THE BLOG
04/06/2015 04:50 pm ET Updated Jun 06, 2015

The Rating Game

The car service I've been using on occasion asks you to rate the driver after the ride ends. Rating: One to Five. Done on the cellphone. Being humane, you naturally want to give him (no women as far as I can tell) a good rating. Five or Four. Much lower, he may risk getting sacked.

Not only does the rider rate the driver, I learned, the driver rates the rider (in this case, me). This raises questions such as: Was I clean and tidy? Did I congratulate him when he didn't go the wrong way (it's happened) and on his ability to speak good English (about half the time)? Will I score poorly because I was his only passenger that day who didn't have a house full of kids (as he told me he had and seemed troubled that I didn't)?

A passenger gets pinned with a low rating at his peril (say, a Three). Perhaps my name will get printed in The New York Times: "A panel of drivers has rated S.E. as this week's most undesirable passenger." Maybe my name will get headlined on a widely circulated car-sharing register: "Avoid picking up this jerk, especially if it's snowing and he looks desperate."

Now, I'm hardly a stranger to ratings. Anyone who's gone through school knows there's a No. 1 in the class (a place that never messed up my average). Movies are rated (questionably) as good for kids or not. TV commercials tout such and such a medication as invaluable (while mentioning in sotto voce that it's not for everyone and in fact has ten rather dire side effects).

So, I'm not a beginner here. Still, this business of ratings recently has become endemic. Ratings haven't yet reached movie audiences (did that guy spill popcorn all over the floor and will never be allowed back in this theater?) but there's a movement growing in that direction. In barber shops, you may soon find a card that asks whether: (a) the barber did a hot-shot job, the best I've ever had; (b) the barber ought to seek another profession; (c) the barber's really hot and I wonder if he's single.

It's hard to find a restaurant that doesn't now place a little card at your table inquiring if the establishment was: (a) really awful; (b) tolerable; (c) sublime. Also, please rate the restaurant's food, atmosphere, service, and restrooms (that last one could require a whole page). Does it make me a poor citizen if all I do is have dinner, pay my check, not break any dishes, and leave, like I used to do? Do I have to send a report? Would it make any difference, what I said?

I'll nominate other areas that would benefit from a rating system not yet in place. Example: rate landlords who force small businesses to close because of obscene raises in rent. Example: rate guys who scream into their cellphones as they walk down the street and nearly crash into you. Example: rate people who cross the street from their hospital to smoke in front of my building, where they then deposit their cigarette butts.

If any of those sets up a rating system, you can count on me to be the enforcer.