I recently was harassed by my kids for not giving the Uber driver a 5 star rating.  I gave him a 4, which I thought was inflated, but acceptable.  He didn’t offer me water, a phone charger, breath mints or any conversation at all. All the other drivers seem to go above and beyond just driving me, so I freely give them 5 stars – not because I want them to reciprocate and rate me as highly – but because generally I love Uber and have great experiences.

“But mom, he didn’t do anything wrong, you should have given him 5 stars!”

Whaaaaaaaaaaattttttttttttt? When does not screwing up mean you are excellent? Oh, wait, these are the kids (see two of my daughters below) raised in the Trophy-For-Everyone utopia where everyone is a superstar and no one ever has their feelings hurt.

I explained that the ratings mean nothing if everyone is by default 5 star, to which they wisely replied, “You don’t make the system and you have to play by the rules. It can hurt the driver if you down-rate him. He probably has kids to feed.” Oh, they got me there.  I don’t know the new rules of social media rankings, but I have a feeling I’m too young (age 52) to run from them or to bend them to my will.

The reality for all of us is that rankings matter.

We rank and we get ranked and it is going to get much more pervasive

Google China’s the social media ranking the government assigns every citizen. This isn’t an episode of Black Mirror (check out the TV show to get really scared about the future of this topic) (PS, the future is here already in China).  My best friend was upset when her new medical practice received a bad online review.  It could hurt her in the wallet if others who were happy with her didn’t step up to give a positive review. 

I love to use Air BNB and VRBO when traveling. I had a homeowner in Costa Rica near hysterics that she received a terrible review prior to us renting her 5 bedroom house.  We loved it, and told her so.  My sister gave her a glowing review, not inflated as we truly loved the house.  She kept badgering me and my other sister to also log in to review her.  I declined because it was my busiest time at work and I felt that one great review from us was sufficient. This was several years ago before I got schooled on the financial value of reviews and rankings.  Now, I’m sorry I didn’t help her out. It takes a lot of good reviews to counter one bad one. I was ignorant.

If you are my age or older, chances are you feel the same generational heavy sigh about this topic.  But if you are self employed, the time is coming when you will need to pay attention.

We have consultants who insist that we do X to keep our Facebook rating up (we are at 4.8). Our Google review is at 5 and our Glassdoor rank is 4.9.  I don’t know what my personal ranking is an insurance agent, but I know that I will eventually have one and I’ll be dancing as fast as I can to keep it high.

Is this helpful?  Annoying?  Is is realistic or all manipulated?  Yes, Yes, Yes and also Yes.

I want to give honest, helpful reviews and I want to receive them.  But what will I do when some disgruntled client leaves me an unfair review?  Will I shrug it off or pay people to flood the site with positive reviews?  If all the rankings are inflated, do they serve any purpose?  I won’t see a movie without consulting the reviews on Fandango.  My husband won’t purchase anything from Amazon without reading all the reviews.  Reviews can save us all time and money, but they can also make us slaves to the system.  I’ll be your friend if you are mine.  This feels like a nightmare of high school popularity contests re-imagined for the rest of our lives. 

For now, I’m standing my ground.  Every experience is not a 5 star.  If it is as expected, that makes it mid-rank, or 3.  Average isn’t bad in my book.  And it leaves room for me to give people who give exceptional service to get a much-earned 4 or 5.  I’m usually not a 5.  Some days I’m only a 1, but in general, I’d like to think I’m a high 4.  When it comes times to rate me, and I know that time is coming, be generous and disregard all of the above.  When it comes to my wallet, I NEED a 5.  After all, I have four kids to feed.