Viral Video: Consumer Revenge

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A Consumer Party Worldwide

Through the magic of the Internet you don't even have to be in the country to talk back. Just look at Capt. Eric Wright who, while serving in Iraq, had a run-in with Hewlett-Packard. He called the company to complain about his broken printer. Wright was outraged when he called HP and had to pay to get the company to tell him how to fix his printer.

He made a video of his experience and once that video went viral, Wright said HP sent him a new printer, thanks to the direct communication between consumers and companies that the Internet provides.

Popken calls what we're experiencing "a consumer party." A consumer party that gives consumers more information is a good thing. But wait a second. This isn't exactly Consumer Reports. There are no editors checking to see whether complaints are valid. Anyone can say anything.

Calling 9-1-1 About My Burger King Burger!

When reviewing consumer complaints on the Internet, it's also worth remembering that some people are impossible.

One woman, who will remain nameless, called 911 during her bad episode at Burger King. Here's how that conversation went.

WOMAN: "Yea, I'm over here at Burger King. I asked her four different times to make me a Western BBQ Burger. OK. They keep giving me a hamburger with lettuce, tomato, and cheese and onion. And I said, I'm not leaving! I want a Western Burger!"

911: "OK. What is it exactly you want us to do for you?"

WOMAN: "Send an officer down here! I want them to make my ..."

911: "Ma'am! We're not going to go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Cheeseburger."

This conversation, and others like it -- perhaps not quite so extreme -- are also available in cyberspace forever. For a company, that can be both good and bad.

One Consumer Changing Company Policy

Three years ago, the battery died in Casey Neistat's iPod.

"I called Apple and I said my battery's dead. What do I do, and they said buy a new iPod. That's $400," Neistat said.

So he and his filmmaker brother made a video that showed Neistat stenciling "iPod's irreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months" on top of iPod ads around New York City, paired with the music track of Northwest Airline's Express Yourself.

Within a week, the video got a million hits and Apple changed its battery warranty. However, the company says the video had nothing to do with that, but policy change or not, the video still plays, smearing iPod forever.

"The fact of the matter is they were doing something that was unfair," Neistat said. "So let people see the Web site, let people see the movie and maybe then when they get screwed over a product they know they have a place for it."

Internet as a Microphone for Consumers

Popken is calling this "audio visual consumer revenge." Popken runs consumerist.com, which lists 18 different consumer tips and complaints a day.

"It's you know up with the little guy," Popken said. "He can share his experience with others and become empowered."

So there you have it. The Internet is giving consumers new power. But not all the complaints are relevant or trustworthy.

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