Last week I went to the supermarket. On the way home, I received a text. “How was the supermarket? Rate your experience.”
I was puzzled. How did they know?
I dismissed it, and shopped on – to the baker, an antique shop, a Manchester shop, and a party shop.
Further texts followed. “How were the baker, the antique shop, the Manchester shop, and the party shop? Rate your experience.”
Then I realised. I’d used Google Maps to find the addresses of all these shops and now I was being recruited for feedback and promotion.
The same thing happened after two lots of furniture delivery and a visit from a telephone technician, and when we hired a car. “Please rate us!” they begged.
I ignored these too, but I soon received a reminder. “How did we do? Reminder to rate your recent install appointment.”
As my friend Karen said, shopping these days is like going on a school excursion – you have to come home and write an essay on it.
As the silly season is now in full swing, the number of business interactions increases – as do the requests for reviews – in a cycle of endless obligation. You are not a shopper, but a “member” – of their marketing team.
Even the most private of activities requires a public reaction. “Please rate your experience,” a screen at the airport loo asked as I left.
And the most humble of purchases. “Do you have a profile with us,” the shop assistant asked when I purchased some hand cream. I paused, and leaned in. “It is not my job to market your business,” I said, and held out my hand for the change.
But there are some times when a review is helpful. Like after a recent manicure for a family wedding.
It was busy, but I was soon ushered over to two girls sitting at a narrow table, their tools of trade spread neatly on a grubby white towel in front of them.
I sat down, glad to rest after a busy day. Wordlessly, one of the girls picked up a cuticle nail pusher in one hand and my right hand in the other and began jamming the nail pusher into the nail bed.
“Yowzie!” I yelled, and instinctively pulled my hand away. “Could you be a bit more gentle?”
She and her colleague exchanged glances and murmured a few words as she swapped the nail jabber for a large nail file, full of the residue of other people’s DNA, and flicked it hard against the side of my nail in violent upward motions, like chalk across a blackboard.
I leaned in again. “Could you act like you give a fuck?” I said. They exchanged confused glances. “Like you care, “ I explained.
I felt bad, I really did. I reminded myself that they were probably both on some dodgy visa sending money back to their home countries to support a dozen siblings and cousins and their aged parents.
But as they each grabbed one hand and continued on fast forward, stabbing and dabbing at my nails in turn, I began to think about what I would say when I received the text asking, “How was the grubby nail spa sweat shop? Rate your experience.”
But in the end, I didn’t say anything, then or later. I just paid and left. Maybe they were students and this was the only work they could get? Perhaps they were horribly exploited, and then treated badly by entitled old women like me? Perhaps they had a good reason not to give a fuck?
When I got home, there was a reminder to rate the delivery guy. Feeling contrite and remorseful, I decided to be a nice person and write the delivery guys a review. A glowing review. .
“They were heroes,” I wrote, my thumbs flying. “It was a 35-degree day and the sofa wouldn’t fit in the lift, so they carried it up two flights of stairs. And then it wouldn’t fit in the door, so they carried it down again and took it back.”
Soon after, I received another text. “Thanks for the great review, but we don’t deliver sofas. We deliver beds.”
Wrong heroes. That was the other delivery company.
And there in lies the truth about reviews. Not only are they annoying, they are rarely accurate, as proved by the Journal of Consumer Research in April 2106.
Research titled Navigating by the Stars, by Bart de Langhe, Philip M Fernbach and Donald R. Lichtenstein, concluded that there was a “substantial disconnect between the objective quality of information that online user ratings actually convey and the extent to which consumers trust them as indicators of objective quality”.
In other words, a one-star review for the ubiquitous and aggravating system of reviews.
So here’s some advice to the persistent review seekers. Leave us alone.
If something happens that impresses us as consumers, we’ll let you know the old-fashioned way – by coming back.