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.