BY FROMA HARROP
I’m shopping for a sweater online, and as so often happens, up pops a “tell us what you think” box. Or I’m on social media, and another social media company hijacks the screen, trying to sell me another product. Then there’s:
“How did you like the app?”
“Tweet about us.”
“Leave a review.”
This does three things: It diverts my attention from the task at hand, it steals my time, and it annoys the hell out of me.
Go away. Stop harassing me. You’re panhandling for information.
I often use the Open Table app to make a restaurant reservation. The morning after, my inbox will inevitably hold a demand/request that I review the restaurant: “How did you like the meal?”
My first childlike response is to wonder why I’m being asked. If I liked the meal, I’ll go back. If I didn’t, I won’t.
Now I understand what is wanted. I’m being asked to enhance the site’s value without being paid for my labor.
This is the business model underlying the Yelp-y world of amateur reviews. And it’s not always a nice business. Very busy people don’t review a restaurant unless they’re very busy owning it or very busy running a competing establishment. [To outsiders giving your honest all: Why do you do it?]
In olden days, a professional restaurant reviewer – and some still exist – had a name and reputation attached to the opinion. I might disagree with a reviewer’s priorities, but I knew where that person was coming from. And I could reasonably assume that he or she had no economic interest in the business being measured.
Moving on, don’t you marvel at being asked why you unsubscribed from an e-mail list? That happened after I unsubscribed from Fandango’s “FanMail.” The reason, which I’ll share only with you, is that Fandango kept sending messages about movies I would not see if lightning destroyed my cable box and Netflix burned down.
In truth, I don’t recall signing up for FanMail, though chances are that I did so in an inattentive moment. Anyhow, after clicking “unsubscribe,” up came, “Help us improve your FanMail.” Yeah, in my next life.
I once used Teleflora to send Mother’s Day flowers and got trapped in some exotically crafted e-mail dungeon. Some sites keep you permanently imprisoned unless you redo your e-mail preferences.
I tried this on Teleflora, but to no avail. Small print on the bottom of the pest message: “This is a one time only e-mail message to thank you for your business, so there’s no unsubscribe option.” Forgive my presumption.
Perhaps after a glass too many, I had asked to receive “special offers.” If so, I accept my punishment. But, your honor, I did not deserve a life sentence.
Teleflora recently sent an e-mail with this subject: “Get 25% off when you write a review.” If I do, please lock me up.
Some of you may be thinking: What’s her problem? Doesn’t she know how to filter e-mail messages? To answer, she does know how, but that’s not the point.
The point is that these are vendors I’ve sort-of invited into my life. I’ve created accounts with them. They should respect my time and intelligence and not bombard me with phony-friendly social-media talk about wanting to know what I think about this or that.
Some computer wants to know so that its human master can monetize my free labor and use the proceeds to buy a vineyard in Sonoma. I respect that aspiration. But as they say, time is money, and some of us don’t work for free.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer