Over the past week or so, I have begun to feel an overpowering urge to assert my rights as a consumer. Usually, this manifests itself in a positive way, about which I have previously written. I generally like being pandered to by corporations, because when it is done successfully, both of us are happy. I get what I want, they get money, and everybody wins. My approval is directly reflected in the decision I make to purchase goods, be it T-shirts or good coffee. Problem is, what am I supposed to do when I want to express dissatisfaction?
I can withdraw my business, for starters, and that is easily done. But what happens when I want to make a more direct statement? I always like telling people how happy I am with their business, because it makes them happy, and I become one of their cool customers. But when I feel I have to express criticism or dissatisfaction, suddenly I run the risk of being vilified. Sure, I may never meet the people who are upset with me, but the idea that in any way I might become one of those customers, or that I might ruin some poor, innocent employee’s day, makes me cringe a little.
The first time this situation arose was easy enough for me to deal with. I was listening to an audiobook that had a music track playing in the background for the first three minutes of the first chapter. The music was too loud in relation to the narrator’s voice making it hard for me to tell what he was saying. I wrote a polite email to the person in charge of the audio production, and even if they don’t particularly care, I do sort of feel like I got give them some useful feedback. And, if they don’t appreciate it, it isn’t likely they’ll hate me for the effort.
Then, last Sunday, I went to get a latte at Panera, and for the third time in a row, the milk they foamed for me was absolutely terrible. I mean, the whole point of getting a latte is for the milk. Milk not foamed right defeats the whole purpose. I am not overly particular, either; it’s not like I would turn my nose up at Starbucks. But when the foam bubbles are so large that they have completely popped and left a nasty skin on the surface of my coffee in the five minutes it takes me to drive to my brother’s apartment… that is just shameful.
Obviously, as I said before, if I don’t like their milk, I can (and probably will) go someplace else. But this is such a fixable error, I largely just want to tell someone to get the staff re-trained or something. Teach them how to foam their milk right. It isn’t all that hard (trust me, I speak from experience), and then they won’t lose my business. Only thing is, I’m not exactly sure to whom I should tell this.
Today, I went over the edge. I got home to find a post card on my bed from Pearle Vision, telling me that they had set up tentative appointment for me on a certain date at a certain time, and that I should call to confirm or re-arrange. I am not sure where I should begin to express how offensive this is to me. I do not care how tentative their appointment is; the mere idea that they have the gumption to send me this makes me furious. I don’t care if it says “we recommend you get an eye exam every year,” or anything else to encourage me to give them business, but when they start trying to assert themselves into my schedule, that passes the line for me. That breaks my bubble. That is getting into my personal space, and I don’t like it.
So I called them on the number they game to to “confirm or re-arrange,” and I told them so. I said I was “so offended that next time I decided to get an eye exam, it would not be with Pearle Vision.” Then I told the employee on the phone to have a nice day, and I hung up without waiting for a response. I don’t know if that will do any good. Maybe the employee will pass the message on to their superior, and maybe enough people will tell them they don’t like it that someone will get the message and drop the idea. I haven’t a clue.
All I know is that I don’t feel really great about it. It would be nice if I got some thrill of righteous vindication, but instead I have a mild feeling of guilt, as if calling some anonymous person to tell them how unhappy I am with their company is somehow a very mean thing of me to do. I am not sure I can really say why, and I don’t really know what else I should have done.