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A love note to 'the consumerist'

The funny thing about group labels is that they can be so descriptive, and yet simultaneously deceptive. We are all consumers. We love buying gadgets from the Internet, economical goods from local retail chains, and monthly services from just about anybody who will perform the job the best and cheapest. However, as consumers, we take more than these materials things. We also consume time, bandwidth, and peace of mind. And these things do not just belong to us, but others as well. So when we ask if consumers are winning (or losing) the battle for better customer service, the questions we really need to consider are, whom are we really fighting against? Who are we fighting for, and for what purpose?

As consumers, we believe that we have the right to buy good products at a decent price. We believe that we have the right to change our minds about our purchase. Most of all, we want to be treated with respect. Rarely are we thinking of anyone but ourselves when we ask for these things.

Several retailers provide a wide variety of goods at a competitive price. They represent in person one-stop shopping at its finest and the ability to return, refund, and exchange. But in the last few years, the amount of people who take advantage of these friendly policies have caused retailers, Costco and Target for example (1), to restrict what items qualify in an effort to stem financial loss due to fraud. Another fine example of fraud is the incidents of people claiming to find human body parts in their food as the basis of their lawsuits against the company (2). These incidents may be the minority of customer interactions, but they are the ones that cost companies in terms of bad publicity, increased employee training, and ill will towards the potential customer. Thus, we collectively suffer a loss to our consumer rights at the hands of ourselves!

But consumers aren't the only ones who have been misbehaving. Another manifestation of loss prevention policies has surfaced in the ritual of requiring customers to present a receipt for inspection before leaving the store. This practice is illegal yet several incidents of less than respectful interactions between customers and store employees have been reported (3).

In the face of falling profits, companies have resorted to deceptive business practices to make money. Sprint has been sued for illegally extending customer contracts (4) and there seems to an epidemic of gyms that won't let people cancel their contracts (5). There is no shortage of people getting the screws put to them by corporate America and to start listing them now would be similar to emptying the see with a tear dropper (6).

So what are we to do? Start heading down to the local Comcast office and start smashing office equipment with a hammer of righteous indignation (7)? The truth is, this is not a battle to be won. Consumers will ever go too far in pursuit of the cheapest price, abusing customer service representatives and stealing resources along the way. Companies attempting to preserve their bottom lines will shove back with policies that violate the humanity of all involved. Consumers are too diverse a group to ever present a unified front to any company. The best that we can do is to be informed about what our rights and options are when dealing with a company's customer service. In this way, we can maintain a balance so that all parties can have what they are due, respect and a good deal.

a. http://consumerist.com/220616/exclusive-costco-to-make-return-policy-stricter
b. http://consumerist.com/258333/target-tightens-return-policy-no-returns-over-20-without-a-receipt
2. http://consumerist.com/209363/subway-sub-fingerlickin
a. http://consumerist.com/362866/detained-and-harassed-at-walmart-for-not-showing-a-receipt
b. http://consumerist.com/5033095/best-buy-calls-you-an-asshole-for-not-showing-your-receipt
4. http://consumerist.com/353976/sprint-sued-for-illegally-extending-customers-contracts
5. http://consumerist.com/243457/crunch-gym-is-notoriously-corrupt
6. http://consumerist.com
7. http://consumerist.com/308498/sick-of-waiting-for-an-install-75+year+old-woman-smashes-up-comcast-office-with-hammer


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 20, 2009 9:04 PM.

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