Pity These Businesses: It’s Their Job To Hear You Complain
Who doesn't like to complain? We take pride in our ability to whine, moan, and gripe to whoever will listen. The people hearing our issues can become tired of it; but they might not if they're getting paid. Two innovative businesses have kept this in mind, and not only will they hear out your annoying ranting, they also help you solve your problems.
Fight Back.com began with NBC's consumer reports investigative journalist, David Horowitz, whose career has centered on consumer advocacy. His mission was brought online to reach more people struggling to resolve concerns or complaints regarding their experiences with businesses throughout the United States. Fight Back! Write Back! is the site's program for spreading the word about companies questionable behavior and seeking restitution on behalf of the wronged consumer using words.
Fight Back! Write Back! doesn't guarantee that they can get the results the consumer is looking for, but does investigate complaints that seem legitimate based on the information provided through email. It seems that in many circumstances, where the business did in fact treat the consumer wrongly, a simple communication with the name David Horowitz attached seems to scare them into positive action. They post many examples of their websites to spread consumer awareness including Success Stories, Feedback (where the consumer had a complaint that didn't turn out to be the company's fault) and the Customer Dis-Service Hall of Shame.
The Byte Back! section of their website, which is what they call their available online services, also includes Ask David. Consumers can ask Horowitz questions about their beefs and have him provide suggestions on how they can pursue the complaint with the company to come to a resolution; this service, unlike Fight Back! Write Back! requires that the consumer do the leg work, instead of Horowitz fighting the "bad guys" on their behalf.
Byte Back! also offers a forum for consumers to post their own experiences and gripe to their peers, without assistance from the big man on top. Fight Back.com is generally a comprehensive resource for consumer advocacy, which includes news and links to Horowitz's weekly column and radio show. Naturally, the online services are free, but are designed to boost the positive publicity and increase the journalist's NBC consumer advocate reporter's bank balance and ratings.
Fight Back is a practical resource for consumers, but doesn't hold a candle to the entertainment value of this next one!
SideTaker.com takes complaining to a new level and lets people air all of their dirty laundry on the internet...what could be more fun than that?! Psychologists recommend that when disputes can't be solved, a mediator should be brought in; so instead of paying an arm and a leg for professional help, individuals on both sides of the debate can post their version of the argument and let perfect strangers on the internet dispense their advice. It might sound like I'm being sarcastic, but after an hour of scrolling through the tales and getting the feeling like I was eavesdropping on personal conversations, I'm quite intrigued!
SideTaker.com's concept is simple; anyone looking for public insight into an argument that they're having can post their perspective of the situation on the website and then send an invitation to their sparring partner to do the same. Both sides are displayed side by side, to allow other users to read, vote for the side they support, and provide advice and comments. The ratings don't stop there either, because other users can rate how good they believe each piece of advice is.
The bottom line is that SideTaker is innovative and successful because people like to have the opportunity to glimpse at other people's lives, especially when situations are worse than their own. That's not to say that some of the users aren't genuinely interested in helping, but let's be honest here. It has a few weaknesses; some posters don't take it seriously and create fake stories or offensive comments; the site is littered with teenage angst (but it's their right to post, too!) and to date only two sides to the story can be posted. I'd like to see them open their invitation options to include multiple perspectives and expand their one-on-one structure to all out brawl; although admittedly, that might impact their attractive standard layout.
Since we love to complain so much, it's no surprise it's a rapidly growing industry that incorporates both practical and wacky businesses.
Other popular companies that focus on complaints are pay-per-the-minute phone listening services (profit-making companies a la Kid's Help Phone) or travel refund services for consumers. Learn about more consumer advocacy services for the travel industry by reading a previous article, "Progressive European Companies Offer Refund Services When Travel Plans Fall Through".