Opinion: What’s in it for me?

Not long ago, I made some comments in response to an article that I saw on the Internet. The commentary was long, detailed and well-thought-out. I received the following reply a day later (I have removed identifying information).

Thank you for your note in response to our report on [removed].
May we publish it as a letter to the editor in the May issue of [removed] magazine?
If so, please send us:
–your full name. We’d publish this
–city & state where you are based–we’d also publish this
–your title & company name (optional)
–an e-mail address we can print [optional, but preferred]

I sent back a one-line reply.
“What’s in it for me?”
The reply was swift…

You caught me by surprise with that question — that’s the first time I’ve ever been asked that.
What’s in it for you? Your feedback will be shared with 125,000 other [removed] readers.

Well, whoop-de-flamin-doo, I thought to myself. I sent her a long reply, in which I made the following points:

  • I don’t need the ego-boost of seeing “my name in lights”
  • I put a lot of thought and care into my writing.
  • I don’t require large sums of money… but I am not writing for others for nothing.
  • I was once offered a job as a writer – at a 70% pay cut from what I was making.
  • Everyone on the Internet wants something for nothing.
  • Old Jewish Proverb: You pay peanuts, you get monkeys.

Sadly, and predictably, there was no reply. Apparently an hour or more of my time was worth absolutely nothing to them.

It seems that everyone wants somthing for nothing. After years of collecting information about purchases and preferences, Amazon changed their terms of service to take ownership of that information, presumably on the grounds that such information was incredibly valuable. To add insult to injury, this change of ownership was retroactive to day one, which means that suddenly all the information they had ever collected about you was theirs. You could opt out, of course… but if you did, you could not do business with them again…

It seems a universal constant that whenever technology provides a cheaper way to do business, business tries to find a way to squeeze a little more money out of it. Some examples include:

  • Compact Disks – which cost less to make than Vinyl, yet cost more to buy.
  • ATMs – banks want to charge customers for using ATMs, while cutting back on staff.
  • Wireless telephone service – charge me a $30 “connection fee” for flipping some bits? No thanks.
  • Paperless Banking/Billing – You save approximately $1/month, I get… nothing.

I am continually getting exhortations to “go paperless”. So many of the businesses I deal with wish to save the cost the hassle and the expense of preparing, printing and posting bills to me. In every case, my question is the same: “What’s in it for me?”

In almost every case, the answer is the same: Nothing.

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