Before we go any further, if you'd like to take a brief survey on your reaction to this column, please remain in your seat at the end.
The survey, designed to improve the quality of the column, will take approximately two minutes if you are an utter simpleton, only a few seconds if you have anything on the ball. If you wish to take the survey, press 1 for "Yes." Press 2 for "Absolutely!"
One other thing before I begin, and I mean this sincerely: You're doing a terrific job of reading the column. I say this upfront because I know you're going to hit me with one of those annoying surveys ... I mean, solicit my valued opinion on your performance as a reader.
So let me be clear in advance: You did great. I hope my feedback enhances your status as a highly rated reader and leads to unbounded reading opportunities.
Now a brief moment for the actual column. The topic: How did we become feedback nation?
For decades, we've been under orders to buy as much as possible, to eat out and travel like crazy. Which you would think is a big enough job, not to mention a mighty contribution to the economy.
But it's become clear that when you consume, dine or travel -- even go to the doctor -- your job is only half done. Now you have to review these goods and services or risk letting down an entire nation. Now you can even trash your therapist on Yelp.
It's to the point where feedback is even required on what you didn't do. Exhibit A is this alarming email I received from TripAdvisor: "Did you forget something? You researched several places on TripAdvisor recently. Did you end up going? If so, don't forget to add your reviews while your trip is fresh in your mind."
TA proceeded to list restaurants and hotels I had apparently looked at momentarily, thus illustrating one of the Internet's more unnerving qualities: It has a better handle on what you've been up to than you do. Still, I do wish TripAdvisor would mind its own business. If I forget something, I'll let them know.
Sometimes, these feedback-seekers have all the finesse of bounty hunters. Angie's List, for example. I've gotten good deals through Angie, and I'm grateful. And I've played the game by doing reviews, but all she remembers are the two I didn't do.
These services were purchased a while ago and would require more nuance to describe than Angie's form allows. So I let them slide. Nobody gets hurt. Except me. Her henchpeople are still hounding me years later with phony deadlines (this is your final chance) and inducements (a Starbucks gift card, which I would probably have to review).
But at least Angie has done something for me with good deals. I can't say that for Southwest and American Airlines. Both recently asked for my online vote in an industry competition for the best "loyalty" program.
Talk about chutzpah. All these airlines have given me is a few frequent flier points for buying a flight. I couldn't get as far as Aliquippa on these points. But they want me to do their marketing for them without offering so much as a free bag of 6.5 peanuts.
It's endless. The Carnegie Museums want to know if I'm pleased with the "few months" of my membership year. Haven't I shown my pleasure by being a member for 30 years? WYEP wants my feedback. I'm pleased with WYEP, too, though I don't listen to much radio.
Amtrak sent a 55-question survey on my recent train trip to New York. I have only one question of my own: Could you try to get to New York in under nine hours, Amtrak?
If companies are so interested in getting feedback, why don't they use actual people to quiz us, so we can get at the fine points? And is it wise to give your doctor a bad review?
OK, I'm done. Now for that survey you agreed to:
1. Please rate your overall view of this column: a. Excellent. b. Very good. c. Quite good.
2. How likely are you to recommend it to a friend, colleague or worst enemy? a. Extremely likely. b. Just plain likely.
3. Please rate this column in terms of ...
• Being easy to understand
• Providing value to you
• Seeming utterly useless and impenetrable
• Offering a low-brow attack on a useful practice
Thank you for participating in this study! Your feedback allows us to improve this column, however unlikely. You may now exit the column.
Peter Leo of Squirrel Hill, a retired Post-Gazette columnist and occasional Portfolio contributor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.