This is going to be a long post, but I need to address some things.
I began Twenty Four At Heart as a result of a terrible car accident I was in. Writing has helped me cope with the struggles I've gone through. It's also allowed me to look outside of my physical pain, and limitations, to find the humor in the small every day things surrounding me. For me, writing has been tremendously healing.
As dramatic as it sounds, writing is truly my oxygen. I don't know if I could have managed to get through such a hard time in my life without it.
In my short time in the blogosphere, I've intentionally avoided Internet drama to the best of my ability. I've got real-life physical challenges to deal with every day, I don't need to get caught up in blogging dramas on top of it. (And for those of you who don't live in the blogosphere, there is always plenty of drama going on.)
That being said, apparently I've unintentionally stirred up some shit this week with my post, Lately, My Life Has Been a Whirlpool. My intention, of course, was just to vent about a situation in my life (just like I vent about so many other things here on 24). I received some heated comments on my post. I also received several Tweets regarding it and some direct emails also.
Emotions ran high.
Accusations ran high.
Support ran high.
Anger ran high.
To be honest, I never expected the Whirlpool post to receive the attention it has. I didn't realize a broken washing machine would create such a fuss.
But I guess, I should have.
I've had every major appliance company imaginable on 24 since the Whirlpool post published. I've also had some of the biggest public relations companies in the world visiting.
** Waving to all the nice folks **
(Some of them are pissed off at me, I think.)
I know I have some readers who have never read any blogs other than 24. They aren't aware of the washing machine "issue" which preceded mine. For them, I will try to explain briefly.
There's a woman named Heather Armstrong who writes a very famous "mommy blog" called dooce. She has over a million followers on Twitter. A lot of bloggers love to hate her because they either a) Don't like her personality b) Disagree with her lifestyle or c) Have all sorts of jealousy issues about her success. Personally, I enjoy her humor and like to read her blog, although I don't follow it every single day. I met Heather briefly on the Dr. Phil show last summer and I thought she was very nice. (Remember? I spoke on Dr. Phil? And the back of my head became famous for five minutes or less?)
In any case, Heather had a washing machine issue awhile back (with a Maytag which is the same company as Whirlpool). When customer service repeatedly didn't handle her problem she became frustrated and sent out Tweets telling her million plus followers not to buy Maytag. Needless to say, her washer got fixed promptly.
Her situation created a controversy in the blogosphere. Some people applauded Heather for forcing a corporation to take action and be accountable for their customer service. Other people condemned her for "abusing her power."
To be honest, I didn't know much about Heather's whole situation. It just wasn't a memorable thing for me although I did remember there was some big controversy over an appliance. (On many days, I'm doing well if I get a post up on 24 and I tend to be a little oblivious to the rest of the blogosphere. Maybe that makes me self-absorbed, but more likely it has to do with the fact I'm living with intense pain and just can't deal with much else.)
Then I started getting dooce-related comments on my post. I had to google "Heather Armstrong appliance problem" and go back and read about it to get the details. That's when I found out Heather's appliance issue was ALSO with a washing machine, and ALSO with the same company since Whirlpool owns both the Whirlpool and Maytag brands.
One of my readers, Lisa, left the following comment on my Whirlpool post and also unfollowed me:
Ok seriously? Am I the only person who thinks you may be looking a gift horse in the mouth a bit? The fact is you didn't buy the extended warranty and Whirlpool doesn't HAVE to do anything. They are because you threw a hissy on Twitter and tried to pull a Dooce. The whole "I'm a blogger and you better give me special treatment" act leaves a sour taste in the mouths of people who see real need every day because of skyrocketing unemployment. You are not shy about talking about all of your financial advantages, leaving us to believe you can well afford the cost of a new machine. The rest of us would have to make the best of this very same situation. Come on.
One of my other readers then responded:
Lisa, Ok Seriously! If you or I had spent $1000 on a washing machine and it broke, I think you or I would do everything in our power to right the wrong that is a lemon! No matter what anyone makes, Whirlpool made a shitty product and it shouldn't break in 3 years. I'd yell it out over the mountain tops but heck there's the internet, baby, I'd use that and make a strong statement!
I don't mind people calling me out if I deserve it. In this case, I don't think I do. Also, Lisa was making some big assumptions about my life that really pissed me off. I replied to her:
I'm "not shy in talking about" all my financial advantages? When have I EVER talked about my finances?
Never. Not once.
I don't discuss my finances, my marriage, my family on 24.
I live NEAR an affluent area I refer to as Money Town. I don't live IN Money Town.
Your perception of my financial status is very misguided. I can't afford to buy a new washing machine every 3 1/2 years.
Even if I could, I shouldn't need to … nor should anyone else.
I think I was quite complimentary of Whirlpool's efforts to stand by their product in today's post. Do I still have a dilemma? Yes, I do. I am physically incapable of carrying laundry baskets. I have no laundromat in the vicinity of my home. I have a problem.
Does it make me an Internet bully to discuss my problems/issues/concerns on my own blog? I don't think so … that's what bloggers do EVERY DAY.
I appreciate being compared to Dooce, but I am a small blogger. I don't have anything close to her power. Also, I didn't get on Twitter (or my blog) and tell people not to buy Whirlpool OR ask for special treatment because I'm a blogger. Nonetheless, I can certainly understand why she got so frustrated that she DID shout out on twitter. There are few things as frustrating as dealing with a broken appliance which we, as moms, are very dependent on.
I did VENT on Twitter … just like everybody else does EVERY DAY about the issues going on in our lives. Is venting "throwing a hissy fit"?? Then take a look at twitter and you will see people throwing hissy fits over various issues in their lives ALL DAY LONG.
Whirlpool responded to my venting … and as I wrote in my post, I was quite impressed that they did and also with their response. I don't see anywhere in this post where I complain about Whirlpool's response to my problem or ask for "special treatment" because I'm a blogger.
On the other hand, consumers have every right to stand up for themselves and to request good customer service from the companies we purchase products from.
Another commenter wrote:
I am glad they are fixing your problem and I would be irate if an appliance broke down in 3 years! I had my last one for FIFTEEN!!! That is absurd and a quality issue that is the problem of the company. I am glad to see that they are doing something to resolve it. If everyone's washer broke down in 3 years and they just said, "Sorry, you didn't buy the warranty" as the previous poster suggested, how many do you think they would sell…not many I would think. I also think that even if you do have money, or not, is irrelevant in this issue and people need to quit hating. A customer is a customer no matter what their economic status and I expect to get a quality product when I spend my money as everyone should. Perhaps people like you and Dooce using your "voice" will make customer service better for everyone and it is certainly a good move on Whirlpool's part to correct the issue.
In a direct email, another reader wrote:
You have a strong voice in the blogosphere and although I understand your frustration, you are abusing your power by writing about your broken washing machine. When my washing machine broke, I had to call customer service lines and wait around in frustration for days. Why should you get better treatment just because you write 24?
I've read every comment, every Tweet, and every email I've received regarding my Whirlpool post. I've also thought long and hard about all of them.
When I tweeted my frustration over my washing machine I wasn't "trying to pull a Dooce" because I didn't even know the dooce/washing machine details at the time. I also wasn't trying to get special treatment. I was surprised, but pleased, when Whirlpool responded on Twitter. As I wrote in my post, I was impressed with their response. I don't think they knew at the time, I'm the author of 24 and I certainly didn't Tweet "my machine broke and I'm a blogger so you better fix it."
A decade ago a frustrated consumer might go to their local newspaper or news station with a tale of woe. Were they abusing their power by doing so?
Now, consumers use social media to voice their opinions whether they be positive or negative. Savvy companies are aware of this and have a strong social media presence.
The issue of "power" and "abusing power" is really troubling me.
Do I, a relatively small blogger, have power?
I've never thought about myself, or 24, in those terms.
I don't have millions of followers like dooce, but I do reach thousands of people.
I suppose I do have some influence/power, but – not much.
When Anthem Blue Cross changed their payment policy towards physical therapists, I lost treatment for my injuries. I blogged about it. No one accused me of "abusing my power" for writing about a situation, created by a greedy disgusting corporation, which influenced my life in a very negative way.
To me, that was a way bigger issue than a washing machine failing in three and a half years.
Why am I being accused of "abusing my power" now?
Am I irresponsible if I write about a situation/company/product in an unfavorable light? Is it irresponsible if it's my honest opinion or experience?
When I write about a book I like, or a product or business I love … and those comments are my honest opinion, no one bitches at me about abusing my power, do they?
Is it freedom of expression if my opinion or experience is positive and an abuse of power if my opinion or experience is negative?
Isn't it a positive thing, for all consumers, for us to demand our corporations stand by the products they make?
For many years, I worked as a manager for a top Fortune 500 company. Every single thing we did was about and for the customer. We wanted to keep our customers for life. When things occasionally went wrong, as things sometimes do, we did everything in our power to remedy the situation as fast as possible.
I expect the very same treatment from the companies I deal with.
I expect it, not because I'm a writer, not because I'm "powerful" (which is questionable), but because it's the right thing to do. If I think highly enough of a company to purchase their products, they should think highly enough of me, a
s their customer, to stand by the product or service they sell.
And now I'd like to hear your thoughts …
© Twenty Four At Heart