Tag Archives: reputation

How They’re Gaming Yelp

yelpNever 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!

Type A Encounters: Five Stages of Beef

There’s a person I know. Who? Someone I know. Let’s just leave it at that.

Tom’s Law #42

As a devout [insert religion here], whenever possible, I only do business with other [insert religion here]. That way, when things inevitably go to shit, I can viciously write about them on my public [insert religion here] blog and foment animosity and dissent within the entire congregation. Verily, I say unto you, halleluja!

When [insert religion here] Attack, by Tom B. Taker

Let’s leave the specific religion out of it, too. I pledge not to go sectarian on their asses even when they deserve it.

So, this guy I know is quite the character. As someone who has suffered in his vicinity (we all have our crosses to bear) I do get the odd thrill of delight when someone meets him for the first time. I get to feel validated and vindicated in my feelings as my various hypotheses about him are confirmed by the newcomer going through the same process I did.

That’s when I realized there are actual laws at work that govern this reactionary process. I have dubbed this theory The Five Stages of Beef. It’s what happens when a person meets someone of humanoid condition Type A. Of course, we all know that the “A” stands for Asshole.


You only get one chance to make a first impression. When you meet this particular guy you are on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride of the Senses. As you meet him for the first time you’re in for a wallop.

Visually eclectic, he has the disheveled pointing-straight-up hair of three-year-old who just rolled out of bed. Your nose, however, will simultaneously pick up on the fact that he didn’t shower before putting on disheveled, dirty and wrinkled clothes. He’s also a man who also clings to fiercely held personal beliefs like anti-bacterial handsoap is stupid and deodorant is a marketing scheme. He’s not afraid to put those beliefs into action, either. You’ll get your smell-based verification of this as his body odor envelopes you.

This is when denial kicks in. Is this guy for real? Naw. It can’t be. This can’t be happening. Not to me.
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Bad Things, Gerbil Sings, Awful Wings

urlSometimes bad things happen to awful people. Sometimes awful things happen to bad people. Which is worse? Which is better? Which is more entertaining? It really comes down to a judgement call. We all see things in our own way. Vive la difference!

Gerbil trama is no laughing matter. Until it happens to people you don’t like. Then it’s popcorn time.

What’s the point of living through extreme circumstances unless it is to gain valuable perspective that will come in handy when the shit rains down on someone else?

This is a story about some awful people I know and some brief exploits of their gerbil. Grab some shredded newspaper and get comfortable. It’s story time.
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Office Panhandling

A typical business school graduate.

The place where I work is a paradox. As an internet-based business (we retail shit) the boss hates it when people walk into our little 20′ x 20′ den o’ fun. We are decidedly not a store. But the manufacturers of the products we sell don’t like to give their shit to minuscule internet-only outfits, like some pimply-faced nerd working out of his garage. To that end, the boss did a crappy photoshop of his business name on a fake picture of a retail location that he purloined, sent it to our suppliers and strives hard to convince them that we are ye olde brick and mortar.

I think what he really means is that we should be bricked and mortared. Right out of existence. Yeah, that’s it. And I couldn’t agree more.

Most retailers adhere to an ABC philosophy. “Always Be Closing.” It’s old school salesman shtick where your only purpose in life is to divorce a fish from his wallet in the shortest possible period of time.. My boss, though, likes to be different. He’s more about the ABL philosophy. “Always Be Lying.” It makes the game easier when you don’t follow things like rules and morals.

So, in a nutshell, the boss wants the entire world except our suppliers to KEEP OUT of our little nondescript strip mall headquarters. Our office has no signage of any kind. Even the post office and FedEx have a hard time finding us. The glass front door doesn’t contain a trace of our business name or even a sticker or any hint of what might be lurking inside. We’re as nondescript as you can get. We’d be perfect cover for the Area 51 administration office. (That would be a marked step up for me. I can dream, can’t I?)

Somehow, though, the public still finds us. They are more than happy to walk in like they own the place. A lot of them think we’re the business that used to be there 15 years ago. Some of them try to sell us tamales out of their car. A great many of them are salespeople, like the investment broker who stopped by this week. She asked if any of the employees needed help with their investments. Whew!!! What a riotous laugh we had over that one!!! Lady, you obviously have no clue how little we get paid!

I hate people walking into our office as much as the next guy. As is my nature, I tried to come up with creative solutions to this problem. In a veritable fit of creativity I head this idea: Put a sign on the door that reads, “Absolutely No Admittance.” The boss couldn’t poop on this idea fast enough. Remember: He is working hard to maintain the illusion that his place is a “store” even though it’s not. It would be bad news if a sales rep stopped by and caught him in the act.

Other sign ideas I had intended to keep out annoying life forms:

  • Extreme Radiation Danger
  • Bird Flu Quarantine Area
  • 1.21 Gigawatt Microwave In Use
  • Justin Bieber Music Zone
  • Poisonous Snake Recreation Facility

Because this is a sick, cruel and twisted world, none of my ideas were accepted. Like all true geniuses I am not meant to be recognized in my own time.

And this is how, yesterday, I ended up minding my own business, sitting at my desk, when I was approached by a person off the street.
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My bad reputation

hookers at dawnFirst I had bad credit. It seems I wasn’t consuming in quite the right way.

Now I’ll have the opportunity to improve on that. Woots for me.

WTF is credit, anyway? I like to think of it like this:

Your neighbor sits on his porch and writes down every time he sees you do something. What a douchebag. He writes down when you pick up your newspaper, get the mail, mow the lawn, leave for work, get home from work, and anything else he might be able to see.

He’s not breaking any laws. He just sits on his porch and records information that you’ve chosen to share with the public. You know, by being alive and doing things and shit.

Additionally, he’s doing this for every house on the street within his field of view. He can’t see everywhere, though, so he hires people to do it on every street in your town.

He does this every day, 24/7, 365 days a year.

All of this data he has collected gets fed into a massive computer and creates something he calls your “file.” If you pay him a fee, he’ll allow you to look at it. If anyone else pays him a fee, he’ll allow them to look at it, too. He’s not discriminating as long as you bring the green stuff.

And that’s pretty much credit. A sleazy, greedy neighbor recording information that is, by necessity, considered to be “public” but is really none of their bloody business.

But that’s old skool. Old and busted, Experian! (One of the “Big 3” credit bureaus and the wonderful folks who bring you shitty mortgage ads on the internet and sneaky “free” credit report commercials on TV.)

What could be newer than credit?

Consider the world that eBay brought us. (Now a little old and busted themselves.) The feedback world.

If you were buying and selling on eBay, how in the world could you know who to trust? After all, these were strangers, not stores.

Those little feedbacks (positive and negative) became a reputation system that enabled people to determine if they could trust each other – or not.

Reputation and identity on the internet is about to become a very big deal. I’m guessing your online persona along with your avatar and publicly-identifiable information (harvested by the likes of Google, Facebook, and their ilk) will form your new “file,” a reputation “credit” score for the future.

Want to participate in the next big thing, like co-ops that share cars to produce organic crops used to produce gluten-free beer? You’ll need to bring your online reputation if you want to play well with others.

Imagine. Your every status update, blog post, and tweet will be recorded and live on. The record you create today will be online and last longer than it would take for Yucca Mountain to be a vacation spot. And the way you perform on every social media, barter, buy, sell, trade transaction will become a part of your permanent reputation file.

Remember the joke about trying to buy a pizza but the debit card knew your cholesterol score? That’s going to seem like small potatoes.

Gee, I wonder. Should I give a flying shit about my online reputation or not?

Anyone have examples of this reputation thing coming down the pike? Share it in the comment section below…