They Wouldn’t Do It With Biscuits – The War of Ratings

They Wouldn’t Do It With Biscuits – The War of Ratings

Imagine what it would be like if your local supermarket started rating the biscuits by manufacturers X and Y using a five-star rating system.

Suppose a customer liked X’s biscuits – but not Y’s.

They’d rate X’s with five stars – but only give Y’s one.

Other customers would not buy one-star biscuits because they would assume they were horrible.

The manufacturers of Y biscuits would lose business – unless they rated their own products with lots of 5-star ratings, which would skew the results of the rating system in their favour.

Then X would not look as good compared with Y.

So, X would have to do the same thing – or lose out on their sales.

Then the consumers of biscuits would start wondering why X has 100 five-star ratings when they didn’t like their biscuits that much – so they would give X some 1-star ratings.

Then some customers would see those 1-stars and disagree with them, giving 5-stars even though they didn’t like the biscuits.

By then customers unfamiliar with biscuits X and Y would see the ratings and start wondering if those ratings could be trusted. They wouldn’t buy a biscuit with only 5-star ratings, even if it was a good product. They’d probably only buy 4-star ones because those products seem more trustworthy.

Manufacturers of X and Y would then give false 4-star ratings to their own products, while giving 2 and 3- star ratings to their revivals, knowing that consumers would believe those ratings over 1-star ones.

To boost their sales, X and Y would give away thousands of their biscuits in exchange for good ratings – or not sell a complete product unless consumers rated it highly before buying it.

They’d have guerilla-warfare campaigns to get more ratings, often paying people with no interest in eating biscuits to give good ratings.

An insane war would break out for ratings that would have nothing to do with the quality of the biscuits.

Inevitably, customers would not trust any biscuit with a rating.

Some would even stop buying biscuits.

People would wish biscuits had no ratings – just like before.

The situation makes no sense for a supermarket to use such an illogical rating system for biscuits – but it is the normal way products are evaluated on-line. Everything can be rated – with the inevitable result that an ugly war has broken out between sellers of everything from airline tickets to zoological equipment. Just a few weeks ago a major manufacturer of smart phones paid for fake, detrimental reviews of a rival’s product – until they got caught. One famous film company invented a reviewer to give their blockbusters great reviews – while trashing other movies. In the publishing industry fake reviews have become de rigueur.

I can think of three possible solutions to the problem.

1) Abandon ratings completely.
2) Remove the right to anonymity from reviews.
3) Punish sellers caught using fake reviews by having their products banned from retailers’ websites.

I’m not sure what the best answer to the problem should be – as all solutions come with additional problems, like punishing the innocent as well as the guilty – but I do think it is time something is done. The current system is bad for sellers and consumers. Something fairer must be possible.

I just wish I knew what that could be.


Author: John Moralee

John Moralee writes crime, horror and science fiction.

4 thoughts on “They Wouldn’t Do It With Biscuits – The War of Ratings”

  1. Your point 2 – the solution involving removing the reviewer’s anonymity – is probably the best one. When I was younger and learning history I was taught ‘Before you study history – study the historian’. The same goes for any other field.

    Assessing the media’s judgements of books is are awkward when quotes are taken out of context and shoved onto the front cover. Also, watch for favourable quotes from fellow authors… who happen to be published by the same publishing house and are wishing to curry favour.


    1. Thanks for your comment. A good point about reviews by authors of authors. That goes on all of the time – even though it is technically against the rules of many retailers, such as Amazon. They are not supposed to review books if they have a commercial interest – which they clearly do if they work for the same publisher.


  2. I would have to agree with jsw12 above, in regards to what the options are in regards to reviews. However, it only takes 5 minutes to create a new account, and post a review. Also, on Amazon, as far as I’m aware, there is no anonymity, however, there are plenty of reviews that are bought.

    Star reviews are so subjective it’s sort of hard to tell what is actually being reviewed as well. I’m personally a fan of the eBay rating system, which has a full form for any rating. Shipping, correspondence, item description, etc…. all of them get their own star bar. Imagine if that was what it was like for books? Book description (the blurb, mainly, on the physical copy and on the online retailer’s website), characters, plot, and overall impression could have their own star bar. It’d be much easier to spot a fake or passive review that gave ALL 1 stars or ALL 5 stars.


    1. The eBay system sounds interesting. It would make it possible for readers to at least know why someone didn’t like a story – as long as they were honest and objective. A subjective rating for “personal enjoyment” could make it clearer that a book was technically good – but not something that one specific reader would ever enjoy.

      I suspect that many books would end up have five-star ratings for everything, though.


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