In 2005, Sony put malware on their music CDs and then illegally infected customers’ machines. I’ve not purchased a Sony product since. Their new TVs look amazing, but I’ve decided I don’t want to reward a company which behaved so despicably.
Is that sensible? 13 years later and I’m still holding a grudge. Is that healthy? It it useful?
I was reading a discussion on Microsoft aquiring GitHub – one of the commentors didn’t understand why so many people were upset by the news, saying:
The idea that some companies must be forever tainted by their misdeads in the past seems odd to me.
I’m sure there’s a company who screwed you over personally in the past – whether they messed up an important order, or overcharged you for fries – you’ve sworn never to do business with them again.
Let’s move this to a less rational, more human domain. Would you invite your childhood bully to your wedding? You see a job application from the boss who fired you, do you toss it? The kid who mugged you for your wallet wants to stay in your AirBnB, do you let them?
Humans find forgiveness hard. We have rules on punishment (prison or fines) and rules on forgiveness (parole, spent convictions) – but it doesn’t stop us from behaving in a human fashion.
How do you, personally, punish a company? How do you materialise your desire for justice?
In capitalism, the only effective protest you have is to withraw your capital.
Let me be clear; I like capitalism. I’m a landlord, investor, shareholder, and tax payer. But I’m under no illusion that it is a perfect system. It massively favours those with huge capital resources – especially when it comes to changing behaviour.
I get to choose where I spend my money. That is the essense of capitalism. I can choose the cheapest product, or I can choose the more expensive one with the longer lifespan, or I can decide based on the logo, or I can buy the thing which makes me happiest.
Giving money to bad people makes me sad. I don’t want to feel sad. So I don’t spend my money on people who test their products on animals. I withold capital from organisations which have given me poor service in the past.
Perhaps you don’t give money to an organisation which disrespects your religion. Or one which donated to a political cause you find abhorent. That’s OK too.
Perhaps Sony has learned its lesson. Perhaps Microsoft really is a friend to Open Source. Perhaps Nestle has stopped promoting its baby formula to vulnerable parents. Perhaps the leopard has changed its spots.
Perhaps not. How long would you wait to be sure?