As a consumer, it can often feel that your voice means nothing. A bad review from your keyboard is noticed, but it probably won’t topple even the most disrespectful of companies. That doesn’t mean you can’t have an effect, however. For example, social media awareness can be a powerful tool if you’ve been discriminated against on personally identifying characteristics.
But most of the disagreements and difficulties that consumers have with businesses are much more pedestrian. It might be that a last-minute train cancellation, a hotel not having the room ready in time, or perhaps a poorly cooked meal will warrant a formal complaint, some form of reimbursement, and then the matter is solved.
In particularly egregious examples, it’s essential to demand improvements and standards as a consumer. But how can you demand those improvements and standards as a consumer? In this post, we’ll discuss where those possibilities lie, and how to leverage your voice in the best possible sense.
As a consumer, you may realize you have more power than you had thought:
Know Your Consumer Rights
Knowing your consumer rights is essential if you hope to assert that they’ve been broken. For example, certain consumer rights may seem right, but won’t necessarily cover you. If you purchase a burger from a fast food joint, walk outside and drop it thanks to a very aggressive seagull, well, the business has no real obligation to furnish you with a fee replacement.
Consumer rights involve the right to safety, the right to information, the right to choose from different providers, the right to redress in the case of faults (often defined by a guarantee or warranty), as well as a right to fair and competitive pricing. This last one is important, because if you feel as though you’ve been hoodwinked based on misleading pricing structures, or had hidden fees charged, then you can complain and may even take your case to court. That’s exactly what happened to racing driver Scott Tucker, who was sent to prison for his part in a deceptive payday loan scheme.
Depending on the country you live in, you can often make complaints to a consumer rights advocacy group or the official investigative body designed to uphold and enforce these standards. Even non-government agencies can help you, like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) that often seeks to resolve disputes with companies.
Document Difficult Experiences
If you hope to escalate a given issue, it’s important to document difficult experiences or breaches of your consumer rights appropriately. This can be as simple as taking a picture, a video, keeping a contract, or keeping a record of the timeline of events.
This can certainly be of use if you need to push a legal matter forward. For example, if you slip on a wet floor in a hotel lobby and injure your hip despite no wet floor signs being placed out, then you may be able to request video surveillance through your lawyers, keep your medical expenses to hand, and gain the compensation you might be entitled to.
Discuss With Consumer Advocacy Groups
There are many consumer advocacy groups out there that can help you avoid choosing poor businesses, supporting the practices you wish to see instead. After all, voting with your wallet is most likely more impactful than actually exercising your right to vote in a democracy, because for every pound, euro, dollar or peso you spend, you are tacitly supporting an organization that may or may not have your best interests at heart.
So for example, you might report scams through consumer hotlines, share your voice regarding policy advocacy (like asking some industries to be more sustainable), and move on with a sense of confidence from there. This kind of proactive vocal approach can quite literally redefine how industries are shaped.
This is not just about theory either, consumer advocacy groups can often define the kind of world we live in and how norms are established. So for example, consumer groups that wanted to help push for protective measures, especially to prevent violence against women, caused apps like Uber to put in place safety mechanisms like safety, location and PIN tracking for each ride.
At the time of this writing, many authors and comedians are suing OpenAI, the developer of the AI assistant tool ChatGPT, for being trained on their copyrighted materials. As you can see, as industries shaped, consumer advocacy groups are there to keep in mind the end user, or everyone with a personal (and not necessarily financial) stake in the standards being presented.
Add Your Voice, Post Reviews, Use Feedback
In the age of social media, your voice can spread further than ever before. For many reasons, this is a positive development worth appreciating. That said, just like a governmental vote, it’s rendered obsolete if the opportunity is squandered.
But where can your voice have the most impact? Well, as you’ve no doubt seen from platforms like X, formerly known as Twitter, a consumer complaint can go viral if it’s impactful enough. You can also use public reviews be that on TripAdvisor or other public platforms.
Most companies have departments or at least individuals tasked with viewing these reviews and responding to them, seeking remedial action where possible. They know how one bad online review can stain a reputation, and prevent consumers from giving that company the benefit of the doubt. They may even take notice of your feedback and suggestions, integrating better solutions like BuildOps field service software to service you better next time around.
This is why it’s important to use clear and simple language, to be direct about your review, and also to add praise where it’s appropriate to make sure a complaint seems fair. The more you can do this, the better you’ll be able to articulate your points. You never know, one review can cause a company to refine and at least reconsider their processes. At the very least, you will have been able to get that complaint off your chest, knowing that someone at the other end had to read it.
With this advice, you’re sure to demand improvements and standards as a consumer. It’s the least you deserve.