Ratings and Customer Power

From a great piece about “how Uber and its peers turned us into horrible bosses” on The Verge called The Rating Game:

So what do we rate for? We rate for the routes drivers take, for price fluctuations beyond their control, for slow traffic, for refusing to speed, for talking too much or too little, for failing to perform large tasks unrealistically quickly, for the food being cold when they delivered it, for telling us that, No, we can’t bring beer in the car and put our friend in the trunk — really, for any reason at all, including subconscious biases about race or gender, a proven problem on many crowdsourced platforms.

This would be a nuisance if feedback were just feedback, but ratings have become the primary metric in automated systems determining employment. If you imagine the things customers rate down for as firing decisions in a traditional workplace, they look capricious and harsh. It’s a strange amount of power for customers to hold, all the more so considering that many don’t know they wield it.

Here’s the kicker:

“We’re not just working for money,” an Uber driver told me. “We’re working for ratings, but ratings have no value. Ratings serve only to prevent you from getting fired. Only bad things can happen to you. We’re scurrying like rats after these things with no value.”

It’s not a direct analog, but it reminded of a car purchase I witnessed recently. (I was not the purchaser - was just the moral support for a friend.) At the end of the transaction, the salesperson said, “You’re going to get a survey in a couple weeks. If you’re not going to give me a perfect score, please don’t take it.”