By Asa Aarons
Many of you are familiar with my long running Ask Asa TV reports and my consumer column in the New York Daily News. This website is the next step in a process that can best be described as consumer empowerment.
After nearly three decades of consumer reporting, I’m still dismayed at the way consumers are treated by many of the agencies and professionals pledged to serve them. A problem is reported, and a solution may even be found. But consumers are frequently left in the dark, rarely shown how to solve their own problems, or, more importantly, how to avoid them.
The idea behind Just Ask Asa! is to change that. I want to give consumers the tools they need to become their own consumer advocates.
My wife, Noreen Seebacher, and I have organized information from thousands of our consumer stories. We’ve put together strategies and contacts people need to get the attention and consumer satisfaction they deserve. It’s an evolving and growing database that we hope to continue to build and expand.
The site includes plenty of information about how smart consumers conduct themselves: how to spot a scam, when to ask to speak to a supervisor, effective strategies to get your complaint heard. Many companies use sophisticated phone monitoring devices that evaluate a customer’s voice patterns for signs of stress and select key words. We’ll show you how to use all these things to your advantage.
We’ll also address the relationship between consumers and businesses. A few decades ago, as a young consumer reporter, it was popular to view all businesses as bad and all consumers as victims.
Most of us know better now, but there are still some consumer advocates who try to fuel this fire. Many years and thousands of stories have demonstrated conclusively that the vast majority of business owners are decent people trying to help themselves and the economy by providing a valuable product or service. On this website, we’ll acknowledge that good consumerism involves the parties on both ends of the transaction.
We’ll expose scam artists and cheaters. But we hope to be a resource for other business owners, providing valuable insight about their customers and strategies that can improve their profitability.
The website accepts advertising. During my career, I’ve tangled with news organizations that would let sponsors dictate editorial judgment. I’ve also worked closely with consumer organizations and testing labs that shunned all ads. Both approaches create insularity that does little to serve consumers.
Real consumerism walks arm and arm with the free market.
While the site accepts ads, it will also write and report on all product s and services, regardless of advertising status. If a dubious advertiser sneaks through our filters, don’t be surprised if it lands next to an article that warns consumers to stay away from it.
I’m excited about having an open forum to help consumers. Television limits reporters to a couple minutes of airtime. In newspapers and magazines, word count rules. Here, on the website, we’ll take the time and the space to give people all the information they deserve.