Paul Butler: 5 stars… really?

Paul Butler, Newleaf Training and Development. Submitted photo

Have you noticed how we’re fast becoming a society where everyone is rating everyone else? Whether it’s Uber, Airbnb or an online shopping experience — people seem infatuated with maintaining a perfect score.

I just watched an episode of a Netflix show, titled “Nosedive,” and it freakily predicted a future, whereby we’re all rating each other via our mobile devices. Due to a sequence of unfortunate events, this almost perfect person (rated as a 4.3 out of 5) cascaded down to an unthinkable 2.1 and then eventually to a 0.0, and saw her whole world fall apart.  

Have you noticed how these ratings systems, due to technology, enable both parties to rate each other? For example, when you take a ride share such as Uber or Lyft, you’re rating the driver but they also have the ability to rate you as their passenger. You’re looking for drivers as close to 5 stars as possible, and some drivers won’t accept a request from someone below a 4.5, especially at night and in certain areas.

As I type this, my wife and I are staying at an Airbnb in New Mexico. The water pressure in the house is unacceptably low and that same water stinks as we’re right next to a water pump and irrigation system. We were awakened this morning by the owner’s two Doberman Pinscher dogs obviously wanting their breakfast at 5 a.m.

The question is: Will we rate the stay less than 5 stars and post a negative comment on the APP, for fear she’ll also grade us down because of our scoring and our comments?

In my opinion, what this is starting to create is fake positivity — we’re becoming a population who are tap-shy to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Buyers and sellers are vying for 5 stars, but did they really earn it?

You may have heard of a database called Glassdoor — this gives people an inside look at a company as a potential employer as it reviews them and provides salary information based on scores and comments posted anonymously by employees. As a training and development company, we’ve seeing how more and more of our clients are fixated on their ratings on Glassdoor. They figure, if they have negative ratings, they’ll find it hard to attract and retain talented employees.  

I remember a couple of years ago, I completed some work for a company operating in an intensely competitive marketplace to attract suitably qualified and experienced employees. This company was paranoid — and I mean paranoid — about its ratings on this site. There was one person in human resources who, as far as I could tell, had a full-time job reviewing, disputing, pacifying and, where necessary, demanding for a negative post to be taken down by the site, if they saw their rating drop below a perfect 5 stars.  

The crazy thing about this particular site is that it’s pretty obvious that the majority of people who take the time to complete a review of their past employer are usually very disgruntled people who probably weren’t that great of an employee.

In exactly the same algorithmic approach, there’s a site called “Rate my Professor.” I teach financial and managerial accounting at a college in Los Angeles just on Mondays. I am grateful to say that I was awarded “Faculty Member of the Year” for the past three consecutive years, but according to the Rate my Professor site, I am an absolutely dreadful teacher.

Of course, the identity of the raters is anonymous (just like Glassdoor), but I am 99 percent sure the students who gave me dreadful reviews were those same students that didn’t “like” me not allowing them to make up work, if they chose to miss class.

They’re most likely the same students who didn’t “like” the fact they had to do some work outside of class. I’m also certain these are the same students who didn’t “like” that I wasn’t willing to start the class all over again for them, just because they were 20 minutes late in gracing us with their presence.

I agree with being held accountable for providing a poor service or product. I can see the benefits of employees being able to rate employers anonymously. I can see the benefits of this mutual rating system across all sorts of commercial transactions, but I guess what concerns me the most is that we’re breeding on one hand a fake superficiality and on the other, have the ability at our fingertips to destroy someone’s reputation.

All that to say, whether you “liked” or didn’t “like” this article, please give me 5 stars on The Signal’s website.

Leave your name and I’ll ping you 5 stars too, even though I don’t even know you.

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia ( The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected].


Word count: 789


Boilerplate sign off:


Related To This Story

Latest NEWS