper be?

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a) ecstatic
b) deeply moving
c) very disappointing
d) utterly depressing
e) nail-biting

It was typical of today’s rating-mania where we’re constantly asked to measure the minutiae of life.

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Every time I grab a cab, order pizza, rent a hotel room, use a Bixi, or order jumbo garbage bags online I get a message asking me to rate my satisfaction, from one star to five stars, like an unpaid marketing consultant.

The ratings racket has been around for a while, but it keeps getting more frenzied. How many times does my bank need to ask if I’d recommend it to a friend, or colleague, or fellow bank robber?

How often must I rate my “Google experience”? Has anything changed since they asked me yesterday, or the day before … or the one before that?

Food take-out services constantly ask how I liked my souvlaki delivery, even when I’m still waiting for “Dmitri” to arrive 75 minutes later. Restaurants ding my phone with a rating quiz while I’m still at them, eating.

Everyone wants my “feedback” but I’ve got feedback fatigue, and the ratings are grating.

Soon I’ll be asked to rate the online fraudster trying to trick me into revealing my credit card PIN, so he can post my rating on best-online-scamsters.ca.

Most rating and review requests claim they’re to “improve the customer experience,” but that’s obviously not true.

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They’ve had well over a decade of these online surveys to improve our experience, but they still keep us on telephone hold for 17 minutes, playing ads ad nauseam and endlessly repeating messages saying: “Did you know you can solve all your issues on our website?”

But you’ve already wasted 53 minutes trying to do that before phoning them.

The real raison d’être of ratings is to add your (hopefully) 4.5 or five stars to all the others they’ve badgered out of people, so they can say “rated 4.6 stars” by over 377,001 people — just ahead of their 4.5-star competition.

If you ignore these rating request messages they’ll just send more to pester, harangue, even beg you, writing: “It’s been almost 17 hours since you stayed in The Elevator-and-Air-Conditioning-Don’t-Work Paradise Motel and we’re eager to hear your thoughts. We’d really appreciate five stars!”

Give them one star and they’ll probably leave you in peace. But click on five stars and you’ll be bombarded by more detailed star-based survey questions:

Was your pillow fluffy enough, too fluffy, too spongy, or just right? Was the ice icy enough? Did the pool cleaner smile?

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They never ask about the things I’d love to rate: Was it easy to use the TV remote and shower, which it wasn’t, because every hotel has different, baffling, one-of-a-kind designs.

Like everyone, I sometimes scan product ratings to see what 5,000 total strangers think is the best-rated E-nutcracker to buy. But I ignore five-star comments and look carefully at two-star reviews to see what discerning grumps have spotted.

For instance: “This nutcracker is very attractive, but it only works to crack peanuts.”

Most of us lie about our ratings, anyway. We know otherwise the company may fire some poor cashier or call centre employee who was having a bad day and forgot to chirp: “Have a great Sunday!”

Even the rare time I’ve given a terrible overall rating after a truly bad experience, I find myself giving better ratings in follow-up questions about how friendly, attentive or helpful the staff were.

By the end, I’ve rated every aspect of the place 4.5 stars but the overall experience a zero. So if I were you, I wouldn’t trust my ratings. Personally I’d rather trust a good friend than 1,000 strangers.

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Besides, giving bad ratings can backfire. Write a terrible online review of a restaurant and the owner may reply, contradicting you, as happens on many sites.

You’ve written that the soup was “cold, unappetizing and ungenerous”, so he’s instantly posted back to say the real problem is that the customer was “cold, unappetizing and ungenerous”. Then he’ll cite glowing five-star soup reviews from the last seven customers, who all happen to be immediate family members.

As rating-mania spreads, what next: Rate-your-spouse? Rate-your-mom? Rate-your-newborn?

Rating surveys often say this will only take “a moment of your time”, but I’d rather spend that moment doing anything else: brushing my seven hairs, walking our bird, napping, daydreaming or flossing.

I don’t want to be an unpaid human Fitbit of feedback.

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It’s time for a massive worldwide feedback strike, where we all withhold our star ratings until we’re compensated for our marketing work. Or at least until they ask another question I’d like to see: “Please rate how you feel about being rated?”

Frankly, I think this is a terrific idea that could really spread. So please let me know what you think.

I’d really appreciate five stars.

[email protected]

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