Remember When You Weren’t Asked to Rate Every Experience?

Last week I bought a hamburger and fries from a restaurant using its online ordering system. This way I could pick the food up directly at the register without having to stand in line and be around other people. As soon as I was back in my car with an old CD case absorbing the grease from the bag, I received an email asking me to rate my experience in ordering and picking up the food. I was driving so I could not respond until I was stopped at a light, which is both illegal and unsafe in my jurisdiction, but these are the risks you have to take if you want to respond quickly to automated emails.

Then I got home and ate the hamburger and fries, wishing I had taken the ketchup out of the fridge earlier so that it was not so cold. When I was done and trying to digest the meal while watching an award-winning documentary about spoons, I received an email from the same burger joint asking me to rate my eating experience. Yes, the email used the words “eating experience.” The link brought me to a survey that asked me rate a number of attributes about the meal on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 labeled “Great” and 10 labeled “Really Great.”

The questions were expected ones like “Was your meal tasty?” and “Was your meat cooked to your exact specifications?” But there were also questions like “How quickly did the smell of the meal dissipate from your vehicle?” and “Did you experience any bloating?”

I answered the questions as quickly as I could, and when I was done, hoped that this was the end of all the rating surveys I would have to complete based on this one hamburger and one fries that I purchased. But the following morning I received another automated email from the restaurant. “Your survey response indicates that you experienced some bloating after your meal with us. Would you have a few minutes to rate your experience so that we can better serve you in the future?”

And below that were another ten questions about my experience getting sick after eating the hamburger and fries. I won’t get into the details, but the questions were extremely invasive and brought up topics that I did not even know existed. What the heck is “good” bacteria?

I completed the survey, cancelled my weekly juggling lesson, and sat on the couch to wait for the next survey. I did not have to wait long. Within ten minutes there was indeed another email in my inbox requesting that I complete a survey about my experience filling out surveys. I thought I was seeing things but in fact they really were asking me to rate my experience in rating experiences related to my purchase of a hamburger and fries.

I took a deep breath and read the first question. “Did you find our rating surveys easy to complete?” It contained so many contradictions that I was unable to craft an appropriate selection of integer between one and ten, and could only stare at the screen and think about what I wanted for dinner.