It's amazing how the simple act of buying your granddaughter a jigsaw puzzle from Amazon can take up the better part of a morning.

I'm not talking about finding the credit card you registered with the site six years ago or remembering you need to give a new delivery address because the recipient has moved since the last time you bought something from the toy department, or even the process of finding just the right jigsaw.

I'm talking about providing feedback, which you will be implored to do - three questions, room for comments and an option to use a different name. It's only a jigsaw puzzle.

It seems no longer possible to engage in even the simplest commercial transaction without receiving a plea to validate the company by slathering it in praise. And if my experience wasn't satisfactory they want to hear about that so they can improve their "offering".


Recently, I ate at one of those food troughs in Elliott Stables. Emptying my pockets later I found, when I took out the receipt, a card had been enfolded in it.

It bore an email address and a command: "We'd love to get your feedback. Write us a review on" Not so much as a please or thank you. How did they know I had absolutely nothing else to do?

Slightly more sophisticated in culinary and marketing terms is Odettes. I hadn't even got home from lunch there when I received a carefully expressed, if not faintly menacing, email: "If you really enjoyed your experience and would like to share it please feel free to click here to post a review on Trip Advisor. Alternatively, if you would like to contact us directly about your experience you can email us at"

It's the cyber-version of the homely sign that used to be hung in shops and read: "If you're happy with our service, tell your friends. If not, tell us!"

But there's not much that's less reliable than feedback.

Occasionally I host tour groups overseas. On leaving each destination, in the 30 seconds between assembling and getting on the airport bus, the local tour guide will inevitably hand out a lengthy questionnaire to everyone.

Having spent a week or so with these individuals you develop a certain fondness for them, no matter their level of incompetence. Few group members are stony-hearted enough to look into those puppy-dog eyes and refuse to fill in the forms. So everyone almost invariably ticks the excellent boxes and writes "excellent" in the comments sections, and when asked to rate the overall experience says it was really excellent.

Few more questionable documents are in existence outside Donald Trump's accountant's office.


The final irony - and here's a bit of feedback for companies - is that for the reasons outlined above, these ratings are close to meaningless.

Companies don't need feedback to monitor their performances - they know if they're doing a good job or not. The main purpose of feedback collection is to amass quotable ratings - 97 per cent approval! Eighty per cent said product exceeded expectations! - in a society that measures worth by popularity.

It's yet another example of how the internet has turned things upside down.

The paperless office generated more paper; time-saving email takes twice as long as a phone call; and now the customer is working for the supplier by doing their performance appraisals for them.

I'm already giving them my custom and my money. I'll start giving them my time when they start paying for it.