Tag Archives | Consumerist.com

Have you ever e-mailed a company CEO or senior management to escalate a complaint?

A number of ValueIreland.com readers over the years have criticised some of my responses to particular e-mails received from readers.

Take a situation where a consumer has gone as far as they can with a companies customer service, and where there’s no recourse to a regulator or to the law, the critical readers advocate taking things further that I might have commented in my responses.

By taking things further, the readers have advocated e-mailing senior management in a company to have them follow up on the problems. The usual example provided as evidence that this works is along the lines of “my friends IPOD stopped working so they e-mailed Steve Jobs and he sent them a new one”.

Personally, I’m not a believer in such tactics – though I have sent off a few letters and e-mails to CEO’s in my time. Some have responded, others have ignored the correspondence.

While such direct e-mails may work on occasion (as can be seen in some examples on the US website Consumerist.com, there is a danger that overuse of such tactics will reduce the impact of e-mailing a CEO to the same level as e-mailing the same companies customer service.

What are your thoughts on e-mailing the CEO of a company directly? Have you done this in the past? Has it worked?

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Bloggers comments to fall under advertising standards?

There was a story recently on the Consumerist website (US based) where it was referring to suggestions that the comments of bloggers in the US would fall under the remit of the Federal Trade Commission – full original story is available here.

The FTC is updating its “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising,” which were last refreshed in 1980.

What this has to do with bloggers is a new form of advertising, called word-of-mouth marketing, in which advertisers pay your favorite bloggers to “review” their products. The bloggers get paid, for example, with free product samples; gift certificates for JCPenney shopping sprees; cash payments; or the loan of a $30,000 Ford Flex for a year.

The bloggers are supposed to write whatever they want about the product—pro or con—but the payments put into question whether they would be inclined to seriously bite the hand of a “friend” lending a car or giving other valuable goodies or cash.

Obviously this is something that would be enormously difficult to bring in but most bloggers I’m familiar with will always declare their interests when writing about anything.

However, I’ve written here before about my concerns regarding the number of new supposed “consumer websites” that have been set up recently targeting Irish consumers that are really just money making advertising websites that hide under the guise of providing advice to consumers.

As detailed in this post, affiliate advertising controls what some consumer bloggers will write about – if there’s no money in something, they won’t write about it – thereby reducing the amount of useful information being provided to consumers.

Read this post to see how to identify links that are earning money for the blogger, versus straightforward links without benefit.

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No April Fools out there

I didn’t manage to catch anyone out yesterday unfortunately! One thing to remember though is that such a merger / union / combination is not unheard of.

There’s a site called the Consumerist.com in the US that I like to model some of the work done here in ValueIreland.com on.

Last December, the Consumerist.com website was bought out by the US equivalent of the Consumers Association of Ireland, the Consumers Union – publisher of the excellent Consumer Reports magazine.

In a scenario that doesn’t fully reflect the difficulties of the CAI here in Ireland:

In a year that has been difficult for magazines, Consumer Reports’ subscription and newsstand sales have risen. Circulation was 4.6 million, up from 4.3 million in 2007. The Web site has 3.3 million subscribers.

However, the average age of a print subscriber is 60, and the average ConsumerReports.org subscriber is 50.

The age profile is, I believe, somewhat similar if not older, but the CAI subscriptions have been falling for the past number of years. The CAI would love a “difficult” year where subscriptions increased by 7% rather than having to count single subscriptions to schools as multiple members for each pupil in the school just to bump up their numbers for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment when looking for money.

One of the main reasons for the Consumer Union taking over the Consumerist.com website was:

About 76 percent of Consumerist’s readers are 18 to 49, according to Quantcast.

So, to attract a younger audience and a more web savvy set of readers, the magazine publishing Consumer Union bought a consumer website – even though their own website isn’t half bad already.

There’s no mention of the purchase price in any articles I’ve read.

If only the Consumers Association of Ireland would engage online in a more positive pro-active fashion – and I don’t even mean by buying out ValueIreland.com. All my offers to assist with their own web presence while I was involved were not taken up, which basically means Irish consumers are left with this.

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