In All Fairness…

We did our sit-down with Nightline tonight. It was fun. Among the many questions they asked, two stuck out in particular.

Vicky Mabrey asked us what we thought about the Sleepy Comcast Guy and John losing their jobs. We told her that we thought it was great, they should have been fired. But John was just doing his job, Vicky said. No one should be paid to humiliate and manipulate another person, we responded. But John was just trying to make his six bucks (the supposed fee retention consultants get for every member they save), she said. Sure, we said, and we can go around the corner and make six bucks off selling a rock of crack, but that doesn’t make it a good job to be doing.

We were also asked if we thought it was fair that one consumer could complain and cause so much damage. Fair? It’s beyond fair, we said. It’s the definition of fairness. We wish we had added that it’s more than fair, it’s justice. Might not making right. Holding an entity accountable for its actions. It’s called the freedom of speech, as well capitalism in fine fiddle.

We stumbled several times when they asked about the philosophy of The Consumerist. Philosophy? We’re just looking for material! Maybe in the post cranking, we haven’t taken the time to think on the matter. What do you think? What’s our raison d’etre? What do you get out of it all? This way, we’ll know better what to say next time…

Until then, the Nightline piece airs this Friday, July 14th at 11:35 PM ET on ABC. We smiled and cracked some jokes and got some good material in there. The piece is supposed to be pretty chunky, about 7-9 minutes long. Check your local listings.


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  1. Good answers. As for the “philosophy” behind The Consumerist…I can tell you what attracted me to this site is the power that the Consumerist gives to the Consumer. The Consumerist evens the playing field for the poor hapless customer in his/her battle with the goliath company. It’s about leverage, and is exactly the point that Vicky was making an emotional appeal about…the fact that one man can “cause so much damage” or obtain justice would not be possible without sites like the Consumerist on the Internet…perhaps thats another reason why media conglomerates are in such a hurry to control the internet.

    The Consumerist gives the power back to the consumer. How’s that for a philosophy?

    Oh, and I would add cautious adoration of the Oozinator as another philosohpy…

  2. He says:

    For a one line philosophy, how about “The customer is always right.”? Or “The company is always wrong.”? Or “trying to cash in on your misery by helping you vent”.

  3. Papa K says:

    Philosophy? that’s something that’s kind of been hit-or-miss here. Sometimes you guys act like you have a purpose, sometimes it seems you guys are muck raking (albeit RARELY).

    I think sanloublues has it – “The customer is always right.” This site has garnered enough attention that when companies screw over consumers, we have a place to go and say “I got screwed” and the site and its readers can turn around and say “you deserved it” or “let’s make things right”

  4. The Consumerist’s philosophy is the same as the Internet’s: to share information that wasn’t sharable before. The niche happens to be goods and services.

    It’s all about shining a light on practices and behaviors that had previously remained in the dark: it’s most certainly fair that one consumer, via Consumerist, could get a guy fired or turn a policy on its head–because, without sites like Consumerist,the kind of crap companies pull would just continue.

    In that sense, “Shoppers Bite Back” is a pretty good motto.

  5. ModerateSnark says:

    Ooh, sounds like this appearance could have much more sweet-yet-bitter Consumerist Flavor than the one with moustache guy on CNBC (depending on how ABC edits it). I’ll be sure to watch.

    …Could that be part of your philosophy– that being a consumer in a rich country is sweet, but greedy and/or incompetent companies or employees can make it bitter (or us bitter). Somehow “bittersweet” doesn’t fit–sounds too much like a romance novel–“sweet-yet-bitter” seems to. “The advocacy/watchdog/venting hangout for the sweet-yet-bitter world of the Consumerist. Where shoppers bite back.” I dunno. Just “thinking out loud.”

  6. abelincolnjr says:

    ABC and every local news station could be called to task on the same charges. In NY we have “5 on Your Side”. And there have been TV shows based on this model for decades. Fight Back with David Horowitz was a show in the 70’s that did the same thing. I think that mebbe ABS is exhibiting a little professional jealousy because for all their exposes of crooked corporations on 20/20 (for example) all they ever get is a fatcat claiming “No comment” and covering the camera lens. You guys get results.

    As far as your philosophy goes, Consumerist seems a bit scattershot for sure but I still read it first thing every morning. I preferred the editorial voice when you first launched for sure. The tone of some of the posts definitely could use some senstitivity training but those are (thankfully) rare. Keep up the good work and tell the staff to quit calling stuff “gay”.

  7. Ben says:

    Shining a light on corporate greed.

    Sure, sometimes customers pitch a fit about something small, perhaps they created a situation and find themselves unhappy and then whine about it. That’s human nature.

    But the stories here that really get my attention (and apparently other folks too) are the ones where a company, through policy or through hiring practice or whatever, goes over the top in order to make a buck, sticking it to consumers because they think the consumer has no choice but sit and take it. I’m talking about AOL, for one, the crap that cell phone or cable companies do. Internet scam artists.

    What about the whole debit card fiasco? That is a great example of consumers getting hosed by giant banks – “Gee, our network isn’t secure, but somehow it’s YOUR fault, because you bank with us.”

    I love coming here. Keep up the good work.

  8. mistress smarty says:

    Plus the snark. I love me some snark.

  9. scingram says:

    I disagree with the idea that the philosophy here is that the “Customer is always right”. That is very much not the case. True, the majority of the time it is the large company grinding the little insignificant consumer into the ground, but there is a good share of ignorant people out there that try and “work the system” so to speak and are in the wrong as well.

    From my many visits here I would think the philosophy is more that of giving a voice to the individual, exposing the corrupt, and rewarding truly excellent business practices.

    But that’s just me.

  10. ModerateSnark says:

    I agree with scingram that “The customer is always right” wouldn’t fly as a philosophy around here.

    Occasionally the customer can be a jerk or a dumbhat, and (after careful[?] consideration of all[?] evidence provided) the commenters and even the ConEds will say as much.

  11. etinterrapax says:

    Yeah, I’m not on board with “the customer is always right” because some customers are dishonest douchebags who are as bad as the companies they seek to screw, only smaller. But the customer has rights, and they deserve redress when a company tramples those rights. The internet just happens to be an incredibly efficient means of making that happen. Corporations don’t suffer attacks of conscience when screwing people over, so why should the Consumerist suffer any in a quest to see that people are treated fairly? It’s a shame that more companies don’t see their way clear to treat people fairly, right from the start.