As consumers, we deal with business specialization in many cases and personal education helps us in our choices. When I mention business specialization, I am referring to hiring someone else for a service or to create a product that we have little or no skill or knowledge. Examples are plumbers, mechanics, HVAC technicians, etc.
So what do I mean when referring to education and choice? Let's start at the top and discuss competition and choice first.
Competition and Choice
As we use various products and services in our daily lives, we begin to realize the value of competition and choice. Without competition and choice, various businesses would lose external incentives to provide excellence in their field of business. Even with competition and choice, I'm sure we have all experienced subpar or just dishonest business.
The Win-Win Mentality
In the long-run, the "win-win" mentality of business always is the best option. Businesses who are dishonest or who have a subpar business model only hurt themselves in the long run as well as their customers.
Specialized Services and Products
In my experience, one of the most frequent areas where dishonest and/or subpar business occurs is in the fields of specialized services or products. These are businesses that we pay providers for a product or service that we lack knowledge or skill in. Technicians are great examples. These technicians could be plumbers, HVAC, electrical, etc.
Consumer Responsibility and Education
The first thing to remember is that some countries have "full disclosure" laws. This means businesses need to provide all the necessary information for a customer to make an informed decision in regard to purchasing their product or service.
The second thought to consider is why people don't educate and/or prepare themselves with someone who is informed as well as speak up when something is not correct. Here are a couple of factors to consider:
- Lack of time- Many of us live busy lives and another time-consuming task seems like a burden. This is precisely why some businesses take advantage of the average consumer.
- Lack of motivation and/or desire- Some of us just lack interest in learning about how an engine works and what causes it to break down, for example.
- Ignorance- Some of us never considered the possibility that we could be taken advantage of by "The Experts."
- We don't want to be perceived as a pest- Some of us are afraid that if we speak up we will ruin someone's day or be seen in a negative light.
- We can be short-sighted as consumers and forget that if we "turn a blind eye" to poor or dishonest business, more people will be taken advantage of and one bad precedent can set into motion more and worse actions in that particular field of business.
Solutions to Factors that Hinder Us as Consumers
- First of all, we need to be living our lives with a plan and habit of prioritizing, planning, systematic neglect, and rotating tasks.
- Second, we need to see having people who are informed and/ or educating ourselves is an investment of time vs. a burden.
- We also need to remind ourselves by ignoring the issue, we are only encouraging further bad business and delaying the second round of problems for ourselves.
- We also can equip ourselves with practical knowledge in regard to how to have a productive confrontation step by step. There are a number of books available by counselors or knowledgable business people that can lead us through these steps.
- Finally, we need to be okay with ourselves so that we don't take any negative responses personally. Some people tend to project or deflect truth instead of reflecting on how criticism can help them improve.
Some Personal Examples
- There's a local plumbing company in my area that has been in business for a number of years who have very dishonest practices. At one point when attempting to fix a faucet in my house, they attempted to replace the whole faucet instead of just the one part that needed fixing. They were promptly told that we were no longer interested in their services. In talking with other locals, they had similar experiences involving extremely high fees for unneeded services. They continue to do business in our local area because customers support their dishonesty by continuing to use their services.
- A national hardware manufacturer continued to send incorrect parts to me for lawn care equipment and my dryer. I repeatedly sought and am seeking refunds. Many of their stores nationwide have closed.
- A local optical provider consumed my whole evening as I applied for a rebate with an unnecessarily complicated process. This is the second time this occurred but in a different step of the process. "The cat hasn't lost its spots, " it just changed its predatorial route of travel. Usually, in my opinion, when a rebate comes with an overly complicated process, someone is trying to keep customers' money. I'm planning on applying pressure on my eye care provider so that, in turn, they can pressure the supplier to change their methods or I'll simply find another eye care doctor.
Being a smart consumer involves taking responsibility to inform oneself or find others who are informed of the necessary facts involved in paying for a product or service. By speaking up calmly, firmly, and armed with information, we can deter the downward slide of dishonesty and/or subpar business especially in fields of specializations.
Do you take time to gather information on a particular purchase before your transaction is complete? If no, do you know individuals who are knowledgeable in this area? Do you understand how to speak up in a calm and firm fashion armed with information? Overall, what areas do you need to improve in regard to being wise consumers, business specialization, education, and choice?