Customer, Serve Us

Or How I Spent My Summer Vacation

“When we believe there is not enough, that resources are scarce, then we accept that some will have what they need, and some will not. We rationalize that someone is destined to end up with the short end of the stick.” ~ Lynne Twist, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life

 

As we emerge from our isolation, consumers beware. Predatory tactics of businesses and our consumerism appear to be “on steroids,” with the latter appearing to fuel the former, making us more vulnerable to their ploys.

Yes, everyone appears to be trying to make a buck.

I’ve recently been approached multiple times about selling my psychology practice. Seriously, how does my practice even lend itself to being sold? The person pushing this is the businessman in the middle who expects to get a cut in the deal, of course. Investors are constantly calling me to buy my house so that they can rent it out at a high rent. Solar companies push their products, one after another with door-to-door sales, trying to convince me that paying them $220 per month all year round is a savings to me, when my electric bill only gets that high during the hottest months in Texas. Of course, I want to do my part to save the environment, and companies are taking advantage of our altruism to price gouge the consumers.

Then there are shady companies trying to rip us all off with unethical practices and deceptive advertising. For example, I’ve been in a dispute with a national furniture retail company and my credit card company since mid-May, over a purchase that was misrepresented not only by a sign in the Pflugerville, Texas location, but also by a sales associate. I was led to believe that I was buying bedframes with mattresses and box springs. Only the frames were delivered. I’ll save you the sordid details, but suffice it to say, the furniture company did everything they could to stall my return until the 7-day window had passed, and my credit card has not lived up to their promises to protect the consumer.



I also had a fiasco with my bank while I was on a month-long trip across the country to visit my mom. The bank, apparently, decided to turn off my debit card without notifying me in April because I didn’t use it for the prior three months. I didn’t find out that I was punished for not using my card during a pandemic until I tried to use my card while 2,000+ miles from home and far from any branches of my bank, unable to get cash at all. My card had been rendered, essentially, a useless piece of plastic without my knowing it. I spent over an hour on the phone with the bank to reactivate my card. Precious time that I won’t get back.

So, I wonder what and whom is to blame for this absence of customer service and the increase in deceptive advertising, among businesses of all types, and the staggering increased attitude of “Customer, serve us!”

I have many theories, not the least of which is that we, as consumers are, at least partially to blame by our need to buy, buy, buy that is so great that we don’t hold merchants’ feet to the fire, but I’m not an economist. I will say this, however, for most of us, our money is hard-earned, and, for all of us, our time is way too precious to be spent fighting for fair treatment. Perhaps the solutions are simple: simplifying, consuming less, making merchants work for our money, vetting businesses before giving them our money, quickly switching from unethical companies at the first red flag, and calling out predatory merchants whenever we come into contact with them by warning our friends.

And, well, as for me, I will meditate more in order to be more mindful of my urge to purchase, to ask more questions about what I want to buy, not the least important of which is “Do I need it?”, as well as to keep my own health from being affected by the likely predatory behaviors I’ll face from merchants and to keep myself grounded, calm and focused.

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Dr. Mara Karpel

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Dr. Mara Karpel has been a practicing Clinical Psychologist for over 27 years and is the author of the International…

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