The mentality of the One Star Reviewer.

one star reviewer

Some people will only ever give a one star review.

It was late one night and I’m guessing a former Delta employee stumbled upon my blog post about how Delta Airlines sucks and somehow caught a particularly virulent strain of rabies after reading it. Late, I’m working on a freelance writing job of no particular joy (believe me) and my email alerts me to a new message.

I discover a new, completely level-headed comment has been left for approval. By “Tommy.”

Delta comment

I doubted that “Tommy” had left the comment, and saw that there was a Gmail address. Much like I do with the Gmail plugin Rapportive, I actively seek out the real identity of people when possible (see reason #1 here). I think that if you have the courage to leave a nasty comment with a fake name, I ought to have the courage to let you know you’re not so clever. Gmail makes it easy. Your email account is connected with your Google+ profile, which is connected to your YouTube account and your Google+ reviews.

I headed over to “Tommy’s” Google+ profile and saw that a woman named Brenda had spent much of her online reviewing time leaving one-star reviews and diatribes about how restaurants and hotels were just awful. There was no Tommy to be seen. So, I politely emailed Brenda back, heaping a few coals on her head.

blog eula

As you can imagine, the exchange did not improve.

ignorant brenda

Fair enough. I can’t say I read every bit of fine print Delta had put out. My freelance writing project had limped to a halt. It had been a long time since I’d had a fish with such a thrashing grip on the line.

one star review


I went back to work, and forgot about it, figuring it would be over. It was quite late, after all. But a round or two more of CAPS and injustice flowed in to my email. Was this going to continue? I wanted to go to bed without my phone blinking every time an email came in.

one star reviewer

This really isn’t about the persnickety blog commentor, though. Those are a dime a dozen. It’s about the mentality of people who only leave one-star reviews.

Interpreting reviews is an art form. Amazon is a great example of what I call the 1-5 phenomenon. You’ll see mostly one-star reviews and five-star reviews on most review systems. People seem unable to understand the foggy middle ground of 2 – 4. What is good? What is bad? What is really bad? Thumbs up and thumbs down, that simple pass-fail system, is much easier. Five stars review systems require work.

Reviews are subjective and if you’re a generally kind and generous person, if the item or experience was reasonably good, you’ll head towards five. The one star reviewer, however, has a finely honed sense of self-importance, both in what level they think their abilities of discernment are and in how they believe they deserve to be treated.

Even in my worst restaurant experience (after more than ten tries at the place), I did not give it one star. A one star is a supremely bad review, suggesting that all but the four horsemen of the apocalypse were involved. Yet this reader had no qualms with the one-star review.

What struck me even more than the tendency to dole out one-star reviews is the propensity to not review anything that was, apparently, three stars or higher. This blog reader had all one-star reviews, which suggested that she either had horrible luck in every food and travel experience she’d ever taken, or that when things went well, it wasn’t worth her time to reward the business with five stars. Only when she was affronted and angry did she respond publicly.

So what is the mentality of a solid one-star reviewer?

Blackmail only. They have only one star to work with. Everything is judged on a negative scale.

Whether it’s Google Glass users trying to sabotage a restaurant that won’t allow them to wear the devices by leaving one-star reviews whether they ate there or not, the general tendency to be an ass and complainer and social media blackmailer, or using sockpuppet accounts to boost reviews, very little about the review and comment ability gives me much hope that the human race won’t be extinct in about three years.

Brenda arrived on my site, ready with her one star, the only tool she had in her disposal. The moment something offended her sensibilities, she found herself unable to respond in any other fashion. To be fair to Brenda, Delta isn’t all bad:

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