Wag's dog walkers are secretly rating your precious pet
- Wag, an app that lets you book a dog walker on demand, is testing a new app feature that lets walkers rate their experience.
- The goal is to give walkers a safe - and private - space to raise issues about the home, the app, or their interaction with the dog.
- Wag's head of trust and safety comes from Uber, which also lets the service provider (the driver) score the user (the passenger).
- Unlike Uber ratings, Wag users can't see their dog's walk score.
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Most people know that they can rate their Uber driver, and that the Uber driver can rate passengers in return. If you slip far below the average passenger rating, you may even get booted from the service.
Now, the app perhaps best known as "Uber for dogs" has released a new feature that lets dog walkers do the same for your fur baby.
Wag, an app that lets you book a dog walker on demand, is testing an app feature that lets walkers rate their dog-walking experience on a scale of one to five paw prints. The rating is only visible to Wag, as a way to give walkers a safe space to lodge complaints or offer feedback, said Heather Rothenberg, who left a job as head of trust and safety at Uber to take a similar position at the Uber-for-dogs.
The feature comes at a time when Wag is fighting to gain the trust of users as it loses market share to its biggest competitor, Rover. Wag's sales have flattened over the last year, according to data analytics firm Second Measure, as the Los Angeles startup faces heavy scrutiny for dogs running away or, in rare cases, dying in its care. The company's new rate-your-walk feature could be a salve, helping walkers alert Wag to issues before something goes really wrong.
"Wag is a community of people who love dogs - walkers, pet parents, and the employees who work here," said Rothenberg, Wag's vice president of corporate affairs and trust and safety. "So we recognize that the experience has to feel safe and fun and useful for everyone.
"... The walkers and the pet parents need to feel like they're getting the kind of attention, care, and thoughtfulness that they deserve."
Only Wag can see the walker's rating
Wag's dog ratings might not be the slippery slope that sends us into the feared "social credit" systems of dystopian movies (or, of China). But if a social credit system were ever to take root in the US, it's a sign that you can probably expect your pet to be rated too.
Here's how Wag's dog ratings works:
At the end of a dog walk, the walker answers a series of prompts. They can leave notes to help other walkers who match with a particular pet in the future, such as where to find parking and what triggers, like skateboards or squirrels, riled up the dog. The walker also sends a report card to the pet parent. It includes the length and distance of the walk, if the dog pottied, a photo, and other notes.
In September, Wag added a prompt for rating their experience.
For now, dog owners can't see the walker's rating. That's in part to protect the walker's privacy, Rothenberg said. If a user has only booked two walks on the app, and the dog's score tanks after the second walk, it would be pretty clear to the dog owner who gave them a bad rating. And a poorly rated walk might not be the dog's fault. The app asks the walker what went wrong, and they can choose from prompts like faulty equipment or issues with the app.
"It may be that this person decided that they really don't want to handle a 100-pound Mastiff"
It's important to note that the rating is a reflection of the overall walk, and is not based alone on the interaction with the dog.
If the walker reports feeling like the dog should be removed from the app, they're encouraged to call Wag's trust and safety team. It will interview the walker about what happened, as well as the dog owner, to get a "holistic picture" of what happened, Rothenberg said.
"It may be that this person decided that they really don't want to handle a 100-pound Mastiff. It's a large dog that they thought they would be OK with, but they're not," Rothenberg said. "But that doesn't necessarily mean the dog shouldn't be on the platform."
Wag has raised $361 million in venture capital funding, mostly from investment juggernaut SoftBank. Its struggles have led the company to seek a potential buyer, according to a recent report in Recode.
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