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‘Corporateering’ and how corporate power steals your personal freedom

Pasadena Weekly

“Corporateer: cor-po-ra-teer v. to prioritize commerce over culture n. One who prioritizes commerce over culture.”

Jamie Court has just published his book about corporations and how they’ve managed in the past three decades to hijack culture and most Americans’ idea of what business is and should be. “Corporateering: How Corporate Power Steals Your Personal Freedom ‘ And What You Can Do About It,” is a book that goes on my summer reading recommendation list.

I’m on the board of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, the organization where Court is executive director. But I would never recommend his book unless I thought that it is fantastic. Phew. It is.

Page after page, Court lays out just how persistently many of our corporations have insinuated themselves into our daily lives and make business more important than people, including kids. He goes into deeply serious issues concerning misappropriation of identity and privacy, unethical use of medical records and perversion of the Bill of Rights, among other heady issues.

But for our daily lives, he describes the chipping away of culture. Look at your typical day: you wake up to corporate logos on clothing, ad cookies on the net, the kids go schools “sponsored” by a corporation, we’re bombarded by billboards, calls during dinner, you know the litany. The “ad” in ad nauseum takes on a new meaning.

And then, if you have a problem with a corporation, you spend precious time on the phone, attempting to correct a mistake that is handled by someone who treats you like you’re the problem.

Just yesterday, I followed up a “missing” T-Mobile phone rebate. They contacted me last December that my $89 rebate had been “approved.” I still haven’t received it. I called and was on hold for a LONG time. Finally, after going through my information for a third time, the operator told me that my numbers did not match their records and the rebate had expired. I wonder how I got their announcement that my rebate had been “approved.” Somehow they just couldn’t manage to get me my check. I’d say that there’s pretty clear evidence that the mistake was theirs.

Would I get my rebate? Probably not, “It’s run out,” the hapless employee told me. But it’s not my fault, I told him. Well, we don’t know, says he. I felt like I was in some kind of weird dream. After a half-hour of wrangling, he finally agreed that he would speak to his supervisor. I then asked when he would let me know the result. Oh, that’s impossible, he said. He’s not allowed to make outgoing calls. So now, I need to spend at least another hour of my time and most likely be told that, “The rebate has elapsed.” By the way, I know at least one other person who has had trouble getting their T-Mobile rebate and all I hear is complaints about their service. Class-action suit, anyone?

How many times have you declined to pick up the phone to follow-up something because you dreaded the voice-mail hell or disempowered employee that you knew you’d encounter? You’ve been corporateered!

Have you ever asked to use a restroom in a chain store and been told that it’s corporate policy to not allow customer access? If so, you’ve just seen corporateering at its most petty. The restroom example is my own, not Mr. Court’s. Being allowed to use a bathroom is the most basic standard of neighborliness. I now avoid shopping at places that won’t let customers use the “facilities.” That’s my individual “policy.”

I stopped subscribing to Pacific Bell voice mail services when they informed me that I had to pay an extra fee, PER MONTH!, simply to change the number of rings on my incoming calls. Corporateering! Charge for everything you possibly can! I use an old fashioned answering machine instead.

Next time your fifth-grade daughter, granddaughter or niece asks if her butt is too big, you can say, “No, sweetheart, you’ve simply been corporateered.”

I began this column with Court’s definition of “Corporateer” to support his mission to make “corporateer” a part of our vocabulary. He very correctly identifies that one of the most powerful things we can do to create change is to have language for the thing we must transform. Use it when you see it. It will probably become a word you use far too often for your taste.

The next thing to do is get out there and buy this book. It’s both infuriating and empowering, a powerful combination. Have the young people in your lives read it, too.
Visit: for lots of citizen empowerment.
Ellen Snortland teaches a writing workshop in Altadena. If you have had any trouble with T-Mobile, she is interested in hearing your story. Email her at [email protected].

Consumer Watchdog
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