Feedback is a coveted benchmark, so you would think we would provide it more.
Last week, my fiance and I were looking for a new entertainment center for our living room. We are still in the process of transferring college (read: cheap pressed wood and plastic) furniture for slightly more grown-up, in-our-twenties-and-fine-financially-but-not-ready-to-spend-thousands furniture. For this task, Amazon is our new best friend. Sure, you have to put the furniture together still with a thousand little screws and knobs, but it looks great when you’re done…if you’ve chosen the right piece.
This is where feedback was crucial to us. I created a “wish list” of pieces (thanks for the handy tool, Amazon!) and then we scoured the feedback. We could rule out ones where people said it fell apart the next day, we were aware of when someone mentioned a color didn’t match the picture, or if there was a trend of pieces arriving broken. Without this feedback, I don’t think we would have ended up with the incredible entertainment center that we now have.
Alternatively, I’ve been on the other side of feedback twice this week. On Etsy, feedback is manna to sellers, especially new ones. It makes your shop look better and more credible, it tells you how you’re doing, and if it’s good feedback, or a particularly kind review, it just gives you those warm fuzzies inside that can last the whole day. I received some delightful feedback this week, as well as left one for another seller, who took the time to tell me how much it meant to her to hear that I loved the piece she made.
Similar to that is feedback via teachers or professors. As a grad student in writing, I crave and beg for feedback in my pieces. I want to know what’s not working, I want to know what is, what can I change to make you believe in my characters, what can I tweak to make that story even a little bit better? Heck, I’ll take a grade–it’s some benchmark against which I can judge my progress.
Feedback is less formal, too. “I like that sweater,” “cute shoes,” “your haircut looks great,” boost us and make us feel more confident; again, a benchmark against which to weigh that particular facet.
So, if we all crave feedback so darn much (and don’t pretend you don’t), then why don’t we give it more?
I will always leave feedback for an Etsy seller. Since I am one, I know how much it brightens my day to hear a personal note that tells me what a customer thinks of my handmade item. Again, warm fuzzies ensue. Even with smaller shops on Amazon, I will try to remember. (One notable time is our kitchen island in our apartment. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of craftmanship from a simple, American-based company called Catskill Craftsman. It actually arrived with a split down the middle of one piece (through the fault of shipping, I’m sure) and when I called them about it, they apologized and sent out a new piece that day. That is amazing customer service, and I wrote them a great review.)
However, when it comes down to the bigger vendors on Amazon and the chain stores (Kohls, Target, etc.), I’m usually silent. Why?
I guess, at first thought, I figure that big stores don’t need me giving them a pat on the back because they probably don’t care. While that may be true, I still use the feedback for items in those stores to tell me if I want it or not. Especially with clothes shopping and Kohls, I scrutinize the reviews to see if there was someone with my general build who has a piece I’m looking at. I want to know if it fits small or big, or will make me look fat.
In what I’m going to call “social” feedback, I’m often reluctant to speak up, as well.
In my graduate classes, I’m sometimes hesitant in a new class to “tell it like it is” during critique, even though that’s exactly what I want from others. If my piece only gets a half hour of crit time, don’t waste half of it telling me you “liked” it; I want to know what’s not working. Therefore, I shouldn’t pansy around with someone else’s story, either. I don’t think I’ve ever been told that I’m being “mean” or “harsh.” What good writer doesn’t want as many opinions and thoughts as she can get?
At the end of the day, we all want the benchmark, but we don’t necessarily want to be the one to dish it out. I don’t know if it’s part of our twenty-first century politically correct world, or if it stems from a fear of being hated, or if it’s just a selfish desire (“I’m going to use what others have taken the time to say to make my decision, but I’m not going to leave anything for the next person.”) What do you think?
In the meantime, I’m off to Amazon. I’ve just guilt-tripped myself into the realization that I haven’t left any feedback for the entertainment center.