Sunday, June 18, 2006

The devil's in the terminology

Yes, it's another comment lifted from Slashdot, but it's one that puts quite concisely the problem with some businesses' mentality (including our favourite targets of Aidan's raging, indignant rants, the media companies).

Corporations don't see people as "citizens" anymore. We're not even their customers -- we're consumers. Language always gives one away.

This is very true. It's always a good idea to see what a corporation calls you.

If you are a client, then they think of you as an integral part of the process. You are involved in the development of whatever they are selling to you, and it is built around your needs. Outsourcing companies, good hotels, and lap dancers think like this.

If you are a customer, then they think of you as an individual who makes a take-it-or-leave-it decision about their product. They will attempt to make as many people as possible want to take it, but won't worry too much about missing a few around the edges. Still, they need to keep you happy and won't do something that's bad for you without a really good reason. The good ISPs and expensive high street stores think like this.

If you are a consumer, then they think of you as tied up, prone, on the floor, while they defecate their products onto you and then send you an invoice. It doesn't matter what you think, you don't get to make a choice. The big media companies think like this. So do the telephone carriers, and most other monopolies.

Cultural experiment: refer to yourself in any commercial setting as either a "client" or a "customer," and never as a "consumer." See what reactions you get. Might be worth it to throw in the words "demand service" while you're at it.


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