AS PUBLISHED IN THE FRIDAY TIMES
In the hype created by the corporate world the term ‘ the customer is god’ strikes most people as something out of a fairy tale. The corporate sector has blossomed over the past years. The telecom sector, in particular, has grown massively, providing ease in communication. But then again, quite often, use and abuse go hand in hand, I would say it has also revamped the patterns of stalking. At first, we only had to put up with missed calls, now cheeky text messages are the ‘in’ thing. With cost-effective text messaging, this stalking and scamming seem to be taking a new toll. Telecom industries have only gone as far as offering to block a few numbers – only calls and not text messages. The extreme lack of help from the corporate sector leaves one with no other choice but to take matters into one’s own hands. Let us not get wrong ideas now shall we, I was only implying to endless brainstorming to trace down ways one’s number could have landed into the hands of a stalker.
One such successful attempt was recently made by my friend. The series of never ending text messages were traced back to a home delivery call to a restaurant. The restaurant in question was a multinational food chain where a friend had called to place an order. Text messages proceeded right after. Our long drawn suspicion was confirmed after verifying the stalker’s inability to spell my friend’s name correctly with an identical mistake on the printed bill. Apart from being a Sherlock-Holmes-like venture, this incident also made us think about the ways in which we trust these organizations with our personal information. Regardless of how necessary providing this information might be, we must always practice our right to ensure that none of our information will be misused.
It so happens that this is not a one of a kind incident of incompetence and negligence. Even after lodging complaints, companies are hell bent on defending their employees,which eventually comes down to their reputation. These incidents range from mobile scams to stalking to even more serious issues. Some of these issues we do not really get to hear about very often. It is the norm with organizations to give highest priority to their reputation and to make sure they have minimum liability with regard to the damage done.
The recent tragedy of a 32 year old man, Saad Khan, losing his life in an accident while shooting a reality show is one such example. It triggered a debate over corporate liability, demonizing the corporate world and suggesting an all out ban of the company’s products. Unilever and Mindshare were involved in the sponsorship of the show along with other vendors. As soon as the news broke out, the company was accused of pressurizing the media and repressing protests. In their defense, Unilever claimed that it was an accident and that security measures had been put in place. Further investigation revealed that the cause of death was drowning and that there was a choice of using life jackets. While a full scale debate has exploded questioning why wearing life jackets had not been made mandatory, my concern seems to linger on the other side. The fact that Saad chose not to wear the life jacket shows that he did not consider it of much importance. Of course he was unaware of the possibility of an accident. But even the water was too murky for the rescue team to be of any help.
The words from someone who claims to be an eye witness ring in my head: ‘we thought every possible security measure had been taken. After all media giants were involved’. Saad lost his life and left a widow and four kids. Blaming will not make things any better.
However, the family deserves to know the circumstances of his death. As talks continue between the family and the company there is still a lot of public unrest, with cyberspace buzzing with the debate. This calls for greater caution on our part, to calm down and think. The circumstances surrounding Saad’s death could happen to any of us, considering how blindly we trust organizations on the basis of their names. Meanwhile, family, friends and sympathizers of Saad continue to raise questions and arrange vigils in his memory. However, there is a lot more to learn from this incident than blaming the soulless corporate world. Most importantly,we need to realize the fact that both sides have their share of irresponsibility. To give an organization the leverage over your personal life – especially to such an extent – is definitely not an appropriate choice. We must stop considering the corporate world as god-like. It is, in fact, run by humans and therefore has a significant margin of error which, in this case, has proven to be fatal.
At this point the circumstances leading to Saad’s death are still unclear. Speculations continue while the family is still in mourning for an irreparable loss. I am afraid that there might never be a clear explanation of what happened, though this should not stop us from continuing to ask. These questions should not only pertain to the liabilities of the organization but also raise awareness among us for introspection and for exercising caution. These issues of liability cover the whole range; from the most petty to the most grave, all of them unattended. The questioning should begin from the very start. These incidents of negligence, whether big or small, should not go unattended.
When the dust settles we realize that it is all about us in the end. We cannot deny the negligence from various organizations that spans from the small to the gravest incidents, but we must not neglect self-preservation too. In the end, it all comes down to how much we are willing to trust someone. The corporate world should know better than to dismiss the trust invested by its consumers. Similarly, these incidents should teach us a lot more about the rights of consumers and how simple precautions can help us avoid problems and that it is our right to raise queries and get our doubts clarified. As a consumer it is our right to know exactly what we are engaging in.
It is ironic how these incidents interpose in our lives at so many levels and still do not get the kind of concerted response that is required. Whether the incident is big or small, there is no excuse for unaccountability; this is, in fact, something we must not allow under any circumstances. The ‘god-like’ stature of these behemoth corporations in our lives should be put to debate. We must analyze and weigh our options and highlight the extent of the role of these corporations in our daily lives.