Attack of the Karens: Irrational Humans and the One-Star Review Movement
Perhaps it’s the result of lockdowns and restrictions; maybe it’s what we should’ve expected from social media; perhaps it’s the result of everyone getting a trophy; or maybe it’s an offshoot of screen addiction, where everyone now has a shorter attention span (and less patience).
Whatever the cause, the growth of irrational one-star reviews left by humans is proving most of them/us/you (take your pick) are simply insane.
Mismanaged expectations are the greatest threat to providing a great customer experience, though over the last several years the bar of meeting expectations has been raised. Not by companies and not by some better experience elsewhere, but by irrational humans expecting everything to be perfect.
The World is not Perfect
Sorry to burst your bubble Karen, but the world is not perfect. Moreover, human beings are not perfect. They are, in fact, human. Take a look in the mirror Karen… do you see perfection? (If you do, then we’ve got an even bigger problem, don’t we?) This begs the question Karen: Why do you and so many other insane humans demand perfection with every retail transaction?
Burger slightly undercooked?
“I wish I could give this place 0 stars!!!!”
Find yourself waiting in a line?
“This is the worst customer service I’ve ever experienced!!!”
The hotel’s free breakfast was DIY waffles and cold cereal?
“They call this breakfast?!? I will NEVER stay here again!!!”
Interesting, at least to me, is that each of these real one-star reviews was left for locally owned, small businesses during the pandemic. Supply chain issues and labor shortages be damned; Karen genuinely expects and demands every experience she has with a retail establishment to be perfect! If it’s not, they’re going to feel the wrath of Karen!
It’s Not Us, It’s You
I’m sure there are psychological reasons why some people feel the need to leave one-star reviews for what most of us would see as minor inconveniences. Do they feel powerless in their own lives? Do they lack self-esteem? Are they just insane?
Regardless of why Karen chooses to flame a small business online for a minor issue (can we even call these “issues?”), we need to tell her, “It’s not us, it’s you.”
If you’re prone to this kind of negative hyperbole when providing a rating or review for a business online, you are the problem. Most everyone uses reviews and star ratings to decide where to eat, shop, and stay. If your one-star rating for a slightly undercooked burger pulls that restaurant’s overall star rating below 4.0, you’re taking money out of that small business owner’s pocket.
You’re also hurting the restaurant’s employees. Perhaps it’s a great place to work with a terrific culture that truly cares about their employees. Your thoughtless, irrational one-star rating could be taking food off their tables. Perhaps if enough Karens share their worthless opinions about the place, it will close. Then the employees will have to find other employment… perhaps somewhere where they are less valued.
If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say…
Online ratings and reviews – critical for most locally owned, small businesses – are intended to help others decide whether they should spend their money with this business or that one. Certainly, we’d all like perfection, but expecting it from human beings is just insane. Additionally, your irrational one-star reviews don’t give the clear picture of what the average consumer will experience there.
Undercooked burger? Send it back and save your one-star reviews for your own cooking.
Long line? Leave and start providing ratings about your own family’s ability to get you what you need quickly.
Don’t like the hotel breakfast? Skip this meal and try intermittent fasting. Many experts are clear this will improve your health and outlook.
But whatever you do, stop overreacting to today’s little inconveniences. Life is full of shit sandwiches, and the sooner you figure this out, the happier you (and everyone around you) will be.
If we’re going to continue to have Karens flaming local businesses online, there are three improvements to the ratings Google and other sites encourage that I’d like to see:
- Allow other humans to respond to reviews – especially the negative ones. Not all businesses have the luxury or moxie to tell people they’re being irrational, but other humans do. (While I love this owner’s real response to a bad review, not every business can get away with calling out their customers: “Not to mention the fact you were drunk and belligerent towards the staff. The police were called as you left on your motorcycles. Have a nice day. Hope you made it home safe.”)
- Require all reviewers to use a verified, real name that is displayed for all. This will allow Karen’s friends and neighbors to see her for what she is: irrational. Additionally, this simple step will remove much of the “internet bravery” we so often see from otherwise meek folks.
- Pop up a warning when someone is trying to leave a one-star review. Perhaps something like, “Hold on there Karen. Are you sure this was a 1-Star experience that was 100% caused by uncaring humans, or was this just a so-so experience that perfect people like you cannot accept?”
For the rest of us waiting for the Karens to stop, we need to move on – they’re only getting worse.
For me, this means no longer reading one-star reviews when deciding where to eat, shop, or stay. Instead, I read the reviews from those leaving two-star and above ratings. This gives me a clearer picture of what I can expect and keeps me from questioning humanity at every turn.
By the way, if you have a Karen in your life, might I recommend you buy her a copy of Sh*t Sandwich? It’s a book all about coping with the fact that life (and the world) is not fair.