Consumer: Corporate Enemy?

Misleading ads, credit scams and widespread deception.
Sly contracts, unhealthy food and disinformation campaigns.
Fine print, bad customer service, switch and bait selling.
Price gouging, and nastiest of all - marketing to children!

An arsenal of meanness is pointed at citizen consumers.

The trend towards using trickery in capturing sales for increased profits has been expanding competitively for decades. It's our present day version of free enterprise. Scamming consumers may not be such a big deal anymore because competitors are doing it and there is not a lot of harmful publicity if exposed. Besides when consumers are cheated they usually will not complain - because it's just not worth the effort and they are becoming used to it.. They might even blame themselves for getting trapped once again when they should know so very well to watch out for double-dealing when they shop.

It's understandable that a corporation's competitor might become its enemy if the one-step-ahead routine gets out of hand. But what about the beloved consumer as the new corporate enemy? Think about how you are treated in some of your consuming experiences. It used to be a scam would likely have occurred with someone selling a watch on the street corner but this has moved up to the big players in business.

Some corporations believe in the principal that it's only a crime if you get caught - and convicted. Even then the consequences may not be so severe and thus worth the effort. And so the manner in which many companies produce and market their products and services continues its long term downhill trend ethically, with little resistance demanding positive change.

NEWS Item: SCAM CORP agreed to pay a $333,000,000 fine.
They did not admit to any wrongdoing in the settlement.

In the past it was a common declaration of how most companies expressed their dealings with consumers. They were proud to say so and backed it up with easily accessed customer relations personnel that were there to correct or to explain. Things have turned 180 degrees when dealing with many businesses in today's marketplace.

NEWS Item: SCAM CORP announces company name change to SLY ENTERPRISES.

Gone are those days with many companies or sometimes entire industries. Customer service often may not be there, difficult to access, bankrupt of fairness or expressing large amounts of fluff in answer to buyers' concerns.

A new business axiom could well be "Beat the competition and the consumer in any manner within the law." There are so many marketing, sales and service methods used by businesses that do not appear to meet basic ethical standards.

Exaggerated and deceptive advertising is now very widely used, some questionable, other deceitful and mean. This can appear in various media or store display tags and signs. Trick labels require careful word by word study by the shopper to get the true facts. It may yet be difficult and the resulting purchases surprising and disappointing.

The techniques are creative, varied and widespread.

The purchase of unsatisfactory products and services is the purchaser's loss when the fine print in a contract is just too hard to read or understand, or is excessively long. Fine print is a very popular business tool.

Credit gouging is so common and it takes terrible advantage of those who can least afford it, often causing family devastation. Luring of the unfortunate marches on through media and mailbox, trapping them into paying excessive rates and fees.

The marketing of unhealthy food should have been stopped dead in its tracks years ago yet we still see enticements toward cheap, tasty junk food. Much of this is directed at kids and can set them on a path to serious health problems later in life. Packaged food can contain excessive taste enhancers and preservatives to extend shelf life and profit.

Shock entertainment and commercials catch attention and sell product but soil social standards going forward. Shock for attraction is a relatively newer marketing strategy that seems to be increasing in use and intensity.

Shamed into buying. This marketing method involves creating an 'acceptable' vision for the prospective purchaser. Everyone else will look better and be better than you unless you too acquire their product. You might even be embarrassed or shamed if you do not.

Unethical promotions like bait and switch have been used by large retail store chains. Here you are attracted to a bargain at a store but it is sold out even when you get there early. A similar, costlier item is there. Incidents of this surface but are buried very deeply somewhere, not likely in the popular news, and it is also quickly forgotten with stepped up advertising.

People don't complain much because it turns out to be so useless so often. If it is an obviously deceptive sales promotion complaining will be fruitless, after all if it was purposely designed that way what would you expect? Responses to my complaints vary: " Standard practice in the industry" . . . "The warranty only applies . . . " "Valid with the activation of . . . " "our intent has never been to mislead and I believe our practices will bear me out." . . ." "Terms are only for the first six months . . ."

And well discussed these days is the massive world pollution and environmental destruction of our cities, our land and seas, and our world. These are the results of the continuous and excessive production of wasteful products that do not enhance life or social values but provide profits.

The picture is gloomy as society seems to be generally accepting all this including the programming of the next generation to a life centered on consumption. The marketing area of economics has shaped society to what it is today, materialistic and artificial in many ways, to those who have accepted it.

Do we want to allow this? While we may think it a waste of time, if we don't like what is happening commercially and socially, or are unhappy with our governments, we need to speak up. Corporations must be made to use decent ethics for the good of society. Complaining to business and government needs to be made easy by encouraged submissions of complaints. Consumers as citizens need strict enforced guidelines, fairness and protection from corporate bullies and it can only come from governments.

Required: a federal department that uses marketing to encourage consumers to speak out on unjust business practices, and then act strongly on it.

Alas if business and government are too well knitted together to expect any improvements we can at least sound off to our friends and anyone who listen. There are many websites appearing that together could begin a movement for positive corporate and social change, but this will face great opposition backed by mountains of money.

"Corporation, n, An ingenious device for obtaining profit without individual responsibility." - Ambrose Bierce

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