Low Cost is Socially Responsible

Wal-Mart has the best reputation. Wal-Mart has the best reputation? Huh? Following Do the Smug Thing on Techcrunch, I found this post on do the right thing.

Interesting article in Forbes that discusses a survey in which people
were asked to nominate the most socially responsible companies…it seems
despite all the crap that is piled on Walmart…people still think (by a
big margin!) that they are the most socially responsible company out
there.
Maybe you can buy social responsibility (at least a reputation)
with bargain basement prices. (ed: emphasis and link added)

Pricing clearly play into social responsibility. Yet we do not talk about it that way. While the industrial revolution hurt many, it also enabled millions to afford a better lifestyle. From the forbes article itself

the  Reputation Institute,
which surveyed 30,000 consumers worldwide about their perceptions of
social responsibility. “But low prices are an element of social
responsibility. Consumers think, ‘They’re doing right by me.’ ”

The free global report is here but you do have to register.

As someone running a business I have noticed an entire force of consultants that call on us regularly. Offering business advice. Process development. Other big words. They look at everything and then sit down. Look at you. Have this serious look on their face. And then suggest an across the board price increase. “Ed, if you have 300 clients and you raise prices by x amount each you would have x*300. Would that help increase profits?” Ya thunk?

But what does it do to your reputation? Price increases are not a panacea. And those consultants, generally
speaking, are clueless when it comes to the online industry.

Just to be clear, I am not against price increases by themselves. Our
vendors increase our prices so yes this gets passed on at times. Yet
price increases should be avoided. A business SHOULD focus on low cost.
Focusing on value for the buyer is social responsibility.

And while I love a small government, there are clearly things that must
be regulated. Discrimination in the work place for example. In American
society the profit motive was not enough to address it. This took
regulation.

Now a prediction on the “do the right thing” site. I agree with Arrington.
It will quickly spiral into nothing but complaints. While at the same
time digg and netscape will add in better reputation management
capabilities. Why am I so sure? Well, if one angry customer tells on
average 11 people, but one happy customer tells only 1, then who has an
incentive to post on the site? Exactly. The disgruntled. Who wants to
read a bunch of pissed off people? Mostly nobody unless they themselves
are disgruntled.

Final thought; pretty savvy PR move by the reputation institute to run this survey. It got them in Forbes, right?