Posted in Of Culturel

Of Rating Things

food plate restaurant eating
Photo by Tookapic on

I just ordered (and ate) some fish and chips. I am Bengali, and so, as far as stereotypes go, I expect my deep-fried fish to be as good as Mitra Cafe’s or Apanjan’s. I know it cannot be as good, when it is not from either of those establishments, or from a Bengali eatery at all, for that matter. But, I can’t help it if my standards are high – the fish should be that fresh, that flavourful, that truly melt-in-the-mouth. There aren’t many things that can live up to advert-speak, but if you’ve already tasted heaven, you know you won’t be rating mere earthly morsels as highly.

But, I shall have to rate it. I ordered it on a food app, and my statistical dilemmas have already begun. And I’ve also gone through the profile of the restaurant, which posed yet another dialectical problem – they provide very detailed replies to your relatively casual critiques. Imagine trolls, but those that actually make sense. Normally, these are people I would not only support and stand by and possibly join, but champion with big fat tears in my eyes because they are hard to come by. We would be comrades, for I’ve written many a detailed letter to all manners of companies and people, using the power of language and my sense of civic duty and justice to improve the quality of life, and right wrongs, and reward rights and so on. But, I’m not ready to take it.

I’ve been rated before, of course. I know what it is like. So have we all. We’ve all let our scores in schoolwork or work or sport or hobbies or whatever it is we’ve ever had foisted our way that comes with an ABCDE or a 1*2**3***4****5***** tell us what we mean to the world, and how good we are for it. We all know that most of it isn’t fair, or accurate, or even useful. And yet, we continually find ourselves trapped in the system of handing out, or being handed, scores that possibly cannot reflect who or what it is.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love statistical analysis and all those things that, like all other science-y stuff, claim to explain the world as close to the truth as possible. I, myself, am more of a humanities person, so I do appreciate the paragraphs of wordy analysis underneath. Words are able to enunciate all the microtones between A and B, and 2** and 3***, and thus, provide you with some explanation as to why you’ve scored so and so, and what you could possibly do to score some more. The thing is, most of the time, I cannot, as the fish-and-chips-loving Brits would say, be arsed.

I’m generally generous. I try to keep a tab of my reading on Goodreads. I used to write quite snarky reviews before, but I don’t take myself so seriously anymore. If I find something truly extraordinary and personally affecting, it gets a five-star. If I admire its ambition and also gain something from it, it gets a four. If I don’t enjoy it but understand how others could, and how it could potentially influence others, it also gets four. The last two sentences carry different arguments, but they amount to the same rating. For further reference, I give a three-star to something that is not as well-written or useful, but not totally disposable either. I’ve never given a one-star, and only once did I give a two – which was to Richard Bach’s Illusions. One star for the central theme, and the other for the flying lessons.

fried fish with chili pepper and mint
Photo by Kaboompics .com on

As you can tell, my method for rating books – the only thing I think about the most out of all the things in my life – isn’t very scientific. Writing a book is such a hard thing to do (I’ve never managed to finish one), that I feel compassion for the writer even when it is badly written. I can’t even begin to comprehend all the factors that go into making and delivering food. If it is too spicy for me (and yes, I am one of those rare Indians who cannot handle spice), do I give it a lower rating? If it is stale, if it contains dead cockroaches or other members of the animal kingdom that are not meant to be there, then shouldn’t there be the option for a zero or a negative rating, for what could justify the one-star?

Even when you get a description of the rating, like in most Psychology questionnaires where you get a ‘most likely’, ‘almost never’, ‘sometimes’ etc., it doesn’t provide you with a foolproof answer either. Is there anybody reading this who has never said words like “I wish I were dead” or “Kill me now”? Assuming that was a rhetorical question, how are you then supposed to answer “Have you ever considered suicide”? Life’s a bit of a b*tch you see, who doesn’t want to take a break from it sometimes? But, that doesn’t answer the question or provide useful data to analyse. Let me put it this way, on a scale of one to ten, with one being the lowest, how likely are you to wish you weren’t here?

What if I just ate the book? I mean, what if I just read the book, and ate the food, no questions asked? That’s the whole reason I ordered on an app, because I can’t be fucked with a phone call or going outside and sitting at a table with a menu, trying to engage with a waiter who’d probably find me way too nervous to be a customer who needs to be served pronto. You can’t have your choice between statistics and a short essay. Ideally, you should do both, rate the thing, and write why you rated it so. Or risk the chance of being berated, as the restaurant I ordered from does to its customers. If you don’t participate in either, because you’d rather be kind and not say anything than say something unpleasant, or because you’re too busy to think about the thing you’re consuming then, well, you aren’t living your life fully, are you?

But, how unfully are you living it? On a scale of one to ten…or one to five if that’s too much…a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ would do? No? Oh, as in no, you don’t want to tell me. I understand. It’s your democratic right not to share an opinion, of course….

Do you rate/review things? What’s your system? On a scale of one to two, how likely are you to not respond to these questions in the comments?


Writer, Blogger, Kate Bush Fanatic

10 thoughts on “Of Rating Things

  1. I get more nervous ordering food on an app than in-person. I once did that for Starbucks and it was just so bizarre to me that I could show up and take my prepared order from the mobile pick-up section without having to talk to a barista or show proof that I ordered the stuff.

    I’m not a frequent rater. I’ve tried on Yelp and Goodreads but it’s difficult to consistently do it all the time. I just hated how everytime I visited some place I felt urgency to whip out my phone and punch in a review. With Goodreads, I feel I’m too nice with books. I guess there are ones that are easy to rip into if I clearly didn’t like it or it was poorly written.

    1. I don’t think services here are as advanced as what you wrote about Starbucks, but I’m sure with our hospitality here, they’d ask questions anyway. I’ve social anxiety, but as far as eating out goes, it’s more to do with deciding what to eat. On an app, I can actually take my own time and no one has to wait on me. Is that weird? As for ratings, I rarely do it unless I’m asked. They seem to have feedback forms and surveys everywhere, and I find them really invasive. What if I don’t want to share my address and phone number? The whole reason you’re eating out is because you want to relax and don’t want to think!

      However, having complained quite a bit, I do want to make it clear that I do appreciate all the effort they make. None of these things are of their own devising, and I’m sure they find asking people to rate and review just as tedious, if not more.

      As for book reviews, I think there is some use to writing down your reflections on what you read. Usually it’s in my diary than on Goodreads, but I find I get more out of the books that way.

      1. I have social anxiety as well but I have the opposite problem with ordering food. When I do it via app, I get nervous showing up and having to approach someone to verbally let them know I have an order for whatever. Ordering in-person, I still get anxious but I feel less weird about it because I can physically see and hear other people waiting on line and ordering food like I am. I don’t think it’s strange you prefer using an app. Everyone has their own comfort level.

        The review pushing is crazy. Even on the receipts I get there is a request to take a survey to rate my customer service experience. I rarely do them even with incentives they give, like getting a free drink or something.

      2. I know, and I don’t rate them badly because they can see me! I was anxious about today’s order, because I’d ordered from them before. The food was lovely, but they called me later, asked me several questions and told me to rate them and post pictures if I could. I was happy to do so because I was really pleased with the food, but after going through other reviews I realized how detailed and often unpleasant they could be with their replies. I was scared of ordering again, because I didn’t want to have the option between being dishonest and unpleasant!

        I wish people in sales would understand when something is invasive or judgmental. Again, not undermining those who put in the effort at all, but those who implement the ideas in the first place. Beauty counters are rarely a pleasant place for me, especially when buying foundation, because I’m often told what’s wrong with the way I look. On the other hand, I was trying out clothes a while back and the SA wanted to come into the trial room to tell me how I look!

  2. I don’t really rate things. Which is why most of the things I buy go for ages without being responded to. Silly, but it annoys me. If I like I enough to share, I will. Otherwise, leave me be! lol If I don’t like something, it has to be really bad before I comment. I’m a sort of run of the mill boring sort. Color me lavender and I’ll be happy!

    1. Ha ha! I don’t take the trouble of reviewing on things like Amazon anymore either. I know I should, but ideally I like to use the thing for a little while before I critique, by which time I’m no longer interested to write anything down.

      I’ve also been bad with replying to comments because I want to write more thoughtful responses, but I’ve now realized immediate responses, however brief and unstudied, are better than nothing at all!

  3. I struggle with ratings – as I feel I’m an unreliable narrator! With music for me, so much depends on the timing & listening context. And what might be a 4/5 after one listen, may change after subsequent listens.
    So I suppose my system is to say something nice & hopefully interesting in reviews – on a scale of 1 to 2, I suppose that’s a 1!

    1. I find it impossible to decide what I think about an album after listening to it once. Even if I don’t enjoy or understand or find it too predictable, I have to go through it a few times. I guess most people do. And that is something you don’t have to do with books or films. But it does make me wonder how people reviewed music before records. Leaving the performance aspect aside, could you really take it in by just listening to it once? Or did people just retain the music better in their memory to go home and write about it? What if there were other Mozarts and Beethovens out there we never would know about just because their music got a bad review?
      I’ve said this before, but I really like how you, despite using a ton of statistics, never really rate albums/artists.

      1. My thanks Amrita – and nice point about the difference between records requiring revisiting vs. books. I’m pleased we’re fortunate to be able to relisten to recordings, I couldn’t imagine only being able to hear something when performed live!

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