In Defense Of Complaining - InformationWeek
IoT
IoT
Business & Finance
News
2/10/2008
07:10 PM
50%
50%

In Defense Of Complaining

Complain about a company, and you'll be accused of being a whiner. But markets thrive on information, so it's every customer's right to complain, and every company's obligation to shut up and listen, says columnist Cory Doctorow.

At this point, there is a small legion of people -- vocal and angry -- looking around to figure out how to e-mail me to tell me I'm an idiot. I know this, because every time I post about this subject -- or any other instance in which a company is behaving badly -- I get a flood of messages telling me:

  1. That it's not [Apple|Microsoft|Amazon]'s fault, it's [AT&T|the RIAA|the MPAA|the publishers'] fault.
  2. If I hate those products so much, why don't I just buy someone else's products and shut up already? It's a free market, after all.

I'm always astounded by this reaction. Companies aren't charities. They're businesses. It doesn't matter why they're offering an unacceptable product -- all that matters is that the product is unacceptable. Companies aren't five-year-olds bringing their fingerpaintings home from kindergarten. We don't have to put on a brave smile and tell them, "that's just lovely dear," and display their wares proudly on the fridge. I don't care if Apple adds DRM because Lars from Metallica has incriminating photos of Steve Jobs, I don't care if Sony BMG put a rootkit on its CDs because they were duped into it by a trickster spirit that appeared to their technologists in a dream. I care whether their product is worth my money. It's the market -- there's no A for Effort.

Even weirder is the idea that companies shouldn't be criticized because in a market, you should just take your business elsewhere. Free markets thrive on good information. For a market to function, customers need to have good information about which goods are worth buying and which ones should be avoided -- that's why we complain in public, to help companies make better decisions.

Companies do dumb stuff (add DRM, lock their handsets, etc) and then shrug and say, "The market demanded this." But "the market" isn't what companies demand of each other. The market is what customers are willing to buy. If your partners won't let you develop a worthy product, that's your problem, not ours.

When corporate apologists say, "Well, it's a free market, shut up and buy someone else's product," or "Well, it's a free market, they're a commercial company, they have to make a profit," they're not really talking about a free market at all.

They're asking for the kind of market where companies get treated like charities (at best) or like promising toddlers. If you're in business to turn a profit, you'd better make a product we want to buy. If your partners won't let you do that, get better partners, or a better line of work. It's not our responsibility to buy your halt, lame products because you can't do a better job.

Cory Doctorow blogs at Boing Boing, and is also a journalist, Internet activist, and science fiction writer. Read his previous InformationWeek columns.

Previous
2 of 2
Next
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Enterprise
To learn more about what organizations are doing to tackle attacks and threats we surveyed a group of 300 IT and infosec professionals to find out what their biggest IT security challenges are and what they're doing to defend against today's threats. Download the report to see what they're saying.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
2017 State of the Cloud Report
As the use of public cloud becomes a given, IT leaders must navigate the transition and advocate for management tools or architectures that allow them to realize the benefits they seek. Download this report to explore the issues and how to best leverage the cloud moving forward.
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Archived InformationWeek Radio
Join us for a roundup of the top stories on InformationWeek.com for the week of November 6, 2016. We'll be talking with the InformationWeek.com editors and correspondents who brought you the top stories of the week to get the "story behind the story."
Sponsored Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.
Flash Poll