Saturday, January 31, 2015

Online reputation now deals with the "2-way ratings", affecting consumers of driver and rental services; there is a sinister undertone

Here’s a new twist in the online reputation problem: two-way ratings.  David Streitfeld has a front page story on the issue in the Saturday New York Times, link here  title, “Ratings cut both ways, so don’t sass your Uber driver”.  In fact, competitor Lyft says on its website that it has a two-way rating policy, and that it doesn’t keep drivers who fall below 4.5/5.  It would seem to require a lot of pimping to get people to give you an “A” every time, worse than graduate school.

Airbnb’s site beckons “Belong anywhere” and says it will “create a world of belonging” (as with Martin Fowler’s book, reviewed Aug. 27, 2014 on my Books blog).  It would make sense that people who are going to rent rooms in their own homes would care about the previous reputation of a guest.
Still, the concept of 2-way rating could be disturbing, as potentially some consumers could find themselves banned (like an unofficial “no fly list”) from using certain services for no reason – although it remains to be seen if banning them makes much economic sense.  If you drive for Uber, you need the income, right?
I have not tried Uber or Lyft yet, staying with cabs.   I could find more reason to use them if the Washington DC Metro stops late night service in the wake of its recent terrible accident.  When I travel, I stay in established hotels, although I use Priceline to find them.  I need to be sure that the connectivity will be good.  And by the way, most places now require you to cancel at least a full day in advance – and you don’t know that something won’t happen to your flight.  It used to be that you could cancel before 4 or 6 PM in most places. 
By the way, even though I am in a house as a retiree, I am in no position to get into the room rental business, simply because my time is taken up by what I already do.  Downsizing, with more urban convenience, could eventually be in the cards.  (That’s what’s great about living in New York, isn’t it, if you can afford it.) 

I constantly get pimped emails and physical mailings of deals from Angie's List.  Of course "Angie" has to make a living at this.  I actually rarely use review sites, because of the indirect 2-way risk.  (I have only one outstanding "dispute" right now anyway.)  I do rate films on Netflix, to keep track of the ones I have seen.  But I never write reviews there (or on Rotten Tomatoes, for example); I write a few on Amazon, but mainly I use my own blogs and sites (and point to them on Facebook and Twitter), so using review sites would be redundant. 

A few bars or discos around the country actually have policies of banning people(at least for stated periods) for certain misconduct, like jumping ahead in line.   It would seem that they expect their doormen or bouncers to have long memories. 

Online reputation could become a bigger issue for consumers in the future, like when renting apartments, for example, if property owners feel that a particular customer could bring danger to others in the environment.  The book “The Tyranny of Silence” by Flemming Rose (of the Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy, with a recent horrific aftermath in France) gets into this, and I will review it soon on my Books blog. 

Update: May 29, 2015

It's natural to wonder how the use of "review sites" (especially Yelp! and Angie's List) could interplay with umbrella insurance offered to consumers at the high end of auto and property overage. It would sound hard to underwrite.  This is likely to develop as a story in the future. 

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