Can social media give customers power over billion dollar corporations?
I am pondering this question as I sit in my apartment with the fumes from the off-gassing of the new General Electric Profile oven I purchased from PC Richards.
When the range arrived the delivery man told me that I should run the oven for 20 minutes to rid the surfaces of an oil that is included in the manufacturing. That was quite an understatement. I have now run this oven for 7 hours and it still emits this “oil” in the form of a noxious smoke. The residue from this process continues to hang in my apartment after attempts to air out the space. It even set of the smoke alarms in my apartment 8 hours later in the middle of the night when the oven was OFF.
It has been difficult to determine which chemicals are off-gassing from the range, but I am pretty sure it’s not olive oil. There are complaints online from customers, but prospective buyers only see these when typing in the correct key words – such as toxic fumes. Consumer Reports did not mention the issue, though there is a forum comprised of angry customers who relied on Consumer Reports to protect them.
So, what can social media do to help? First, people can blog, Tweet and post about their experiences so that potential customers ask the right questions. Another option is to file a complaint with Change.org to encourage the company to change the practice of loading the ovens with chemicals.
I should have taken advantage of social media more before purchasing a product I would expect to last many years. There were numerous reviews of GE ranges on sites such as Best Buy that I could have used to help choose an better oven.
Communicating dissatisfaction to the company via social channels may not help my problem, but can alert the company to consumer dissatisfaction. More formally, I also contacted the Consumer Product Safety Commission and filed a complaint.
Social recommendations do influence people’s purchase decisions. McKinsey studied 20,000 consumer decisions on 30 product categories among European consumers and found that about 26% of purchases were influenced by recommendations. Consumers were influenced most through direct recommendations Additionally, first time buyers were more likely to turn to others for advice than those who had purchased before. I am really wishing I had asked others prior to purchasing rather than trusting a brand.
A number of people have been successful in using social media to change aspects of corporate America, albeit on very small issues. For instance, Molly Katchpole convince Bank of America to eliminate a $5 debit card fee and consumers successfully petitioned on Change.org to encourage Pepsi and Coke to remove Brominated vegetable oil from soda. However, these are small victories that require a lot of commitment and time from individuals.
I am just hoping that there are no long term effects of subjecting myself and my canary to the unknown chemicals in my oven.
Mckinsey Study: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales/getting_a_sharper_picture_of_social_medias_influence).
Bank of America Change.org: http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2012/06/how-hashtags-and-social-media-can-bring-megacorporations-to-their-knees/258290/