Griping Online Gets Noticed


The Toronto Star’s Kurt Kleiner looks at the increase use of “gripe” sites by consumers looking to get revenge or results.

After reviewing common factors among consumer complaints online, they noticed a common pattern…

First, like any good protest organizer would, the complainers painted themselves as the victim of a grave injustice and the champions of the little guy against a more powerful opponent. Next, they elicited similar testimonials from their readers and used those testimonials to create an all-important sense of solidarity.

They also dramatized and even exaggerated the harm they had suffered, and stereotyped their corporate enemies, painting them as not only rude or uncaring, but also as evil. Finally, they called on readers to take collective action against the company.

I told Kleiner that online consumer complaints have been gaining traction for months now, but companies at the sharp-end are only just starting to react.

“We’re only beginning to see companies realize these conversations are going on and they need to react to them. More and more companies are coming to me looking for advice on how to handle that,” says Andy Beal, a Raleigh, N.C., marketing consultant who tracks online complaints for corporate clients.