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Why do Companies try and cheat their Customers?

I recently came across the epic post in the Wall Street Journal about how Hotels were rigging guest room thermostats and I instantly connected with the story. Haven’t we all felt like cheated customers by multiple businesses and brands? The moot question is – Why do Companies try and cheat their customers?

I’ve spent countless sleepless nights in hotels all over the world trying to punch thermostats to get them working, but to no avail. I always thought I was the unlucky dude who got bad rooms! Now I know it’s a sinister plot of the Hotels!

Some snippets from the article:

Rooms don’t get hot enough or cold enough. Ventilation shuts off in the middle of the night. The thermostat says 72 but your sweaty brow says 78.

It’s not your imagination. Hotel thermostats often aren’t under your control.

A bypassed thermostat

Unknowing guests around the world are left to push thermostats up and down in vain. Fixing the problem requires a degree—or six or seven—as well as a bit of a mischievous streak.

“I can’t tell you how many times I have awakened sweating bullets at 3 a.m. and the a/c was off,” says Houston finance and accounting consultant Jay Callahan.

Tim Fountain, who spends 150 nights a year in hotels managing sales for a technology company, thinks central limits imposed by hotels make it harder to get rooms to desired temperatures. He carries a travel alarm clock with a thermometer and says 30% of the rooms he has been in have thermostats that misreport room temperature. Worst case: a thermostat that said it was 65 when it was really 72.

Why? Why would Hotels do this?

Obviously to save costs. Most duty managers I’ve spoken to (typically at 4:30 am) privately told me that the central temperatures are fixed in the entire hotel for the daytime and during the night, hotels maintenance would switch off air conditioning or reduce its power since ‘nights are generally cool’. That never made sense to me.

This article inspired me to think deeply of the different instances Businesses and Companies have cheated me and other people and their motivations to do the same.

Consider these headlines with links to the main stories

  • Society Generale India (The Bank) robbed me of some of my hard earned money via a “Portfolio Management Scam” that it’s employees were running – Check this link

  • In Mumbai, the Campa Cola Compound story made headlines! It was a heart rendering case of how a corrupt builder had cheated innocent (partially innocent) consumers into buying flats that were officially not legally sanctioned to be built. Check my story here

(Image courtesy Wall Street Journal, Google and rightful IP owners)

I can go on and on.

The question is WHY?

Why do the biggest and the best brands and businesses try and cheat their customers?

These are my assumptions:

  • There is no clarity of what is right or wrong. The car salesman in Hyundai South Mumbai showroom probably has never understood what a car airbag is. His focus is therefore on the sale – not on the manual of the product.
  • Management thinks profits first, consumer satisfaction later. Take the case of the thermostat case. The Hotels involved are super luxurious and the best in the world! Their gamble is that with a great room, awesome service and sumptuous food, the guest at their Hotels may just overlook the thermostat issue. It’s their way of trading one negative in place of many other positives.
  • Consumer demands are never ending. Companies and brands put a ‘business full stop’ to such demands and let things pass.
  • Some business owners (like the Campa Cola Builders) think no harm will come to consumers because they will bribe the governments. It’s a legacy of a system that they assumed they could leverage. It’s when things go wrong that consumers get hurt!

I would like to ask you – what do you think are the other reasons why Businesses and Brands cheat and compromise their customers? Can you share your personal cases and also your assumption on why it happened to you?

I will be happy to include the interesting cases in the main body of this post and keep updating it!


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