Victimization in the Guise of Marketing

Door to door marketing that uses tactics to thwart full disclosure of information is nothing short of predatory.

Direct marketing companies laud themselves as an innovative form of marketing that cuts out the middleman. People who work for the marketing companies go door to door, directly to the customer, instead of creating ‘secondary marketing’ in the form of advertisements, billboards etc.

Door to door sales may be irritating, but otherwise they’re pretty innocuous in and of themselves. Here’s the catch: the people who work for the marketing companies are literally told not to tell the customer too much. Suspicious?

People who work for the companies are trained to wrangle customers while sidestepping questions. In training, vague words and phrases are scrawled across boards and reiterated as the commandments to enticing agreement out of customers for the marketed service.

If a customer asks what exactly the service is, the tactic is to avoid a direct answer by saying the category of the service in general. What company? Half answer by saying you’re a subset of the current company. Not illegal, because it’s not exactly a lie, but neither is it completely truthful.

For example: These marketing companies represent many companies, one of which may be an energy company. In many states, energy has been de-regulated, which means people have the freedom to choose who they want as a supplier for their distributor to use. In New York, ConEdison is the major energy distributor. They will automatically choose a supplier if people don’t choose one themselves. The going rate for the automatically chosen supplier is 20.8 cents per hour for electricity.

There are many other suppliers who offer cheaper rates for electricity. It is the consumer’s choice who to use. Most people, however, are unaware of this, and that lack of awareness is what the direct marketing companies prey on.

The people who work for the marketing companies are taught to smile and make small talk to construct a façade of trust. They say that it’s a matter of urgency to address the unattended notice on the energy bill, then they tell the customer to get their bill so they can personally help them fix the problem.

All the language is tailored to make people feel as though there is a problem, that it needs fixing, and that the person at the door is there to save the day.

There’s not a problem.
Nothing needs to be fixed.
The person at the door is there to sell a product.

Once the customer hands over their utility bill, the representative confidently scrawls numbers across the sheet while explaining that there is an urgent problem: the rates are too high and they need to be lower.

There’s not a problem.
Nothing needs to be fixed.
The person at the door is there to sell a product.

The representative then asks for the customer’s phone number and tells them they’ll fix the matter then and there, again positioning themselves as the savior. Forms are filled out, two phone calls are made, and the customer is switched to a new supplier.

On the one hand, the supplier that the person switched to may in fact be cheaper, and the person may save money. Then again, full disclosure about the service is shunned. In training, representatives are told that if the customer asks too many questions, the rep has said too much and they should leave.

In addition, the areas that the representatives are sent to seem to be predominantly low-income areas, where people may not have the consumer savvy to realize when their questions are not answered directly, and may not have the knowledge to know which questions to ask.

If the service being sold were in fact the best option for consumers, why not answer questions? Why not tell the customer everything about the product? Why the lack of transparency unless there is something to hide?

Don’t fault the reps too much. They’re paid on commission and many are young people simply trying to make an income. They are paid little and work almost 10 hours a day, 6 days a week. They’re prey to the company almost as much as the customer.

No amount of money should be worth taking advantage of people, but many of the representatives don’t see the scheme for what it is and truly believe they’re offering something beneficial. At least, they tell themselves that as long as they stand in front of doors, smiles plastered on their faces, pens poised, and wallets empty.

Don’t Waste People

Don't Waste People

Bursts of giggles in Rithala.

Finished! Empowerment Media LLC is proud to present the full-length documentary, Don’t Waste People, that broadcasts the voices of marginalized waste pickers in Delhi, India.

Watch the full or shorter version (Don’t Waste People Cut) for free on Reelhouse:

https://www.reelhouse.org/empowermentmedia/dontwastepeople

Share the story! Help the people working as waste pickers be heard worldwide!

Mitigate Climate Change with Compassion

As global climate change increasingly wreaks havoc amongst the world’s poorest countries, international leaders have been debating who should contribute to relief and prevention measures.

Industrialized nations have contributed the most to worldwide pollution, and impoverished, developing countries are the ones paying the price. The New York Times reported that Todd D. Stern, the US State Department’s representative for climate issues, said the United States and other developed countries would not contribute any significant amount of resources to climate change mitigation for other countries. At the same time, John Kioli, chairman of the Kenya Climate Change Working Group, stressed the devastation brought on by climate change, and said that developed countries have a ‘moral obligation’ to pay reparations.

It appears that world leaders are at an impasse. Sterns commented that the United States couldn’t be expected to contribute to proposed global insurance plans or preventative funds because of the demands of an aging population and infrastructure, among other things. With that decidedly individualistic attitude, hope for developing countries seems minimal, at least on a political level.

Instead of waiting endlessly for legislation or policy to spearhead change, we can be part of reducing climate change and contributing to global equality simply by making conscientious lifestyle decisions. By recycling, composting, driving less, using less packaging and fewer plastic bags, we have a hand in changing people’s lives, people who are overlooked, marginalized and have few resources of their own to fall back on. If that’s not enough of a reason to at least be aware of how consumptive and wasteful we are, we are also crippling ourselves and future generations with our greed.

Leaders have been focusing on changing law and policy, but has anyone gone to their constituents and asked them to use less? Now is the time, and we can choose to make the change based on our shared humanity and compassion for one another. We don’t need legislation to implement that.

Reinstate plastic bags? Questionable.

Rethink advocating for plastic bags over reusable.

In a recent letter to the editor, a resident concluded that in order to reduce emissions we should repeal the recent citywide plastic bag ban, but his conclusion was illogical based on the evidence used.

 

First, he said that the reusable bags now used in place of plastic bags are made in India, China, etc. and thus have to be shipped, which contributes to the very emissions the plastic bag ban is meant to reduce. Are plastic bags not shipped too? There is certainly no plastic bag manufacturing plant in Corvallis, they must be shipped from somewhere. Even if they were produced within the US, they still have to be shipped from one city to another. Considering that billions, and possibly trillions, of plastic bags are used each year, the emissions from shipping undoubtedly adds up. While it is certainly true that shipping reusable bags overseas contributes to emissions, so does shipping plastic bags. This cannot logically be used as a reason to oppose a plastic bag ban.

 

Second, the resident said that many reusable bags are not recyclable, and thus should not be favored over plastic bags. Many reusable bags are recyclable. The fact that some are not is certainly a hypocritical design flaw that should be addressed sooner rather than later, but concluding that because of this plastic bags should be used instead of reusable bags does not make sense. Drawing the distinction implies that plastic bags are recyclable, and although many technically are, the fact is that most do not decompose in landfills, and they are an overwhelming source of litter and pollution worldwide.

 

Invalidating a statistic used by the Sierra Club  when it was used to oppose plastic bags, and then turning around and using another statistic by the same organization when it helps his argument also made it seem as though the resident had a personal agenda, and was less concerned about what actually benefits the community and environment.


Although the resident brought up valid points, his conclusion is an illogical leap from the facts he used. It does not make sense to recommend reverting to plastic bags because doing so reduces emissions more than using reusable bags. A more logical conclusion would be to recommend that until all reusable bags are recyclable, be a conscientious consumer and make sure to buy reusable bags that are recyclable and locally made.

Collaboration, Not Placation

Interaction, collaboration and cooperation by definition are mutual. When an organization, group or person talk about interacting with one another, can it be considered collaboration without an equal exchange?

On the front page of today’s Gazette Times was an article explaining the perspectives of Oregon State University students on life in Corvallis.

Why is the local paper going to the effort of explaining the student perspectives to the residents of the ‘town’? It would seem that by attempting to do so, the onus of responsibility is being placed on the residents of Corvallis to accept the students seeping into every part of the community.

If the students took the time to interact with residents and become involved in the community by volunteering, working, or at least being respectful of their neighbors, then the increasing population would not be a problem. The problems arise when students, or anyone for that matter, focus on themselves to the exclusion of those around them, favoring loud music at any hour to respectfully turning down the volume or plugging in earphones past a certain time, speeding to class in school zones where children may be crossing the street, and stumbling around intoxicated in neighborhoods where families are attempting to live in safety.

Which is not to blame the students. College is a time to explore interests, ideas and values, and is a time when many are figuring out how to live on their own for the first time. The late teens and early twenties are often a time when people focus on personal development. In a larger city the increasing numbers may go unnoticed. In Corvallis, a town of 50,000 with mostly families and retirees, increasing the number of students to over 40 percent of the population produces a harsh change in the community dynamic. Growth has happened quickly, without community input or systems in place to support the swelling population.

Students were quoted in the article as saying that interaction is a two-way street, and that Oregon State University needs to be the one to foster collaboration with the community. It sounds like the students and Corvallis residents may be more on the same page than they’ve realized.

Wherein lies the problem then?

Steve Clark, the vice president of marketing for OSU was quoted as saying that community members need to figure out how to get to know students better, which makes it seem as though it is the University that is blaming the community, and therefore impeding cooperation.

Collaboration, if it is to succeed, will have to come from both sides and will require OSU to start taking responsibility and approaching the community with understanding and willingness to listen, not with a preconceived development agenda.

Suggestions? Start with true community based participatory research. Ask residents what they want, conduct surveys, and take opinions into consideration, integrating them into future plans. Do not ask people their opinions and unceremoniously relegate surveys to a dark corner to collect dust.

Residents know when they are simply being placated. We’re willing to cooperate, but we need the opportunity to do so.

On the decimation of small towns.

Small towns across the nation are increasingly being scoped by ‘developers’ as places of opportunity. Opportunity for what? According to the developers these untouched lands are places burgeoning with the opportunity for growth, which will bring in more jobs and lift the poor, simple townsfolk from impending poverty.

What really happens when development occurs? Open land becomes cluttered with an expanse of concrete. What grows? Nothing any more, certainly not the plants that used to occupy that space. What jobs are created? The developers were happy doing their jobs. Now they are done, and have left us with cold, empty buildings. The developers are thrilled because their wallets are full of money from plopping these constructions in a place they don’t have to live, and the people who live there are left with….

What?

What do we have now?

A sinking water table.

More runoff into our rivers, which kills the fish we used to eat.

A growing concrete jungle…and not enough ‘compensation’ to inhabit these constructions ourselves.

Species gradually dying off. The latest reports show bee populations sharply declining and frogs reaching the brinks of extinction.

What happens with fewer bees to pollinate the buds of our crops? Less food.

Less open air and space where there can be some respite from the heat of the concrete.

 

Developers: 1 Community: 0


Who’s really winning?

Why Walmart is Coming to Corvallis, July 12th, 2012

Corvallis Land Use Supervisor Kurt Russell said Thursday that potential developers do not need to disclose the name of the proposed retail development when applying for a building permit in Corvallis.

In response to questions about the recently announced Walmart development at 1840 N.W. Ninth Street, Russell said that the retailer had applied for approval as a grocery store tenant, which was in compliance with the Mixed Use Community Shopping (MUCS) zoning designation of the land.

“As a city we cannot set different standards for different grocery stores,” Russell said.

According to Russell, proposed tenants only need to disclose the use of the development- for example, grocery, office or residential- so that plans can be checked for compliance with building and land use codes. The specific name of the retailer does not have to be mentioned according to Russell.

Russell said that since the city’s land and building codes have been endorsed by the City Council, the Council is not involved in reviewing plans unless they are somehow in violation of city codes. Then, Russell said, the plans would go before the Council and be subject to public review.

The Walmart plans met all the height, setback and other building requirements in addition to according with the land use codes for the area according to Russell.