5 Stories of the Little Guy Retaliating Against a Corporation

We've all had reasons to be upset with major companies, many of which have a habit of treating consumers like inconvenient nuisances.

Who hasn’t had revenge fantasies about an airline while sitting on the tarmac for the fourth straight hour without food, or about a telecom company when your internet goes down for the 17th time in one day, or when you find out your cell phone company doubled your rates six months ago without letting you know?

We’ve all had reasons to be upset with major companies, many of which have a habit of treating consumers like inconvenient nuiscances whose concerns slow them down in their pursuit towards a more robust bottom line. And many of us have done something in response to this sense of frustration -- sent a strongly worded letter, say, or asked to speak with a manager. Sometimes that even gets us results.

Other people have gotten more creative, using social media and digital tools to level the playing field in the David against Goliath fight against a big corporation.

Still others have gotten... emotional. Sometimes these spur of the moment outbursts are caught on camera, and they often go viral. Why? Because, as I said, we can all relate. We may not have chosen to knock over a shelf full of electronics, but at some point in our lives, we’ve all wanted to.

Sites like the Consumerist have publishedmanyexamples of how not to react to real or perceived mistreatment by a company. But violent outbursts notwithstanding, it’s often possible to see where people are coming from when they respond to mistreatment as a consumer in an extreme way. Who knows what’s going on in their lives or in their minds, but it’s easy to see that they’re frustrated about paying a company a lot of money only to be treated like dirt. Those are legitimate frustrations.

So, I’m not saying that all of the below examples of consumer revenge are appropriate, or that you should try them. I’m just saying that on some level, we can all connect with them.

1. Guy goes on rampage at T-Mobile after being refused a refund

Ok, so this guy was clearly in the wrong; he wanted a refund for an item that fell outside the stated refund terms. And the way he responded, by completely trashing a T-Mobile store in Manchester, England, is not advisable. But haven’t you ever gotten so upset at a store that you wanted to methodically rip everything off the walls, then spray the whole place down with a couple of fire extinguishers before calmly awaiting your own arrest? No? Well, anyway, he did.

2. Dude shames United Airlines over broken guitar, in song

Back in 2009, United Airlines severely damaged a guitar owned by Canadian musician Dave Carroll. After United refused to pay the $1,200 it was going to cost to repair the guitar, Carroll got his revenge via YouTube. His song “United Breaks Guitars” became a viral sensation, and soon after -- surprise, surprise! -- United got in touch with Carroll about making things right.

Carroll had such success, in fact, that he got a book deal out of the ordeal; United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media is available through Amazon and Indigo.

3. Frustrated Nissan owner destroys dealership

This is another one that falls squarely in the “don’t try this at home” camp: A Moscow man who was at a Nissan dealership to pick up the car that had been under repair for a week became frustrated after he was made to wait “several hours,” according to a police report. In response to the egregious wait time, the man hopped in a car (whether the car was his or belonged to Nissan is unclear) and spent several minutes smashing the other cars in the dealership parking lot. The surveillance video from the lot is below.

4. Blogger tweets millions of followers about crappy Maytag service

Heather Armstrong, AKA Dooce, is not just any mom blogger -- she heads up a media empire that has landed her on multiple “ most influential” lists. So when Armstrong, at her wit’s end over a broken washing machine that Maytag would not fix, told a customer service representative, “Do you know what Twitter is? Because I have over a million followers on Twitter,” she was serious. (Today Armstrong has over 1.5 million followers.) Armstrong took to her Twitter account with a string of angry tweets, among them “So that you may not have to suffer like we have: DO NOT EVER BUY A MAYTAG. I repeat: OUR MAYTAG EXPERIENCE HAS BEEN A NIGHTMARE.” and “Have I mentioned what a nightmare our experience was with Maytag?”

Sure enough, Whirlpool, Maytag’s parent company, was in touch right away, and her machine was fixed within days. Armstrong also received a free washer from Bosch, which she donated to a local women’s shelter.

5. 22-Year-Old gets Bank of America to reverse decision about $5 fee

Molly Katchpole proves that a part-time nanny in her early 20s can go up against one of the biggest banks in the world, and win. Late last year, Katchpole started a petition targeting Bank of America’s proposed $5 monthly fee on the popular website Change.org. “The American people bailed out Bank of America during a financial crisis the banks helped create. You paid zero dollars in federal income tax last year. And now your bank is profiting, raking in $2 billion in profits last quarter alone,” the petition letter read. “How can you justify squeezing another $60 a year from your debit card customers? This is despicable.”

Katchpole’s petition garnered over 306,000 signatures and helped fuel broad consumer anger about the fee. Bank of America eventually backed down on the fee, as did Verizon when Katchpole targeted the company over a proposed $2 fee to make payments online. Although banks and other companies continue to hit consumers with new fees all the time, Katchpole’s successes show that companies will listen if consumers speak up loud enough.

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at July 10, 2012, 10:52am

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