Informed imperative

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In a free market economy, the well-being of society depends on educated consumers.

Consumers have more power than they perhaps realize. Companies are far more dependent on consumers buying their products than the consumer is on being provided those products. Even companies providing necessities, such as clean water or medical supplies, are, at the very least, equally dependent with their consumers, as no marketing campaign can boost sales among the deceased.

If a certain service or product is unsafe or of low quality, it will theoretically either improve or fail. However, this only works in practice if consumers are informed. The leverage consumers have begins and ends with the dollar, unless they have the drive, time, funds and know-how to file a lawsuit, which, presumably, the average person does not and even those who do are not guaranteed any form of recompense.

Once enough consumers have purchased a product, the company already has their money and the product is a success. The company now has no reason to care about the quality or safety of a product.

This result can be avoided when consumers look into products they are interested in before purchasing them. Reviews are a good way to be informed, but they have to be read correctly. The best way to do so is to find professional critics and journalists with honest and reliable opinions.

One way to determine the reliability of critics is to look at reviews they have done over products that one is already familiar with and compare one’s own experiences with the claims of the reviewer.

No one is entirely free of bias and one advantage of following a particular professional is, as one grows more familiar with that critic’s work, the consumer can adjust for that critic’s biases.

Otherwise, anonymous reviews or reviews by people one isn’t familiar with can also be useful to form a consensus. If a number of people have the same problem with a product, that is probably a good reason not to buy. That said, it is important not to stop after one or two when looking at anonymous reviews.

Researching a product saves money and allows consumers to better utilize their buying power. Time spent checking reviews and looking up the company’s track record with past products is much more productive than time wasted on inferior products. Spending money wisely is not only a benefit to the individual, but also to society as a whole and it is the duty of consumers to wield their buying power responsibly.