People were lined up at Soho House Chicago, a members-only club for professionals in creative fields, in the west loop, sixth floor. And, it wasn’t for another drink at the bar. Okay, guests had friend’s make drink runs to the bar as they held their spot in line—their spot in line to be judged.
We were there on the last Thursday in January 2016 for a launch party for General Motors’ new car-sharing service via smartphones, Maven.
Smartphone Car-Sharing Service:
I knew 2016 was going to be different when I got off the plane at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and saw a perfectly placed advertisement for LYFT. I thought Uber was going to win with their creative campaigns and LYFT was more the Yahoo! of car-sharing services. But LYFT got a lift, a $500 million one, by partnering with General Motors, a company that is starting to break into a different part of the car industry—car-sharing.
On top of partnering with LYFT, General Motors has invested in its own car service, Maven. It originally launched in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where the target market included university students, but for the first quarter in 2016, General Motors has rolled out its Maven car-sharing city programs, starting with Chicago. A smart move granted The 2016 Chicago Auto Show is February 13-21, 2016.
Stepping up the car-sharing game, Maven works through an app and includes a seamless experience with OnStar and Apple CarPlay integration.
Meet The Bumbys:
As we mixed and mingled at General Motors’ Maven launch party, I met a group of girls in their early 20s.
“Have you heard of The Bumbys?” one girl asked.
I looked forward and, for the first time in the hour I was at the Maven launch party, I noticed them—The Bumbys.
Infamously called The Bumbys, the boy, and girl pair remain anonymous with blonde wigs, long sleeves, and a handkerchief over their face. They sat behind a long table with their typewriters in which they typed a fair and honest review of you simply by your looks and your body language.
Social Experiment: Do People Want to Be Judged?
Whenever I pick out my outfits (besides during winter) I dress partially for myself and partially for other people.
You want to fit into the environment.
Especially when you go to a party, you want to dress approachable, friendly, and perhaps trendy/stylish.
In an interview with Refinery 29, Lena Dunham was asked about her public perception and how she feels about it.
“I used to spend a lot more time than I do now trying to understand why people didn’t like me. I remember just sitting around in my early 20s and being like, ‘Why is that girl always mean to me at a party?’ And then I just realized that it doesn’t matter,” Dunham said.
The fact is as much as we don’t care what people think, we actually do.
Waiting in the line, with a guy getting me a drink at one bar and my new friend grabbing me a beer at the other, it was apparent that people were eager to be judged—to hear what others thought of them.
We all want to be connected to other people. We might not be interested in making the best impression every minute of every day, but I think overall, we care what our personal appearance says about us before we have time to say something.
The Bumbys didn’t start judging people at parties, they started judging them at a public transportation stop in New York City. The Bumbys really started as a social experiment in 2008 and now they are booked for parties, with one of the original Bumbys at each event.
A Fair and Honest Review:
The key difference with The Bumbys is that their reviews are meant to point out the good things in people, and not the negative.
So, maybe it’s not that we want to be judged, but that we want to be complimented?
My Review From The Bumbys:
It was a little bit past 10:00 pm, when the party ended, and I was next in line.
I was anxious because I really wanted to know what Mr. Bumby thought of me.
I asked the person reading her review if I could read it. She wanted to keep it private.
It was my turn, and I stood in front of Mr. Bumby, my drink barely full in hand. The guy next to me shares with me his review, and I tilt to the side as I read it and smile.
I look at Mr. Bumby and smile, knowing I am being judged. The girls behind me grab my attention as we make plans to follow-up with fellow marketers like Antonio Casanova from Starcom Mediavest Group.
Mr. Bumby just finished my review and he reads it to himself, looking for any mistakes, which he would cross out with a permanent maker. Mr. Bumby made no mistakes during my review.
I took in the first line and headed towards the bar. My face lit up by the last line, “I kind of love. you.”
Your Bumbys Score:
“You got a 9.9!” the guy who was in front of me shouted as he read my review. He attributed my high score to the fact that a guy, Mr. Bumby gave me the review.
The three other girls I was with all received 9.8’s.
In an article in The New York Times, The Bumbys note that they rate people at an 8 or higher out of 10.
“I don’t ever want this to be a mean, hurtful thing. I’m not interested in tearing someone down. Where’s the art in that?” Mr. Bumby told The New York Times.
Overall Experience with The Bumbys:
Maybe it was the drinks, maybe it was The Bumbys, but by the end of the night, review in hand, the party turned from individual VIP sections to a lively dance floor. No one wanted to know you, they wanted to know what other’s thought of you.
This was better than a photo booth at a party—though, photo booths are still fun.
Everyone at the Maven launch party wanted to know how cool, funny or popular they appeared to be, and they didn’t mind if it was an inconspicuous average Joe who was judging them.