Great read, Eli. Confession time: I’m a web developer and I’ve been working on an app that’s built on a similar concept — though it’s a completely different field. How do you recommend someone like me improve these services to be less hostile to workers? Make it less anonymous? More transparency with clients in regards to how their feedback affects the worker’s livelihood? More forgiveness for “bad” feedback? Or do you think this is a flaw inherent to businesses of this type?
Personally I wonder what the point of the 5-star system is to begin with. It might work for Netflix, but it seems punitive when it comes to services, especially when they’re not high-end luxury services. “5-star treatment” isn’t supposed to refer to anonymous cleaning services. I might change the way I rate movies on Netflix if I felt a 3-star review for a movie I liked but didn’t love would mean that movie might be removed from their library. In the end doesn’t it just matter if the job is satisfactory or not? Give clients a binary choice, like or dislike, and give them some way to qualify their choice with a few paragraphs of text if they’re so inclined.
But maybe the problem is inherent. Maybe companies like Handy can only operate by dehumanizing their workers and exploiting a desperate economic situation. I’m honestly not sure how I feel. On the one hand, I don’t think we should romanticize the client/customer relationships of the past that companies like Handy are dissolving, because it was no less exploitative and, on balance, it may have been worse. But while it seems like a good thing that these companies reduce the barrier to entry and help people who need work to skip a lot of the application rigamarole, they also lock those workers into a potentially untenable position, needing to provide 5-star service for 2-star compensation with absolutely no safety net. It can’t just be about the client’s satisfaction, because with the exception of the ultra privileged, we’re all the “worker” in some context, and if the future is everyone’s a Handy/Uber/whatever “employee” then I don’t see how this system can sustain itself for much longer.