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Controlling Our Lives through Ratings and Quotas

After buying merchandise at some corporate superstores, besides a receipt you also get a little survey asking you to rate your shopping experience. By filling out this form, the store's management claims, that your information will be used to make their products and services exceptional so that your future shopping experience would be better than ever before. Realistically, someone will scan your data into the corporate database. A manager will review this data and use applicable parts to pressure store employees into better conforming to corporate dictates.

The lowliest of employees are the ones put under the most pressure. To make low paid sales clerks feel better, corporate aliens have adopted the name "associates" to describe these people. It's now Wal-Mart Associates, Home Depot Associates, Microcenter Associates, and so on. Too bad they never upgraded the pay when they upgraded the name. In many stores the "associates" are the ones that are always kept on the move. They're constantly being watched by management and any bad ratings directly influence their salary raises as well as their harassment levels. In some stores, I've noticed that these people appear desperate to help you and extremely grateful when you buy something and they get to stick their identifying label on your purchase. In such cases, help doesn't count if the sale doesn't come with it. The "associate" can be diligently advising customers all day, but if they don't buy, too bad, the "associate" is deemed inefficient. The "associate" in such stores must not only be liked, but also must meet or exceed the imposed sales' quota.

Store "associates" are not the only ones that must meet quotas. It's been common practice for the police administrators to require their officers to write a specific number of tickets per day. Officers who don't meet such quotas are considered non producers. So to meet their quotas, many police just pick any minor traffic violation. In Chicago I've seen them standing in the middle of the street by a stop sign, giving tickets to people not wearing seat belts. A policeman who rides around looking for trouble all day but does not worry about minor violations is considered incompetent, whereas one who writes a couple of tickets at the beginning of his or her shift and then spends the rest of the day at Dunkin Donuts is considered an extremely hard worker.

Quotas are set for customer service support employees answering phone calls attempting to troubleshoot problems related to company products. These types of jobs have been steadily migrating to India, but even there, they are not immune to quotas. I know someone ,still in the US, who processes customer questions and complaints regarding internet connectivity for a major cable company. Her calls must average less than 8 minutes. If she can't solve the problem she could transfer the customer to higher level technicians. But she should not transfer more than 20% of her calls for an acceptable rating. They're always pressuring her whenever her calls exceed 8 minutes or she transfers too many people to the advanced tier. I'm sure that some of the other big telecommunications or utility companies have even more stringent rules.

When dealing with writers, internet software has made it easy to rate an author's work. Some of the places where this article will be submitted will ask readers to rate it. Since I don't get paid for writing, the rating you give this article affects only my ego. Articles that appear in Yahoo News, are done by writers that work for such syndicates as Reuters, AP, USA TODAY. This is a living for them. Notice that every article in Yahoo News requests a rating at the bottom. To me, some of the articles rated with two stars were just as good as, if not better, than the ones rated with five stars. It all has to do with the type of audience, the subject, what the audience feels like, and a lot of other things. But a bad rating, even an unjust one, puts unnecessary psychological pressure on the author and it gives the author's employer ammunition when deciding future pay raises.

When I taught in technical colleges, the instructors were the ones who were constantly being rated by their students. From what I've experienced, I believe that Jay Leno or David Letterman would consistently get high ratings at these schools because they're excellent entertainers. They just have to occasionally work the subject they're teaching into a monologue, and without a doubt, they'd be considered great teachers. In many such schools, the students have a tendency to equate learning with entertainment. Trying to challenge today's non thinking students, the majority being products of our socialist public schools, generally leads to a bad rating for the instructor. I've known instructors who actually rehearsed their students by going over every question from the evaluation questionnaire as a practice exercise. When the students had to fill out the real survey they knew exactly what to mark to give the instructor a favorable rating.

Ratings and quotas are intended to make the work we perform more efficient for our employers. If you were an "associate" that consistently met 100% of your sales quota, do you think that corporate headquarters would be satisfied? They would use you as an example to "encourage" your co-workers to work harder. If everyone then met 100% of their quota, corporate would raise the quota while still maintaining current salaries.

Unfortunately for corporate aliens, life has its limitations. The more efficiently we operate, the more we're expected to perform, and the more psychological strain we're under. I've seen more than one "employee of the month" deemed a non performer six months later. Many corporations have some plaques and small prizes for their top performers, but the ones who benefit the most from their employees' efficiency are the CEOs and their helpers who have developed lavish lifestyles as a result.

Why can't we just do our jobs as best we can? Why should we always be listening to some manager exalting the benefits of being more efficient or be forced, like children, to participate in Sunday morning "go-go" sessions. Why should we have to constantly explain why the service call took more than 8 minutes, or why nobody wanted to buy anything on a given day. We're all only human and not everyone will like what we write, nor will they always buy our most reliable products. Why should we be monitored constantly, with our efforts recorded in some corporate database? Why should others, who may lack the understanding of our plight, be always judging us? Quotas and surveys are just another means that corporate aliens use to exercise control over our lives.

About the Author:

George Lunt is someone who feels the world is getting too corporate. His writings relate the individual's struggle with big government and big corporations. His website is

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