Out looking for a place to live, my wife and I happened upon a quaint little house in the city that we liked. There was a cyclone fence that wrapped around the backyard with an old-fashioned and weathered “beware of dog” sign on the gate. The front yard was grass.
We thought the yard and the fence would come in handy for those times when family stopped by with their dogs. In anticipation of the fun we’d have we even picked up a Chuckit and ball.
At no time were we advised there were plans to change anything about the house. The property management people treated us throughout the entire process like the rental scum that we were.
Finally it was moving day. We rolled into town in our U-haul and arrived at the property. It was so exciting. We hadn’t seen the house in two months.
Surprise. The fence was gone although the gate remained. It was no longer a place for dogs. The lawn had been replaced with raw dirt that would soon be the uber cool and trendy urban front-yard farm.
Sorry, dog. We’ve been victimized by bait-and-switch. There’s no place for a game of catch around here. But I do see a nice place where you can bury your bones. Please, feel free.
How They’re Gaming Yelp
Never underestimate the human desire to game systems. Why expend actual effort when you can “win” by cheating? Because, to the victor go the spoils. Today I’d like to explain one way that business owners go about gaming their reviews.
So there’s this thing called Yelp. They claim to be generally positive system but the dictionary definition of the word “yelp” is: “a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm.” Yeah, baby. Those are my kind of reviews. Let’s go negative and keep it that way. Don’t believe me? Look it up in your own dictionary.
I went to the trendy meat cafe and they served me an elk burger that was oozing blood. That’s how I earned “connoisseur of raw elk meat” on my Twitter profile! And, oh yeah, you better believe I yelped it as soon as I got home.
My understanding is that Yelp frowns on business owners asking for reviews. That’s bad form in a reputation system that’s supposedly driven from a wellspring of organic experiences from normal people like you and me. Normal! Yeah, right.
Here’s how the gaming works:
You place an order on a website. A few days or weeks later you receive a survey request. “How did we do on your recent order?” and what not.
You’ll likely be given the ability to enter some comments and provide a rating. If you give them a good rating, they’ll say thanks and provide a clickable link to the Yelp website where you can enter a review. If you give a bad rating, they only say thanks. No linky for you.
Voila! It’s as simple as that. The system just got gamed. The preliminary survey is nothing more than a sieve to sort the good eggs from the bad. The good eggs are passed along to Yelp and the bad eggs go down the chute. You might think that businesses appreciate negative feedback most of all because that’s vital information to help them improve. You’d be wrong. Why waste time on that shit when you can be gaming the system instead?
This is just one small example of gaming. People in the world of business spend more time thinking about stuff like this than they do on actual products and services. And they’re really good at it. That’s ingenuity.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to nosh on some raw elk. RAWR!
Avoiding the gift of chocolate exploitation
When you say “I love you” this Valentine’s Day with chocolate, why not make the effort to make sure it’s “slave-free?” Then it will be something that is truly good for the heart in more ways than one.
From Wikipedia’s Fair trade page:
“Fair Trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach that aims to help producers in developing countries and promote sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a higher price to producers as well as social and environmental standards. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.”
There is another web site called Stop Chocolate Slavery that explains it like this:
“If you want some chocolate, but don’t want to exploit people, Fair Trade chocolate is probably your best bet. “Fair trade” was a term coined fairly recently, apparently in contradiction to so-called free trade.”
Here’s even more of the “bitter truth” from TreeHugger.com:
The truth behind chocolate is not-so-sweet. The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest cocoa producer, providing 43% of the world’s cocoa. And yet, in 2001 the U.S. State Department reported child slavery on many cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. A 2002 report from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture about cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast and other African countries estimated there were 284,000 children working on cocoa farms in hazardous conditions. U.S. chocolate manufacturers have claimed they are not responsible for the conditions on cocoa plantations since they don’t own them.
Looking at a list of fair trade chocolate companies, notably missing are companies like Hershey’s and M&M/Mars that control the lion’s share (about two-thirds) of chocolate production in the United States.
So before you give your sweets the sweets you might want to do a bit of quick research and find out if your chocolate has been certified as “fair trade.” That makes a tasty gift even better!
Remarkably, finding an up-to-date list of what is and isn’t fair trade chocolate in the United States is rather challenging.
Looking for a place to shop that offers fair trade products? You can use web sites like TransFair USA and others to find retail locations.
Here is a site that claims to be a comprehensive list of organic chocolate suppliers. I even have a couple tins of Dagoba on my counter at home. Green Promise: Organic Chocolate Suppliers.