Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace  
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5 Companies That Treat Their Customers Like Crap

We should all steer clear of anti-consumer companies like Ticketmaster and Delta Airlines.

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Indeed, return policies that seem designed to intentionally confuse customers and/or lead to fewer returns are a problem at Forever 21 and many other retailers. But F21’s return policy is just one reason consumers should be wary of the chain.

F21 is a leader in the so-called “fast fashion” or “disposable fashion” industry, selling heaps of cheap, trendy clothes that often fall apart or are discarded after just a few wears. F21 and its ilk (H&M and Zara are other big ones) offer a constant stream of new styles; rather than offer a few “seasons” of clothes throughout the year like traditional retailers, they get many new pieces in every week. With this constant influx of new clothing and its rock-bottom prices (made possible in large part by sweatshop labor), F21 has helped manufacture a demand for $7 blouses. At that price, you’re not expected to buy just one; you’re expected to buy a new one each week.

Fast fashion is enticing to consumers, for obvious reasons. Who doesn’t occasionally dream of having a closet full of dresses in every color? Fast-fashion peddlers call this the “democratization” of fashion. Fashion for the people!

But in reality the whole premise of fast fashion is a terrible deal for everyone involved: the overseas workers who are paid meager wages and often toil in dangerous conditions; the independent fashion designers whose work is often ripped off; and, to get back to my original point, consumers, who end up spending significant sums of money on clothes designed to fall apart. They end up caught in the fast-fashion hamster wheel of shopping, shopping, shopping, with little obvious incentive to invest in quality, ethically sourced items that will last.

3. Time Warner Cable. Time Warner landed itself on this year’s naughty list by recently announcing a new $3.95 monthly fee for leasing a cable modem. As Consumer Reports notes, “Time Warner joins a list of other Internet biggies to do so, including Cox, Comcast and Bright House. Although Time Warner and other companies allow customers to purchase and install their own modems outright, less tech-savvy folks might be reluctant, assuring the companies a steady stream of extra revenue.”

Beyond that pernicious new fee, there’s a reason Time Warner is a frequent contender for Worst Company in America (as determined by readers of the blog Consumerist). Personal anecdotes suggest that, at least in the New York area, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who’s satisfied with the company. The company elicits hurled insults from progressives and right-wingers alike; it’s something we can all agree on. Search for the company’s name on Google, and you’ll see that frequently searched terms include “Time Warner monopoly,” “Time Warner scam,” “Time Warner complaints,” and “Time Warner awful.”

Indeed, Time Warner has a monopoly or near-monopoly on cable services in many parts of the region, leading to an environment in which the company has little incentive to be consumer friendly. So – surprise! – it isn’t. It gets away with charging a lot of money (including, as we just discussed, whatever new fees it feels like), while offering service that’s often spotty and providing terrible customer service. There’s nothing to love.

4. Delta Airlines. Delta caught Consumer Reports’ attention for this gem of a “deal”:

When our reporter booked a domestic economy flight (the restricted fares most people choose) via the carrier’s website, Delta offered him the chance to “add convenience and peace of mind.” “Flex this fare for just $737,” the offer shouted, as if you’d be crazy not to jump at the deal. Trouble is, our reporter’s super-saver fare was just $248, so Delta was tripling the price to make it refundable. Gee thanks.