Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Friday, February 04, 2011

Being a conscious and vocal consumer

I recall that when I was younger I thought it ridiculous that people would write letters to companies to voice their thoughts. I thought it was an antiquated notion to believe that a giant company would care about the tiny voice of the little old lady who sat down with her stationary and a shaky hand to tell them that she thought their old recipe tasted better, or that she didn't like the new spout on their bottle, or some such minor concern, and that at most they'd send the lady a $1 Off coupon and call it a day. It seemed to me that you either buy a product or you don't, and that companies will make their decisions based on market research and tracking actual sales.

So perhaps it is simply a sign that I am turning into a little old lady, but recently I have begun writing to companies about things that I feel it important to voice. I may be a tiny voice but that doesn't mean that I shouldn't speak, and in this age of Twitter and Blogs and Social Networks I feel that companies are finally starting to see the consumer's voice as another avenue of market research and one that they should listen to. But beyond that I find that with so many choices to be made every day in our consumer-driven lives it is more and more difficult to find a decision I am truly happy with and that I can fully support. If I boycott a product because of over packaging, use of Styrofoam, or factory-farmed eggs how does the company know the reason for my boycott? How can they know that if they make the changes I desire I will return as a customer? And if I'm no longer their customer why should they care about my opinion?

So sometimes once a month, sometimes more, I see or use some product or service which I feel could benefit from simple changes. Would I go to Dunkin' Donuts more if they offered me a non-Styrofoam cup? Would more people use the "House Mugs" or bring in their own if Starbucks made those options more visible? Will I ever get to attend a party without cringing over the number of non-recyclable plastic cups scattered about the room? Does Lucern realize that putting their Cage-Free eggs in plastic instead of cardboard cartons makes me buy their competitors eggs for $1 more per dozen? A quick look on their website in most cases will provide a comment form that will save me from any stationary-depleting, shaky-hand syndrome while letting me voice my concerns. Yes, I know that my letter is probably read by some intern who has the option of sending me a $1 Off coupon, a form letter, or a cease and desist form, and that I may be wasting my time, but somehow to do nothing would seem an even greater waste.

If you've ever seen me ask the host of a party for a glass, or bring my own, you'll understand why I wrote the following letter to Solo today. (Who, by the way, has a new line called "Bare" with more recycled content and renewable resources that will be available at most Target and Meijer stores.) And I hope that you'll consider joining my Old Lady Brigade when you see products in need of change.

"I am writing to you today as a concerned consumer. The Solo red and blue cups, in my experience, are the most popular and widely-used cups for parties, outdoor events, and networking events in need of single-use products. From your website I can see that you are aware of and concerned about the environmental image and impact of your product. This is of great concern to me as well and I try, whenever possible, to use products that are either re-usable or recyclable; this is made difficult at social events where I am uncertain what products will be available and whether there will be recycling disposal for items on-site. I would like to suggest that in major metropolitan areas like Chicago it would be useful to include recycling information either on the package or, when possible, as part of the sales display. A simple "Chicago Blue Bin Recyclable" could go a long way towards thousands of cups finding their way out of the trash and into a recycling bin. A small amount of education could go a long way. And I for one know that a simple statement like that would make my purchasing decision for me.

Thank you for your consideration,
Valerie Brown"

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Blogger Jaleh D said...

Good points, and a well worded letter. In our area, it's gotten easier to recycle plastic grocery bags. The grocery stores all have collection boxes, where they take more than just their own stores bags. And with NY being a deposit state for soda and some water brands, it is so easy to recycle cans and drink bottles; just take them to the grocery store. The stores also prominently display their reusable bags for sale. We just have to remember to bring our bags with us when we shop.

1:31 PM  

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