Surprise me! – why review websites are ruining our happiness

Since the massive spur of review based e-commerce websites such as TripAdvisor.. it has become close to impossible to be dumbfounded by the quality of the service we get.

Just pause for a second and think about it…

When was the last time, you were genuinely surprised about a service?

If, the overall quality increases…why would we be less happy?

I think we all agree that for any service provider, it has become increasingly tricky to fool customers about the quality of its service since the birth of review websites. Not only, people would not return to buy at the same place but they would not even consider to try it to start with. This certainly has led to an overall increase in quality.

Happiness = reality – expectations

So, if the overall quality increases, why do I still think that our happiness does not necessarily follow the same pattern? Why do I think (and feel) that at the end of the day, we are actually less happy??!!'Oh, I don't know, man ?? surprise me.'

I truly believe that most people’s happiness can be measured as follows:

Happiness = reality – expectations

In other words, if we set our expectations really high but the reality turns out to be much worse, we are disappointed.  Equally, if our expectations are low and the reality turns out to be something much better, we are likely to feel happy! And because nobody likes being unhappy, what we all do is try and ‘manage our expectations’ and lower our risks as much as possible.

Looking at 4.5/5 ranking on a restaurant will reduce our risk but will also set our expectations very high about the place. You know you are likely to get an excellent service and therefore when you eventually do get an excellent service you feel content and very confident about your internet browsing skills. However, when it comes to happiness, you will get something like:

4.5 (review – expectation) – 4.5 (our experience = reality) = 0 (happiness factor)

You do feel satisfied with your choice, but you don’t have that extra special feeling.

Stumbling upon a hidden gem

Where is that extra special feeling coming from? the feeling of stumbling upon a hidden gem restaurant and be stunned by the quality of the food is incomparable with the feeling of going into a restaurant that got 4.5 stars out of 5 and therefore the only surprise potentially awaiting for is disappointment if you happen to order the ‘starter’ that has fallen into the 5% of below the average rating…otherwise, you will be perfectly content because you got what you expected … But somehow this feeling cannot compete with a truly unexpected feeling of ‘surprise’.

Shuffle, TED and even X-mas presents…

There are many current examples, whereby the element of ‘surprise’ is built into the overall concept.

When your favourite song comes up on your ‘shuffle’ (or on the radio, though it is unlikely these days)…it does put a bigger smile on your face.. even though, you could have just manually picked it from your list at any time.

If you go on, there is an option to say how much time you have, based on which they will surprise you and propose a video.


It today’s world of ‘nothing should come as a surprise’ especially with the volume of data that is available to us, I still think ‘surprise’ has a currently undervalued role.

For some people, taking the risk of occasional disappointment is still a much better option than living in constant lukewarm happiness. I am certainly one of them.


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