The other day I used a smart phone to buy movie tickets through Fandango. I have never found it so convenient to buy the tickets and pick them up in plenty of time to sit through the half-hour of coming attractions, commercials, celebrity pleas for charity, and animated robot warning moviegoers to turn off their cell phones or trade them in for a small popcorn from the lobby. And the movie I saw, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Special Effects and Marketing, was really quite good, and I thought I might even see it again once my ears stopped ringing.
But upon arriving home and sitting down to a hearty meal of cookies in the shape of Christmas trees, and sprinkled with coarse green sugar granules, a text message appeared on my smart phone, which occupied the other place setting at the table. It was a message from the Fandango application:
“How did you like Sherlock Holmes? Click here to go to Fandango and be your own reviewer!”
I politely declined the invitation to write a review for this Fandango, feigning a prior commitment to review movies on another website. But the following morning, I was greeted with yet another text message from Fandango:
“It has been 12 hours since you saw Sherlock Holmes. Surely by now you’ve formed an opinion. Click here to write your own review!”
Again, I opted not to write a review, and figured that Fandango would get the hint. But I figured wrong, for two days later there was yet another text message from Fandango, reminding me that it had been three days since I saw Sherlock Holmes, and that if I did not write a review soon the movie would no longer be fresh in my mind and I would risk being influenced by the review of others.
Since when did it become customary to ask someone to review something they just bought? Fandango is not the only one. It seems like every time I buy something online I am immediately asked to rate it, participate in a survey, or post my own review. Not only do I have to pay money for the product and transmit my credit card information into the ether, but I have homework on top. Isn’t the fact that I bought the darn thing enough to show that I liked it? And if I really like the product, I will buy from the same vendor again. That is, if I’m not too busy taking a survey.
I know what the answer will be: to obtain marketing research. But why do the evil corporations need me to participate in a survey to obtain marketing research? Isn’t that why they implanted that chip in my brain while I was getting my wisdom teeth pulled?
Before long, all purchases will be followed by offers to rate, survey, and review. We will buy milk and be asked to rate the milk on the milk-producer’s website, or to like the milk’s Facebook page. “Follow your 1% Non-Homogenized Milk on Twitter, and don’t miss any news!”
One might be able to support the reviewability of products if the reviews were helpful. But the reviews leave me more confused than I was in the beginning. I’ll look at the Amazon reviews for a digital camera. One review will give the camera five out of five stars, and proclaim that it is “the best camera for pictures of people holding drinks in their hands.” And another review, of the same camera, will give it only one star, and state that it is “the worst camera I’ve ever used; my family looks just as ugly as before.” One reviewer will hate the camera because the viewfinder shakes too much. Another will say, “Love that shaking!”
I suppose that some people like the reviews and surveys and ratings. They like being a part of the collective consciousness of a Blu-Ray player or restaurant or toilet plunger. Perhaps it is more than just market research. Perhaps this new source of information—the consumer—is a new branch of literature, and will give us the same insight into the human condition as novels, poetry, and that song where you take someone’s name and add those “bo-banana-rama” lyrics to it. Perhaps I’ve gotten this all wrong.
But this discussion will have to be tabled for another day. For there is a man at my door, wearing a Fandango shirt, and holding a baseball bat. And he does not look happy.