Why Do Brands Hate Me?

I'm a 34-year-old male with a wide range of interests, though I don't see myself as a loose millennial. In fact, lately I've been shocked when taking a look at myself in the mirror and seeing my aging facade. Growing up, when our family needed something, we'd browse though the yellow pages to find where to buy it. Already as a child, I had quite an imagination. I recall forcing my mom into asking the service staff at the local pizza place if they had pizza with whipped cream on top as I'd seen this on the Teenage Ninja Turtles movie. To my defense, I'd checked the yellow pages first without any luck, before bulldozing my mom.

As a customer I'm inconsistent, complex and demanding. I've bought $300+ A.P.C. jeans, but I buy the cheapest dish detergent from the closest grocery store. I didn't want to pay $55 for a Gildan tour merch t-shirt, but have bought Hanes t-shirts with a printed box-logo for a price three times more than similar t-shirts without the logo. I felt kind of dumb doing it the first time but then I actually did it again a few months later. I've got a luxurious Leica camera, yet I couldn't have been happier when I found a pair of Jordans from Marshalls for $60. Some of my friends in Miami request to meet up at cafés offering two cups of coffee for $18 dollars, while other friends back home in Finland aren't even willing to meet up anywhere else than a gas station. I'd love to hear what kind of insights the big data banks have to say about me as a consumer. In fact, I quite frankly hate the word consumer. I find brands that refer to their customers as consumers arrogant and outdated.

Lately there's been a lot of loud talk about customer experience. People value different things in different situations. In a world where loneliness is making people sick, some people want their grocery shopping to be a social experience where one can meet and chat with others. In a world where time is money, some want to get out of the grocery store as quickly as possible. Proving value for different individuals at different touch points must be quite hard.

I was traveling in business class recently. Before getting to the airplane I decided to spend some time at the business lounge. The lounge was being cleaned while I was trying to enjoy a cup of coffee with some light snacks and a sip of water just before the departure. Here I was wondering whether one would seriously consider cleaning their house while having visitors? Anyways, since there was nothing to instagram, I decided to head off to the gate. I guess I didn't look like the typical business traveller as I had a cap and a hoodie on. Seeing as I didn't walk further to the economy class, the airline staff looked at me with clear confusion. I really didn't mind and just greeted them in a friendly manner. I decided to remain standing, as I was still wearing my winter jacket. In doing so, I was waiting for the flight attendant to ask if she could take my jacket. I waited till it started feeling a bit awkward. As I noticed other business travelers being helped, it felt even more awkward. I didn't want to wait any further so I asked one of the flight attendants to just kindly take my jacket. She said, "yes, of course", at this point I didn't feel valued.

During the end of last year, I decided to get a golden credit card. I filled out the application and waited for two weeks for the card to arrive by mail. As a bonus, the credit card company had promised me free visits to airport lounges. When I did finally receive the card, it had a sticker on it instructing me to call the customer service number to verify my card. The number was available only on weekdays during (Nordic) office hours. I waited till Monday to call the number. To my disappointment it wasn't a person picking up the call but an automated phone system. But robots work 24/7, right? Later on I realized that I'd need to print a new application and send it to the credit card company by snail-mail in order to receive the additional benefit of free access to airport lounges. At this point, I honestly felt tricked; as if I was the one working for the credit card company rather than the other way round. The following day I received an automated email from the credit card company stating how much they value my opinion, asking for feedback about their service. Well, till then I just felt like I hadn't been in contact with anyone and hadn't received any service for that matter. I therefore wouldn't waste any more of my valuable time on them.

Then there's the TV incident. My parents decide to buy my nephew a new smart TV for Christmas. The retailer promised a three-month subscription on an on demand-streaming service as a freebie upon purchasing the TV. As I'm installing the new TV, I find out that the smart TV isn't so smart after all. It doesn't support the freebie streaming service. It doesn't even connect to the local WiFi network. The customer service representative for the network operator instantly blames the TV and tells me to call the customer service of the TV retailer. When I call the customer service for the TV, they are friendly but suggest that the problem is on the network operator's modem. Yet again they make me do all the work! They ask me to go online and download an update for the TV, then transfer it unto the TV on a USB stick. This is all to say that the retailer is selling products with outdated software. As if that wasn't enough, the advertised freebie doesn't work on the product bought. Seems like all these brands are just after my money - which is fine if a brand is transparent about it.

I think the most important ingredient of any experience is attitude. Test-driving a Ferrari can be an awful experience if the person selling it gives you an attitude different from what you expect. The 7-Eleven on the ground floor of the building I used to live in often ran out of hot coffee, was definitely not the cleanest store in the neighborhood, and some of the staff would listen to music on their headphones while serving customers. I didn't mind though, seeing as they were always friendly and gave me bang for the buck.

Yet I can't help but wonder: isn't there enough competition or why do I feel like so many brands hate me...