Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Customer or Person?

Whole Council Blueprint Design”, the new Council’s outline plan, describes us (the residents) as “customers”. It may just be me, but I don’t think of myself as a customer of my local Council. A customer is someone who purchases goods and services. Wikipedia tells me the word historically derives from "custom," meaning "habit"; a customer was someone who frequented a particular shop, who made it a habit to purchase goods there, and with whom the shopkeeper had to maintain a relationship to keep his or her "custom," meaning expected purchases in the future.

The word sounds nice and inclusive, but it speaks of arrogance. “Customer” implies a commercial relationship where there is a choice of what and how to buy. The Council is a monopoly supplier of largely pre-determined services we have to have.

Institutionalising a commercial relationship with a monopoly means one side - us - will always be in a weaker position. The words the Council should be institutionalising are words like “public service” and “people”. They should be our public servants. They exist to help us. We are not their customers to accept only what they want us to accept.


Crystal Jigsaw said...

And the shopkeeper will be? It seems to be the "them" and "us" scenario. On the other hand, the customer is always right, afterall.

Crystal xx

East Anglian Tory said...

The word I use to best describe an individual's relationship with their council is "hostage"

occasional northerner said...

I suppose we ultimatley have a remote democratic choice?