Shared from the 10/9/2022 Albany Times Union eEdition


When did I get to be an expert on everything?

How did I become so important? It seems that everyone wants my opinion. I’m a little tired of being asked to rate the companies I do business with.

My mother taught me, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” For most of my life I have lived by this rule. But it seems like in the last few years, I have been asked to judge everything from my latest bagel experience (warm, just out the oven) to the plumber’s installation of my new shower (no leaks, but he left mud in the tub).

I am not an expert in bagel baking or plumbing. If I was, I would probably boil bagels and tear my bathroom apart myself, though not on the same day. Any yet somehow, my opinions on things I know nothing about have become crucial to the running of business today.

I remember the good old days when a restaurant would give you a comment card while you were waiting for your change. You could make someone’s day with a “Carol was great!” or tick them off with a “Could have used a second cup of coffee, Carol.” More often than not, I’d leave the card blank. They could tell by my tip and the look on my face whether they did a good job. I know that’s not the kind of data you can accumulate and review, but as Yogi Berra used to say, “That’s cold hard cash, which is as good as money.”

Now, every time I buy something, my phone gets pinged. “Could you please take 30 seconds to leave us a review?” First of all, it’s never 30 seconds. It takes 30 seconds for my phone just to download the app. Why didn’t you ask me when I was standing in your store? I’ll tell you why. Because I was in a hurry to get my dry cleaning and get back in my car. If I didn’t have time then, what makes you think I have time now?

Do you have any idea what my hourly wage is? I bet you couldn’t afford to pay me for my time to review the service I got. If you could afford to pay me, you could probably use that money to hire employees who would guarantee I got good service so that you wouldn’t constantly be questioning whether the service was any good.

I guess you could really screw with people by giving a good review for a lousy product. You could say, “I loved the way Curtis and the installers left my house” without ever mentioning the sawdust ground into the carpet and the empty Sprite cans in the driveway.

I always question the scales used to rate these experiences. With a scale of one to five, I don’t think there are enough choices. One is always, “Would not purchase again”; five is, “Yes I would recommend to a friend.” That usually puts me at a three or, if I really liked it, a four. I’m always afraid that if I give a five, they will start asking for names of my friends to send my review to. And I especially like the ones who say, “If we don’t get a five rating, then we’ve failed.” Well, if you can’t be bothered to wipe the water spots off of my back bumper, then I guess you have failed.

On the other hand, a scale of one to 10 is too big. What’s the difference between a five and a seven? The answer, as we know, is two, but two what?

One thing is for sure, if your business gets a one, you better start looking for a new line of work. That means that whatever you did, it was the worst possible thing, according to someone who probably doesn’t know how difficult it is to do whatever it is you do.

I blame social media. Everyone thinks that their opinion is important, and that we need to know what it is. It’s not and we don’t.

But that’s just my opinion. And speaking of opinions, when you are finished reading this, there’s a short survey, that I’d appreciate you filling out.

Drew Jacobs of Latham is a humorous singer and songwriter.

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