Kicking the sh**t out of big business

Published: Oct 29 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

It is fashionable for radicals to kick against the political establishment. The rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland, Marine Le Pen in France, Alexis Tsipras in Greece and Ben Carson in the US are symptomatic of a public disillusionment with the power-broking traditional ruling classes.

Similarly it is fashionable for journalists to kick big business. Starbucks for avoiding tax, VW for tucking-up consumers, Tesco for manipulating their suppliers into unfavourable trade terms, and FIFA (yes, FIFA is first and foremost a business) for corrupt practices.

These kicks are fashionable because they resonate. Bad behaviour which stems from the abuse of power on an industrial scale needs to be kicked and the public follow the stories with enthusiasm.

The big-ticket scandals we read about in the newspaper are mirrored in the myriad negotiations which happen every day where the there is a significant mismatch of commercial power between the parties. For example, it was revealed few weeks ago that a number of French media providers were advised that VW advertising in their publications would be in jeopardy if they reported on the current software-cheating scandal.

One incident reported to us recently was jaw dropping. Our client, an SME online fashion retailer, uses Amazon around the world as one of its distribution channels. Much of their business is ‘Sold by XXXX and Fulfilled by Amazon’, where Amazon hold stock of our client’s products in their distribution centres. Recently they received an email notice that their Fulfilment account had been suspended because of an alleged safety infringement in the way they were packaging electrical goods. Fine, except that they don’t sell electrical goods! They politely drew Amazon’s attention to this fact, to be told that the purpose of the suspension warning was to bring their attention to a new shipping scheme which Amazon were piloting. Amazon had previously written offering the scheme to our client, who had ignored the offer because they were not interested in it. So Amazon upped the ante with scare tactics. Our client had no recourse and no redress; there could be no hard words, no negotiations about compensation, no discussion about the morality of this behaviour, and no unilateral withdrawal of their business, because this distribution channel is so important to them. They were powerless to do anything except to say Thank You when the problem was resolved and move on.

Powerless except for publicity. Which we think is why blogs like this are also fashionable.

Stephen White

 


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