Thursday, January 21, 2010

No Such Thing As A 10

There’s no such thing as a 10.

I was in the Home Depot the other day and saw a sign saying that if I would rate any part of my experience in Home Depot as less than a 9, I should contact the manager.

Whoa! What’s going on?

Remember the Bo Derek movie “10”? She was a 10 because she was perfect. Very little in this world is perfect. I can only think of two restaurant meals that I’ve had in my entire life that I would regard as a 10. As fun and as exciting as sex is, I can only think of one or two experiences that I’d rate as a 10.

That means, at least in my book, that on a scale of 1 to 10, 9 is very, very good and that doesn’t happen very often. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, if I could rate my average shopping experience as a 7, I’d consider myself lucky. How is it then that I should notify the manager at Home Depot if my shopping experience is less than a 9?

eBay is up to the same sort of nonsense. They now have variable rates that they charge sellers for listings. Those rates go up if the seller doesn’t maintain an average feedback rating of 5 on a scale of 1 to 5. Some of the sellers, realizing more about human nature than the folks who run eBay, are putting pleading language in their listing begging for higher ratings on their feedback.

Is this the “Lake Wobegon” effect? Are we all way above average? I am, of course, above average, as are my children and their children, but I’m not too sure about all the others.

Charles Murray, author of “The Bell Curve,” did us all a favor by pointing out that half the kids in school were below average.

Let’s get real. We are imperfect. We live in an imperfect world. On average we do rather well, but rating systems that demand nothing short of almost perfect as the norm are not realistic and don’t provide any meaningful information.