David and Goliath: a new skin for the old drum.

This blog is about mobilizing our communities in support of (and somewhat demanding) fairness in business. We have the power collectively to leverage some power, and this week I made it my hobby to develop a mechanism by which that might happen.

Imagine that the game we are about to play is your life, and you have just put it all in an 8'x4'x7' box. In this case, the box was rented from a company called 'Door to Door' (or 'City to City'), and the game should typically go something like this:

  1. They bring 4' x 7' x 8' box to your house.
  2. You fill it up.
  3. They take it away.
  4. You schedule a delivery time/place anywhere in the country.
  5. They deliver it to your new place.

Now, don't be fooled. There is a sturdy price associated with having a company do this for you (1 box from Atlanta - Santa Fe = ~$1700). I did not have a place to live when I first moved into town, and I wanted to bring my car (which would not have hauled that much weight). My only other option was to rent a UHaul truck that tows a vehicle (~$1100). With gas money for hauling that much, all things considered, the two would have probably come out about equal - if I had a place to move into (which I did not). The prospects of having to put everything in storage and then take it out again when I was ready made me want to drink kerosene.

Which is why this is such a great business model - until, that is, the unthinkable happens...

A couple days before my stuff was to arrive in Santa Fe, I get a phone call from someone who informed me that my box would not be ready for the day we had scheduled. When I asked more questions, the panic set in... I struggled to fit one 38 year old life into a 8'x4'x7' container. The woman I spoke with did not know when my container would be there or where it was. All she could tell me was that she would call when she knew more.

And so I waited, and waited. Nothing. Finally, the day my package was originally set to arrive, I have a conversation with some who, supposedly, has the power to set things straight. She tells me that they found my box, and assures me that it was never lost (?). Then she says that because I would be getting my box after the 3 day grace period between when we had arranged to have my things delivered and when their contract thinks that they should, I will be getting a whopping 10% off.

I have three problems with that (the second problem is big enough to count for two):

  1. I had money and time invested (not to mention the grace of friends who were putting aside their day to help) in having things there when I wanted them to be there.
  2. The money alone that I lost after having had to delay my move date cost me almost as much as the service itself - when you include eating at restaurants everyday for most meals (as I had to do) and stuff I had to buy to hold me over until my items came.

After not loosing my temper time and time again, and continuing to be very assertive, I got them to agree to 15%.

And now I'm telling as many people as I can about it. Why? Because we can leverage power as a group if our actions amount to something. In this case, I created a mechanism on this site where, every time someone reads this blog, an email gets sent to the people who made the lousy business decision to not be more accommodating to the inconvenience that the error they made caused me. The 'from' address happens to be the email address of one of the women she supervises, so marking it as spam will effectively disable their ability to communicate over email with one another.

the email's subject line is 'you made the right choice.' and it reads:
you are getting this email because another person has just read about my bad experience with your company.

And then it has a link to this blog (at which point they trigger yet another email to themselves).

Now, I was raised catholic, people, and I do wonder if this smacks a little too much of 'an inconvenience for an inconvenience' for me to be totally comfortable with it as a form of resistance. It's that fine line between corporations being somehow divorced from human emotions or motivations, yet being at the same time composed of people. Does the golden rule apply to corporations that are motivated fundamentally by the bottom line?

These people did not have it in for me personally, and they were actually pleasant. It never got particularly ugly. It's just that I believe their policy to have been very unfair, and when I asked them to convince me otherwise, they just kept saying that it was all they were prepared to do at this time. As vehicles of this corporation, they wouldn't engage with me in a human way about what was fair. At some point, the concept of fairness disappeared.

Those of you who know me can probably imagine the creative channel that was unleashed by the stockpile of frustration I was left with. What started out as part game / part contest to see how and if I could string the technology together transmogrified in the process and is also about the idea of taking back exchange, and lending some muscle to a sense of fairness and a humane system of commerce.

So I am offering this up as a spark. A way for us to make a difference when dealing with unfair policies or unreasonable expectations when interfacing with a capital system where the bottom line drives decisions regardless of how fair that is.

Let's get some conversations started, people.

Contact me if you want to think with us about new ways to make corporations listen and be accountable to their consumers.