Why are some companies hated by consumers while other companies are loved? That sounds like something Harvard Business Review would write about. And indeed, it has. In Companies and the Customers Who Hate Them, Harvard professors Gail McGovern and Youngme Moon said a company is hated when it sets adversarial rules to extract value from its customers, rather than to provide value to them.
Firms taking advantage of customers through such tactics, whether deliberate or unintentional, trigger a backlash: consumers retaliate — with lawsuits, mass defections, and company-specific “hate sites.”
I would add that in addition to providing a bad product or service, a company is hated by the consumers when consumers don’t have a better choice. If you look at the Worst Companies in America 2009 list at Consumerist, you will see many companies on the list are near monopolies in their market segment. By popular votes, the four Worst Companies in America 2009 were:
- Bank of America
AT&T, formerly Cingular, got on my hated companies list recently. It looks to me everyone and their brothers have their cool iPhone. Everybody knows that in order to use an iPhone, you must have AT&T wireless. That’s fine, I already use AT&T. I use their prepaid service.
Can I buy an iPhone on eBay and add a data plan to my prepaid service? No. You have to have a voice plan, which starts at $40/month, plus tax and fees. I pay $8 a month for my prepaid service right now. To get the iPhone experience, even if I pay the full $599 unsubsidized price for the phone, I still have to pay extra $32/month for voice service I don’t need. That’s extracting value.
Isn’t bundling iPhone and data service with voice service illegal tying, like the famous Microsoft Internet Explorer case? If it’s not, it should be.
Somebody gave me a used BlackBerry. Can I add a data plan to my AT&T prepaid service and use the BlackBerry? No. AT&T used to offer a prepaid data plan for $20/month, until they killed it in December 2008.
Can I get a data-only plan on the BlackBerry? Yes, AT&T has one for $35 a month, but I can’t get the BlackBerry to synchronize with my work e-mails, calendar, and address book. AT&T’s $35-a-month data plan is called BlackBerry Personal, which only gives you access to personal e-mails and web browsing. To use it with corporate e-mails and calendar, you have to buy AT&T’s BlackBerry Enterprise service, which is $50 a month. Come on, data is data. I also don’t want to carry two phones.
I signed up with T-Mobile. They offer a data plan for $40 a month, with voice minutes billed à la carte at $0.20 a minute. T-Mobile does not charge extra for connecting to a BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES). That’s fair, except I don’t get signal from T-Mobile in my office. It works fine at home, just not in my office. I had to cancel after a few days.
I end up not using the BlackBerry I got. And I hate AT&T. Which companies do you hate and why?