The best way to strike back at a company that mistreats consumers is to vote with your feet and withhold your business. But the second best way — and by far the most amusing – may be the annual “Worst Company in America” tournament put on by The Consumerist, a subsidiary of the highly respected Consumers Union.
This year’s contest is now down to two finalists, and as you’d expect, they are companies you love to hate: Bank of America and Electronic Arts. If you hustle you can still vote for your, uh, favorite.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people vote in the tournament, with recent “winners” including wonderful companies such as BP (hello, oil spills), Comcast (can’t get no service), AIG (bail us out!) and Countrywide Savings (we’re foreclosing). EA won last year, and has a chance to be the first company ever “honored” twice with Consumerist’s Golden Poo award.
If you’re a gamer, you already know what you need to know about EA, the publisher of SimCity and other popular titles. Not satisfied with a gross profit of 2.54 billion last year, EA has been pushing microtransactions — in-game purchases of additional content — as a way to pump up its bottom line. What’s more, EA has made it impossible to play SimCity if you’re offline, a move Consumerist called “a blatant, crippling attempt to fight piracy at the expense of consumers’ convenience or privacy.” And finally, EA is earning a reputation for shipping games before they’re ready for prime time.
EA’s defense: We’re not as bad as the company that spilled millions of barrels of oil in the Gulf, or the bank that helped blow up the economy. Seriously, that’s what EA’s COO Peter Moore said in a company blog post with the cloying headline: “We Can Do Better” Darn right you can.
Then there’s BofA. The once iconic San Francisco-based institution was purchased by the soulless NationsBank of Charlotte, North Carolina, some years ago, and has slid downhill ever since. Haven’t heard of NationsBank? That’s because the folks at Nations were smart enough to know that BofA was pretty popular so they simply changed their name.
As Consumerist noted: “It’s been almost five years since Bank of America acquired Countrywide and Merrill Lynch, and all the toxic mortgages and mortgage-backed securities that came with those deals. And every year since, BofA has been criticized by consumers, advocates, lawmakers, regulators, and everyone’s Uncle Eddie for failing to clean up that financial porta-potty.”
But there’s much, much more to dislike about BofA and I’ve got to say it has my vote. But feel free to toss that tomato at Electronic Arts. Just so long as you vote. (I’ll update this post when the “winner” is announced.)
San Francisco journalist Bill Snyder writes frequently about business and technology. His work appears regularly in CIO.com and the publications of Stanford's Graduate School of Business and the Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley. He welcomes your comments and suggestions.