Kevin Hunt: Coffee Ice Cubes At Starbucks? Ban Single-Roll TP?


Consumers, your social conscience deserves a day off. SocialPower.com, a website just emerging from beta, gives it to you: a platform to air out your consumer gripes and wishes, big or (mostly) small.

It reads, at times, like a parody from The Onion but it's actually a do-it-yourself site that invites visitors to post their desire to "resolve something." Other visitors can then click on a "Support This" tab.

"Once we see there's a critical mass of supporters," says Daniel Gleich, Social Power's president and co-founder, "we can get behind the issue and reach out to that company or corporation to try to work out a resolution."

Some of the issues:

>> Starbucks should make their ice cubes from coffee.

>> Genetically modify asparagus so it doesn't make your pee smell.

>> Girl Scout cookies should be sold in stores year-round.

>> Wines should list ingredients on labels.

>> Ticketmaster's service charges should be reduced or eliminated.

>> Supermarkets should offer all food about to expire at a 50 percent discount.

>> Companies should be required to label genetically modified organisms used to make genetically modified food.

>> Chipotle should deliver.

>> Gas stations should charge the same price, cash or credit.

>> There should be a way to break in high heels before you wear them.

>> McDonald's should serve breakfast all day.

>> Why can't someone make a quieter hair dryer?

>> Luggage tags should incorporate GPS tracking.

>> Facebook should have a "dislike" button.

The coffee-ice-cubes, believe it or not, is a favorite at SocialPower.com.

"Obviously," says Gleich, "that's a no-brainer. But there's a cost involved for Starbucks to do that. But once we get enough people to support that issue, we can circle back to them and say, 'Listen, here are some issues your customers want to see.'"

Why stop at coffee ice cubes? Another visitor wants consumers to rally behind a request for two lines at Starbucks, an express lane and a slow lane. The reason: "During the week, I am quick and direct. On a Saturday, I like to mosey."

True, restaurants often neglect the mosey factor. And shouldn't Chipotle sell nachos? And why isn't ice cream one word? (Icecream anyone?) And shouldn't amusement parks allow us to bring in our own food? Or supermarkets have refilling stations for laundry detergent?

You can support any of these movements at SocialPower.com.

"Every individual has issues with some company or corporation," says Gleich, "whether it's the supermarket or Chipotle, Starbucks or anybody like that. You can reach out to them and call their 800 number or send them an email. But you know it's going to fall on deaf ears. It's not going to get you very far. So, basically, don't bother doing that."

So maybe 1,000 consumer voices are stronger than one. SocialPower.com, which has no advertising, hopes to make money through "resolution" fees charged to companies while maintaining consumers' no-charge use of the site. Gleich is also considering group buys for natural gas and electricity.

"Just like Wal-mart gets a much lower rate than the individual that lives nearby," says Gleich, "if there's a large group maybe we can give them the better rate that Wal-mart gets and they'll pay like a commercial user."

So what's your itty-bitty consumer gripe?

Truth: The Bottom Line wants single-roll toilet paper either eliminated or restored to its former size, and stature, before Charmin introduced the ruinous "double roll" in 1994.

Starbucks will serve coffee ice cubes before that ever happens.

Talkback

Consumer Cellular has been rated the nation's top wireless carrier the past three years in Consumer Reports' reader surveys (read the TBL column at bit.ly/11LldMH). At least two TBL readers liked other no-contract plans:

"How about T-Mobile's pre-paid plan? No monthly fee. Just buy what you need at Walgreens or CVS. Unused minutes get rolled over. I don't use my basic cellphone much, mostly just when I'm traveling. And it's nice to have in case of an emergency. A $20 refill card will last me for weeks."

Ivan Robinson, Tolland

"Usually there is not one good phone plan for everyone. I recently had T-Mobile Pay-As-You-Go. When I tell people this, they usually back away, but this was actually cheaper than the bottom two Consumer Cellular plans.

"I purchased the phone, plus paid $100 for 1,000 minutes of talk time. That's 10 cents a minute.

"I had T-Mobile for about five years, was very happy and took over my wife's AT&T iPhone when she upgraded. The AT&T GoPhone is the exact same plan as T-Moble with minutes and expiration. So I ported my T-Moble cellular phone number to AT&T and I'm running a cheap iPhone on an AT&T pay-as-you-go plan. I do not have a data plan, but use the iPhone in WiFi areas for data."

Richard Bonczek, Tariffville

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