There’s a story that the media has missed in all of their 2011 wrap up stories.
It’s one of those rare feel-good economics stories that deserves to be relived because in 2011, one group above so many others who tried, showed that they have far more power than what they thought.
It’s not a story about Wall Street bankers, Washington politicians, the Tea Party movement or even the Occupiers.
It’s about you.
You, the consumer, showed that when you speak, you can influence the actions of the world’s biggest companies.
Here are three stories you might remember that prove consumers still have power.
Bank of America
You probably don’t know the name, Molly Katchpole. She’s a 22 year old Washington D.C. resident who started a petition to get Bank of America to drop their proposed $5 monthly debit card fee that they, and other big banks like Wells Fargo, were planning to implement.
Her petition eventually gained more than 350,000 signatures and that started the movement that later forced Bank of America and the other big banks like JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, U.S. Bank, PNC Financial, Wells Fargo, and Key Bank to scrap plans for the fee.
You’ve probably seen the GoDaddy.com commercials featuring Formula One and NASCAR driver Danica Patrick and fitness guru Jillian Michaels, but what you might not know is that GoDaddy provides server space and domain registration services to more than 6.5 million people all over the world. They employ over 2,000 people, and they were named the top webhosting company in 2009.
When Washington lawmakers unveiled a new law that would make website owners liable for any copyrighted content posted to their site (SOPA — Stop Online Piracy Act), they didn’t expect GoDaddy.com to support the legislation. Sites like Youtube and Facebook could be forced to shut down along with many other websites that allow users to post and share information potentially putting many internet entrepreneurs out of business, according to critics of the law.
Initially, it sounds like a good idea to stop online piracy. But many believe the law would give too much power to authorities to shut down content believed to be stealing material as well as infringe on first amendment rights. Some believe it would be a major blow to anyone who works online.
When GoDaddy came out in support of the bill, customers spoke with their wallets.
More than 72,000 internet sites were transferred to other servers and registrars before GoDaddy finally changed their stance on the legislation.
You would think companies would learn from the mistakes of others, but not Verizon.
On December 29th, the day that consumers were punishing GoDaddy for what they considered to be consumer unfriendly practices, Verizon announced that they will institute a $2 convenience fee for making certain one-time payments via phone or website.
According to Verizon they were trying to encourage consumers to use other means of payment that were less expensive for the company but consumers fought back.
Customers, consumer groups, and even the Federal Communications Commission were not happy with this proposed fee which would certainly harm those who live paycheck to paycheck and can’t afford to set up automatic payment plans.
After all of the backlash, Verizon reversed its plans to institute the fee only one day later on December 30th.
Maybe the biggest economic winner of 2011 was the consumer.
You learned that when you speak, and others join with you, companies listen and react. Using social media and good old fashioned phone calls, you proved to the world and to yourself that you have more power than you thought.
The lesson here? When you aren’t happy speak up and speak loudly! When enough people affect the bottom line of a company, the company will react.
You no longer have to rely on protests in front of a business. You now have social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter to voice your outrage on.
Don’t stand by and let businesses tell you how they will spend your money. Act!
What’s to come in 2012?