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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Article: Complaining is good for the market

Here's a nice article by Cory Doctorow, one of the authors of the popular blog Boing Boing. The article is about how it is beneficial to publicly complain about crappy products or services, and that people who say we should just buy something else are off-base. And I totally agree! Businesses will not stop taking advantage of customers by sacrificing quality and customer service if nobody ever complains about it! (For my own rant about this, refer to Yucky Oatmeal Spurs Thoughts of Revolution.)

Here's the meat of the article if you don't want to bother with the whole thing:

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.

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