If Companies Can, They Will

A follow up thought from last week’s post, which I began with a truism: If companies can hike prices, they will.

We can extend and broaden this truism if we want to:

If companies can do anything, they will.

This includes irritating things like discontinuing or changing a product that you like, ending maintenance or support services for a product you’ve already bought, buying out a competitor’s product and discontinuing it, forcing product upgrades[1], and so on. They can do all these things… in addition to pulling typical garden-variety stunts like putting in stealth price hikes.

Average consumers[2] tend to have a common response to these things: they get angry, they complain, they shake their fists, and they whine about how greedy corporations put profits before people, etc. And then they call on a parent figure (usually “the government”) to “do something” about it.[3]

These reactions are understandable, but effete. Truly empowered consumers do not bother to ineffectually shake their fists at some company. Instead, they go Bill Belichick on that company! They get cold, rational, solution-minded and creative. And they beat that company at its own game by finding alternatives and substitutes for the products that these companies sell. Our goal here is to understand the greater chess game being played around us so we can navigate it as effectively as possible.

It’s a pointless, unprofitable and effete exercise to impotently shake your fist at whatever latest greedy thing whatever greedy company did. Stop buying.

[1] Technology companies are the worst offenders here. A typical example would be Microsoft rolling out increasingly complex operating systems that slowed down computer performance, which drove consumers to upgrade to new computers, after which Microsoft would roll out a still more bloated operating system, driving yet another upgrade cycle, etc. In the 1990s, cynical computer industry observers used to say that Microsoft sold “bloatware,” not software. Fortunately, today’s computer buyer has more options, and can now choose among various free operating systems (e.g., Chrome, Linux), and this has devastated Microsoft’s formerly dominant market position. They had it coming.

[2] But not Casual Kitchen readers of course.

[3] Even worse, they do any or all of these things on Twitter, a place where no one has ever listened, ever. The online equivalent of screaming in your car.


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