energising corporate suspicion

2 11 2013

I learned about loyalty from the A Team. I knew that if I had a problem, if no-one else could help, and if I could find them, I could call the A Team. They didn’t need to know me; they didn’t need to be like me. But they would help me.

They didn’t even really like each other. A strange team, but a team that above all things valued loyalty. And BAs bling.

Shame they weren’t an energy supplier. Or an insurance company. But that wouldn’t have made great TV.

There was a time when corporations valued loyalty. Not some golden era, I’m not that naive; but I know that when I started taking out car insurance in the 90’s, when my renewal came up my company sought to keep my business by being cheaper. They rewarded my loyalty. They wanted me back. Now, they actively discourage loyalty. Here’s a ridiculous quote, they say, now go off to a comparison site and switch if you want to. See if we care.

It’s the same with the energy companies. They know they’ve got us over a barrel, we’re a captive audience. So they actively discourage loyalty by skewing the market towards switching, not staying. Why? Because they know we’ve all got better things to do. We know they are overcharging us, we expect them to, but we’ve got families to organise and work to do and 3 hours cursing over comparison sites is just not going to happen. Especially for those who are not online. Which is a lot of people, and the most vulnerable to being overcharged.  

We have a problem in our culture with trust of any large corporations. We feel let down so many times. Yet still it seems acceptable that they cynically energise suspicion in order to make financial gain. Imagine, for a moment, a utility company that actually wanted to give customers – not shareholders or CEOs – the best deal they could. Imagine a utility company that gave you a real discount for staying, not a pretend discount for joining. Instead the government policy is for volunteers to help vulnerable people sort it out. Surely that is admitting system failure.  

Why does all this matter? I think it feeds into our culture’s suspicion that they are being ripped off; that nobody has their best interest at heart; that nobody is loyal to them. So when we talk of God, we are talking into those feelings. When we talk about the ‘chesed’, the covenant love of God, everlasting and faithful, people look blankly. What’s a covenant? What is faithfulness? Can someone with great power be faithful?  

We have to do all that we can to be people of loyalty, faithfulness and trust, people who are counter-cultural in our attitudes, in our business practices; who see others not just as pieces of economic value to be used; and who don’t believe that passive submission to market competition will make everything ok, but who take positive action to be trustworthy, to be generous, to be loyal.

Because we operate under a covenant agreement with God, to live in his kingdom and by his kingdom rules. It’s not a short-term one year deal to be swapped for a cheaper one; and actually on comparison sites it would be the most costly. 

Crazy fool, as BA would say.  




3 responses

3 11 2013

Didn’t God say blessed are the price makers? Personally, I love it when a payment plan comes together.
It’s easier to drive a camel through the aisle of a supermarket than it is to keep your house warm once energy companies have extracted every last drop of margin they can from their ‘loyal’ customer base.
I’m not sure the tide of corporate greed will turn back anytime soon. The crime for CEO’s seems to be about being caught out rather than being shamed into changing tack. Spin is king. The customers are dependent. We are ripe to be exploited. And when someone suggests there might be an alternative, the Daily Mail rips his dead father’s head off. And then we get distracted by ethics when we were supposed to be talking about equity. Blah blah blah…
Crazy fools indeed.
Keep campaigning Kevin. The revolution will not be energised by the national grid owners.

3 11 2013

You are of course wordsmith and a genius. It’s hard not to be a fatalist. Your point about the crime these days is the being found out, not the doing bad stuff, is especially key. Where’s the leadership in that?!

3 11 2013

I think you hit the nail on the head at the end of your piece. A covenant relationship is not about the short term. However we live in a world focussed only on the short term and in what I can get for me now.

There is a whole list of large companies in large markets that have no regard for customers in their urge to keep making bigger profits this year. Tobacco companies spent years denying that tobacco was harmful, whilst charging people to kill themselves. Why did it work? Because the companies were big and vocal and worked together. Pharmaceutical companies do it now, keeping quiet about the side effects of drugs and charging the NHS more than they need. Banks did it. Next to do it will be the manufacturers of genetically modified foods as they take control of our food chain.

But hey, in our liberal, cultureless society why not! Everybody is free to do what floats their boat. There is no such thing as ethics or responsibility. No glue to bind us together because we hold common beliefs and causes.

We now educate people for only one purpose – so that they can be productive and make them and us money. We now conduct science only for one purpose – so that we can find things to save or make more money. We only fund athletes who are guaranteed to win a medal.

The EU, parliament and councils all have one secret mantra – more power and money for the ruling elite, less power and money for the people. In that context why am I surprised when my Electricity supplier has just ripped me off, fitting a ‘smart’ meter that does nothing for me and then overcharging me for the electricity I didn’t use.

Something about reaping what we have sown.

Keep on campaigning, but don’t imagine the answer is in somebody doing something about it, they won’t. What we need is a moving of God’s spirit, in leaders, Churches and individuals to open people’s eyes to long term and to the God who shows us how to live and love.

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