It's the stuff of Hollywood movies and biblical allegories, but
every so often, the little guy, armed with just a sling and a few
stones, goes into combat against the titan and comes out on top.
Here, Minyanville profiles five real-life consumers who had the
chutzpah to take on a corporate Goliath and managed to put a mark
in the "win" column for David.
Hasan Syed Vs. British Airways
Back in April, we reported on how corporations are on
than ever before: "It's not that the
powers that be have all experienced some collective spiritual
awakening. It's not even that they've gained a newfound respect for
their customers. It's that, thanks in large part to social media,
when they screw up, we the people now have the chance to make a
big, fat, lingering stink."
Well, sometimes making a stink takes a little cash, too.
(OTCMKTS:BAIRY) lost a Chicago businessman's family's luggage en
route to Paris and refused to answer his emails, he harnessed his
Twitter account to get it back. Hasan Syed
spent more than $1,000
on promoted "Don't fly @BritishAirways" tweets targeted to 50,000
Twitter users in New York and the UK with a barrage of messages
about its "horrendous" and "pathetic" customer service.
Major media outlets picked up the story, other disgruntled
customers began commiserating, and voila -- British Airways sent
this reply: "Sorry for the delay in responding, our Twitter feed is
open 0900-1700 GMT. Please DM your baggage ref and we'll look into
With a tweet that can only end up biting him in the you-know-what,
) SVP of marketing, Marty St. George, weighed in on the story.
"Interesting; a disgruntled customer is buying a promoted tweet
slamming a brand where they had a bad experience. That's a new
Julie Miller Vs. Equifax
What do you get when a credit bureau refuses to fix serious errors
on your credit report? According to a federal jury in Oregon,
In one of the biggest judgments in legal history against a consumer
credit agency, Julie Miller successfully sued
Equifax Information Services
) for dragging its feet on correcting misinformation that ruined
her reputation and blocked her access to credit. On eight separate
occasions between 2009 and 2011, Miller tried to get Equifax to
sort out mistaken identity accounts, collection attempts, and even
a wrong birthday and Social Security number.
Given that as many as one in five people have similar mistakes in
their credit reports, only 20% of whom manage to get them
corrected, this verdict could be the push credit bureaus need to
get serious about protecting the rest of us Davids from fraud.
Heather Peters Vs. Honda
Heather Peters' case is a win-turned-not-total-loss. Lured into
purchasing a 2006
) Civic because of its 50 MPG gas mileage advertising claim, Peters
found her hybrid sedan never reached that level of fuel economy --
in fact, she saw a reduction in gas mileage after Honda performed a
software update on the car to sustain its battery life.
The former lawyer opted out of a class action settlement against
Honda that would have reaped a $200 reward and instead took the
auto giant to Small Claims Court in 2012 where she got
nearly 50 times that amount
. In his 26-page decision, a California judge cited a list of
Honda's "misleading representations" that the Civic would use
"amazingly little fuel" and awarded Peters $9,867 in damages.
Suddenly, Peters was making headlines around the country as the
consumer underdog who took on a corporate behemoth and won.
But the "victory for all Honda Civic owners," as it was called, was
soon stripped away by a Superior Court that sided with Honda's file
for an appeal and
overturned the previous judgment
While Honda may have won this particular battle, Peters started a
war that will have the car company mired in litigation for the
foreseeable future. Her DontSettleWithHonda.org website has
inspired dozens of other wronged Civic owners to pursue their own
legal fights in Small Claims Court -- a venue that bars lawyers
from participating. Now Honda is being forced to devote resources
to training non-attorney employees on how to mount a courtroom
defense and, when the automaker loses, having to lawyer up for
Personally disappointed with her ruling, Peters still doesn't
regret the lawsuit and believes it was "effective to get the news
out. It got a lot of people engaged. I am glad I did it."
800,000 Netflix Users Vs. Netflix
New consumer technology and media have certainly had their share of
growing pains. With one really bad executive decision,
) went from the darling of the DVD rental world to its biggest
villain in July 2011.
The announcement of a new fee structure would split video streaming
and DVD rental from one bundled service into two separately charged
plans, and add a
60% price hike
to the bill. The DVD-only business was named Qwikster. Well, hell
hath no fury like a scorned customer with a social media account.
The widespread bashing in the comments section of Netflix's
) page mushroomed into a mass exodus that took 800,000 subscribers
and 75% off its bottom line.
By mid-October, Netflix couldn't weather the firestorm any longer
and killed Qwikster in the crib, and returned the red envelope mail
service to its regularly priced line-up.
Jes M. Baker Vs. Abercrombie & Fitch
"A lot of people don't belong [in our clothes], and they can't
belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely."
In a moment defined by an astounding lack of forethought and PR
Abercrombie & Fitch
(ANF) head Mike Jeffries made that confession about his target
customer during a 2006
interview with Salon
. The senior citizen CEO -- whose plastic-surgery-bungled face
apparently hasn't seen the reflective side of a mirror in a few
years -- set the record straight that his image-conscious brand is
meant exclusively for "the cool and popular kids... good-looking
For the female shopper tipping the scales at anything over a size
10, Jeffries wants you to know that his brand is totally
you. The A&F clique is, like, way out of your league.
Jes M. Baker of the Militant Baker blog presented an artistic
difference of opinion on beauty ideals by posing with model John C.
Shay in a mock Abercrombie & Fitch ad campaign called
Attractive & Fat
. The slick, black-and-white photos shot in the retailer's
suggestive style created a media frenzy and turned the size 22
Baker into a spokesmodel for the full-figured woman.
Meanwhile, Abercrombie & Fitch has been finding it harder and
harder these days to get a seat at the popular table. Last month,
worse-than-expected earnings and revenue, with same-store sales
taking a double-digit nosedive during the second quarter. The cool
kids are turning their backs on the brand in favor of hipster
(URBN), Forever 21, and
(STO:HM-B) -- of which the latter two offer plus-sized fashions.
So Jeffries' company went from high school trendsetter to social
outcast -- John Hughes couldn't have written this last act better
Dmitry Agarkov Vs. Tinkoff Credit Systems
In 2008, Dmitry Agarkov of Voronezh, Russia, received a letter from
Tinkoff Credit Systems
in his mailbox. It was a credit card application form with an
agreement contract enclosed, much like the applications Americans
receive daily from
(DFS). Agarkov filled in the form and returned the signed
application, though what he sent back was not exactly the same
document the bank had sent him.
Agarkov changed some parts for his own benefit -- most notably, the
small print. He opted in for a 0% APR and no fees, and added that
the customer "is not obliged to pay any fees and charges imposed by
bank tariffs." He also changed the URL of the site where the terms
and conditions were published from
. Finally, he added a special clause that would protect him should
the bank not honor the agreement. For each unilateral change in the
terms provided in the agreement, the bank would be asked to pay the
customer (Agarkov) 3 million rubles (about $91,000), or a
cancellation fee of 6 million rubles ($182,000).
Agarkov then sent his updated agreement to the bank, and shortly
thereafter received the bank's signed and certified copy, as well
as a credit card.
Agarkov used the card for two years before the bank closed his
account. According to Tinkoff Credit Systems, Agarkov was late
paying the minimum required payments every month. In 2012, the bank
sued Agarkov for 45,000 roubles ($1,363) - an amount that included
the remaining balance, fees, and late payment charges.
Surprisingly, the court did not side with the powerful bank in this
case. It decided that the agreement Agarkov had crafted was valid,
and only required Agarkov to settle his balance of 19,000 rubles
But the squabble did not end there. Agarkov's story made headlines
around the world and was a favorite topic on social media sites.
Agarkov started proceedings to try and claim a larger settlement --
to be paid by the bank -- per the terms he had added to his
personalized contract. The bank's founder
made some unflattering comments
about his most famous client on Twitter and Agarkov threatened to
sue him again. Eventually the two parties were able to settle their
differences and call an end to the media circus. By then, Agarkov
had become a kind of folk hero.