The 5-Star Rating System Sucks

The 5-star rating system sucks as a way to rate people. It’s original purpose was to rate products and services so that the people offering those products and services could improve upon them. Now, corporations—from car dealerships to transportation providers and more—use 5-star ratings from customers to rate their employees, and all that does is end up creating animosity and antipathy hidden behind fake friendliness.

Consider the car salesperson trying to please a car buyer to get his 5-star rating. There’s a whole process to buying a car that they have no control over. The typical buyer probably doesn’t understand the salesperson’s role or the whole process of buying the car. They might wonder if they are rating the car itself, the service, the whole process of buying the car, or the dealership. And what if the car breaks down four weeks later?

Ride share providers such as Lyft and Uber also use a 5-star rating system for drivers, with the idea that the driver can be deactivated if their rating falls too low. Ride share services are complex, involving the performance of a smart phone app, a GPS system, and a pricing scheme that the driver has no control over. If any of these malfunction or aren’t to the rider’s liking, the low rating gets attached to the driver. The customer’s rating of the driver is voluntary, but the driver must rate each customer on a 5-star scale as well. What exactly is a 5-star passenger? Does cleanliness count? Personality? What is the difference between a 3.6 and a 4.8 star person?

The 5-star rating system sucks to rate people because there isn’t any way to determine what to improve upon, and it’s not like anyone is talking about improving anyway. Mostly it’s just a way to make someone feel self-conscious and bad. It also punishes experience. The longer someone does something, the more likely they are to run into a personality conflict or have a bad day. I’ve even seen customers use the threat of a bad rating against an employee. ‘I’m gonna tell on you!’ It seems that what you end up with under a 5-star rating system is an employee who plays both ends against the middle, puts on a happy face, and fakes it enough to get by. They become something of an automaton constantly trying to please the bloviate customer and their ever-increasing demands. Meanwhile a new ‘kid’ shows up and has a 5.0 rating based on ten customer interactions—and there’s nothing a 4.85 person based on 1500 ratings can teach them because they’re already perfect.

The 5-star rating system sucks because it sets people against each other, constantly pitting them to judge another person or ruin their day with a bad rating. Every time I hear a person say the word “purrfect”—in a creaky, purring voice sounding equal parts hairless cat and bullfrog—I want to reply, “No! It wasn’t perfect. I wasn’t trying to be perfect. I stopped just short of perfection because I know no matter how well I do something there’s always room for improvement or at least not resting on my laurels.”

Most of us gave up on perfection long ago. We’re just trying to get by. For me, 5 stars means adequate. That’s all I really want or need.

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