So, for the past several months, every time I’ve interacted with a major American corporation, it’s been a nuclear headache. Part of it is I’ve been doing Big Out of the Ordinary Things, the types of things that do only once every few years. I guess the Federal Government already created a Consumer Protection Agency, so “there aughta be a law” is a bit two years ago. States, of course, also have a role in regulating the marketplace.
While I’m sure strengthened State and Federal consumer protection laws will help, at the end of the day, you can’t really make it a civil or criminal offense to be a jerk, effectively. I mean, if these companies want to play the, “Wha, wha, huh?” game, “Uh, the system’s down” “Uh, we have a bad connection,” “Uh, a Supervisor? Um, yeah, we don’t have any Supervisors here,” “Uh, you can look that up on our website,” “Uh, we can’t send an email,” “We can’t receive a fax,” “We can’t call you back.” Which is the heart of the criticism of the Occupy Movement, as I understand it, that is how is the Government supposed to stop corporations from being jerks?
Don’t get me wrong. I really, really, really believe in buy American, buy local. I really, really, really believe in the long time American manufacturers and service companies. I really, really believe in small businesses. I really, really believe in you get what you pay for and paying more for something built or provided by well-educated and trained workers is worth it. I really, really, really want to buy from the companies that my parents, grandparents, etc, bought from and believed in, and from new businesses started by my neighbors. I want American workers to have jobs and I want American entrepreneurs to have a market share. I really believe you can make things in the United States—from industrial equipment to boutique clothing—and it makes sense and delivers value and is a better deal that making it half a world away and shipping it tens of thousands of miles.
And I get it, things are tough all over. Four and a half years and counting into a recession, and it’s not just the little people who are hurting. The Beautiful People are starting to feel the pinch, the spending just isn’t there. (Because the money isn’t there because the corporations laid everyone off?) So it’s all fees for this and extra charge for that, and slap on an extra bit on this and wait and see if the customer complains.
However, “Standing behind your product and people” to me does not mean getting in your customers face, stonewalling, and asserting the problem is them. If I buy something, and I can’t figure out the directions, or it doesn’t seem to work, or it flat out breaks, or it isn’t meeting my needs, I’m looking for the company to support the product by supporting the needs of the person who paid money for it. I’m a customer, not an employee, so I may not know the right words, the terms, the names. I don’t call or come in so your employees can vent their frustrations or get led around by Kafkaesque Customer Service policies.
The thing is, I’m a sensitive person, believe it or not. When I walk away from a customer service experience with a pounding head and a face that might get stuck that way, I’m not feeling the loyalty. I understand that to a large extent, we’re all stuck with this, and you have to deal with corporations to function in American Society. But on the other hand, Inventiveness has long been the strength of the American People. There’s almost always an Alternative, and when there isn’t an Alternative, there is a Substitute, or Do It Yourself, or Get By Without. And when I get off the phone with a business and I’ve got a huge headache and I feel exhausted and miserable and frustrated, I just don’t want to deal with it.
So the last two options—DIY or Get By Without—start to look really good and dovetail nicely with our budget conscious times. Lord knows I’ve got enough stuff—enough clothes, toys, furniture, pots and pans, cars, books, sports equipment, entertainment—to last several lifetimes. Or at least it feels that way. So I’m burnin’ the home oil these days, hiding out, pulling my nerves back together, waiting for the Big Boys to play nice with their toys. Because the corporations don’t have all the toys. One of the toys is mine. To a certain extent, I get to chose when I spend, and if I don’t want to spend, I don’t.
So I guess it is cooperative. The Government can regulate, but the Consumer has to hold the toys close, be careful and hold the companies to the set standards and some standard of decency.
And I guess the corporations will eventually have to face the choices the rest of us have, some degree of retrenchment, make a hard choice, maybe even cut into the Executive Suites. Maybe cut into those eight figure salaries. Maybe. Oh, a little yurt of my own on the Steppes sounds really good . . . . 🙂