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.