As long as favoritism exists, and as long as management's bonuses are limited by what they pay out to lower employees, this story will always be the same. Lawsuits over equality and equal opportunity simply forced an entrepreneur to find ways to present the old habits in a new "legal appearing" light.
Anyone who takes bonuses over salary is a mark in a con game.
My employer uses software that does in fact plug in phrases to produce a verbal evaluation to match the numeric designation the supervisor wants to give. And the numeric is what determines the "merit" increase (if any). And the increase is determined by budget. Of course, the real reason is to prevent a supervisor from inadvertently using words that might end up in a courtroom.
But Scott, once again, shows that the end result is that the PHB's in our companies simply quit thinking.