Lileks: Ratings aren’t enough — now stores want your video praise

Wife: "We need bleach." Me, shifting instantly into instinctive hunter-gatherer mode: "I will venture out and secure some bleach."

Later, at the store: I am standing in the bleach department, looking at empty shelves. Not a jug to be had. It is as if bleach locusts had descended and carried them off.

Elsewhere in the store, in the egg department: no dozen-egg containers. Elsewhere, in the sauces aisle, an empty expanse where once the Worcestershire sauce was stocked. And here I was looking forward to soaking a linen shirt in watery brown sauce, then bleaching it to kingdom come. I return home, peeved.

"There was no bleach," I say.

"Impossible. How can that be?" I shrug: supply chains, gremlins, not enough staff to restock, TikTok kids doing the Bleach Challenge, who knows. We live in a world where bounteous bleach is no longer assured.

Later I get an email asking me to rate my shopping experience, and because I am at the age where one is really keen to give them a piece of my mind and tell them exactly what is what and then sulk in impotent annoyance when no one does anything about it, I went online and rated them poorly.

At the end of the survey, I was asked if I wanted to leave a video review. I did. I was strong, but civil, and I made such a good argument that I'm sure everyone in Bleach Logistics was fired that very day.

This wasn't the first offer to comment via video. A while ago, the power went out. I got a phone notification that my power was out, in case I hadn't wondered why nothing worked, but the notification said it would be back by 2 p.m. And indeed it was.

The utility company sent an email asking if I was satisfied with the way the power came back within the time frame they'd provided. Yes, I replied.

Would I like to upload a video about my reaction?

Why does everyone want me to shoot a video now? Let's imagine it's 1954. You get a letter from the power company asking if you had a home movie camera, and if so, if you could film a short testimonial about how you felt when the power came back on. Sure! You get the family together in their Sunday best, set up the Kodak, use a bit of spit to wet down Junior's cowlick, then stand in front of the house. And action!

"We're the Johnsons, here at 312 Elm, and we're pretty darned pleased about the power coming back after that June storm took down the transformer up the block. Aren't we, kids?"

(Desultory nods.)

"And you, hon? I seem to remember you were in the middle of ironing when it all happened."

"I was. If the power hadn't come back that day, the kids would've gone to school with wrinkled clothes, and because your mother was coming over for dinner, the napkins wouldn't have had a sharp crease, and you know how she notices things like that."

"Ha-ha, well, we needn't get into that, she's just a perfectionist, that's all."

"You never hear her say things about your sister's housekeeping."

"Well, she doesn't say anything to you, either."

"She doesn't have to. It's all in the little looks."

"Now look. She — oh, never mind. The point is, the power came back and the kids could watch TV again. Right, kids?"

(Desultory nods.)

Then dad would send the film out to be developed, and mail it to the power company, wondering if there was going to be a showing downtown of all the movies people sent in. What a modern world! Why, he remembered when the power went out in 1922, and the electric company asked his father to write a play about the emotions he experienced when the power came back on.

It was a two-act play. The first was a Eugene O'Neill-type domestic tableau, with an argument that ended in sudden darkness. Intermission. The second act was performed in candlelight, with the family members airing their long-suppressed emotions until, exhausted, they wondered how they could go back to normal after saying such things — and then the power returned!

It was a good play, but it later turned out that he'd lifted most of it from a novel his father wrote in response to a request from the whale-oil company. Seems the shipment of lamp oil was delayed, and they wanted customers to write a novel about their experience.

Anyway, I didn't do a video. I didn't feel like making sure my hair looked good and I didn't have romaine stuck between two teeth, just to tell them I was satisfied with the accuracy of the power-restoration time frame.

In a way I wished they'd said the power won't return for nine hours, because then we would've eaten the ice cream. You know how it melts, then refreezes and gets all those crunchy crystals? Ruins the whole experience. Unless you got Ben & Jerry's Crunchy Crystals, for people who believe that rocks have healing powers.

The store was out of that flavor, last time I checked. But they did have Worcestershire Fudge. • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks •