BusinessWeek: "Consumers Are Fighting Back"

BusinessWeek’s cover story from their March 3rd issue, “Consumer Vigilantes,” looks at last year’s wave of stories about consumers who took matters into their own hands, either by smashing up a Comcast office with a hammer, starting a “Comcast must die” blog, or sending EECBs to unsuspecting executives. “Frustrated by the usual fix-it options–obediently waiting on hold with Bangalore, gamely chatting online with a scripted robot–more consumers are rebelling against company-prescribed service channels,” BusinessWeek writes. What we can’t figure out is how they got those three guys to actually pose with those goofy masks on—sometimes it’s okay to say no to the photographer.

One analyst is quoted as saying that just as consumers are getting fed up with false promises of “quality” service, companies are tightening return policies and policing fraud more stringently: “You’d have to go back a long way to see the kind of acrimony that you’re seeing now.”

The Internet is doing a lot to empower consumers who were formerly isolated, notes the article. They mention Dan Ortiz, who couldn’t get anything resolved with Comcast last fall:

Then the 26-year-old bike messenger logged on to The Consumerist, a blog with more than 2 million unique visitors a month that’s part of Gawker Media’s digital empire of snark. [<-- That’s why we made the snarky comment above about the masks. -Consumerist] There he found a consumer vigilante’s gold mine: a list of e-mail addresses for more than 75 Comcast executives and employees, along with instructions for launching what the blog calls its “executive e-mail carpet bomb.”

Ortiz got lucky. After firing off a note copying all those names the day before Thanksgiving, he quickly had an inbox full of out-of-office replies, complete with contact information containing direct numbers. He called a Chicago manager at home, who put his lead technician on the case. Ortiz says a swarm of eight trucks showed up on his block. “Once you get ahold of [executives], they bend over backward for you,” he says. He adds that Comcast sent him a tin of gourmet popcorn for Christmas and more than $700 in credits. Even better, he now has the mobile numbers for the lead technician in his area. “I’m not calling customer service ever again,” he says.

“Consumer Vigilantes” [BusinessWeek]
(Photo: BusinessWeek)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Michael Belisle says:

    I’m sorry, Chris, but did you link directly to a BusinessWeek story? You know that’s a flagrant violation of their terms of use. []

  2. Giolon says:
  3. shadow735 says:

    damn dont those masks look sexy?

  4. overbysara says:

    I HATE outsourced customer service. if I have to call your company (because something can’t be done by myself online), and I get some random dude in india that can’t tell me anything beyond what my computer can – I’m out. I’ll never fly united again because of their customer service. totally useless.

  5. AT203 says:

    I love seeing The Consumerist get well-deserved media attention (except perhaps when we are shilling on Fox Business network), however I’m worried that the article might only give half the story.

    I think, and I realize that I can’t speak for everyone, that the EECB is a secondary resort after being a Good Consumer(tm) and exhausting, or at least participating in the regular channels.

    Being a Good Consumer(tm) means that you maintain the moral high-ground. And whenthe company eventually and inevitably screws you over. Then you can go all EECB on their ass. :p

  6. Chris Walters says:

    @AT203: BusinessWeek addresses that topic, thankfully—check out page 3 of their article:

    These “Valhallas of customer service,” as Ben Popken, editor of The Consumerist, has called them, are powerful support reps who may sit at corporate headquarters or even in call centers. Typically, they respond to complaints that first come in to executives; these specialists may also respond to high-profile customers who pose legal or P.R. threats. The Consumerist, which instructs customers to try regular support numbers first, has been active in outing such numbers at a couple dozen companies.

  7. shadow735, hey I have a mask like that!

  8. Nighthawke says:

    No, no, no, these masks are not right. We need to use TV wrestlers masks. It shows that we are ready to tangle with them any time, any place.

  9. bohemian says:

    Yes, TV wrestler masks!

    I think the lousy customer service has hit maximum density and people are so sick of it at the same time more and more people are coming to the realization that companies mostly give lip service to caring about customer relationships, add a dose of the internet and shake vigorously.

  10. KJones says:

    “Vigilante”? Do they choose that word to infer that consumers who don’t shut up and suffer are some sort of unprovoked threat? The “hammer granny” didn’t appear from nowhere, she did it because they thought they could get away with fucking her over.

    Suggesting that the public are the danger is like saying a woman carrying mace against rape is a danger to a rapist. Okay, being ripped off is not as invasive as being raped, but it’s still a violation. These people seem to “think” we should just put up with it, as if they are doing the consumer a favour by being in business. Wrong.

    We are doing them a favour by shopping there, so they had best do what they promised, when they promised and at the price they promised, or CEOs will be hearing from us.

  11. G-Dog says:

    Danger! Danger 60 year old balding white men! The new scum know how to play the system as well as you do! Danger Danger!

  12. Mr. Gunn says:

    KJones: Well, yeah, but plenty of people, even readers of this site, call in and arm-twist just to see what kinda free stuff they can get.

    Of course, the companies have a big head start down douchebag lane, but some consumers are catching up.

    In related news, what did you expect, calling people consumers?

  13. jarchie219 says:

    I’d rather be a ‘consumer’ than a ‘revenue source’.

    ‘Customer’ or ‘client’ would be nicer.

  14. Marc.Medios says:

    Where do I get the emails?????????

  15. econobiker says:

    So here are the reasons that companies buy domain names that say that Hmmmmmm.

  16. fantasticjon says:

    The guy in the article who wants to sue cingular/att because the cell phone interferes with his speakers is a moron. All cell phones do as this. This has been a known “issue” by anyone with a cell phone for like 10 years now. It has a radio transmitter in it. Your speakers will pick up radio waves. Get over it.

  17. Buran says:

    @fantasticjon: Actually, not quite so. GSM phones do, but CDMA phones don’t.

  18. sassbrown74 says:

    It has generally been my experience that the higher up in the company somebody gets, the easier they are to deal with. Not sure which came first — Are they at the top because of their personalities or do they have these personalities because they are at the top? I suspect the former.