A Declaration of Customer Independence

Peter Hirshberg tells me that we have a Declaration of Customer Independence already, and it’s called The Cluetrain Manifesto. Could be. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the 10th anniversary edition comes out in June.

Peter thinks what we need now is a Constitution. Could be that’s what we’re working toward with ProjectVRM.

Meanwhile I just found an old file in which I noodled an adaptation of Jefferson’s original Declaration of Independence. So I thought I’d go ahead and post it here anyway, and see what ya’ll think. Here it is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all customers are born free, that they are endowed by the market with innate abilities to relate, to converse and and to transact — on their own terms, and in their own ways. When sellers have labored long and hard to restrict those freedoms, and to ignore and insult the capacities enjoyed naturally by customers — by speaking, for example, of “targeting,” “capturing,” “acquiring,” “retaining,” “managing,” “locking in” and “owning” customers as if they were slaves  — and when sellers work to inconvenience customers to the exclusive benefit of sellers themselves, for example through “loyalty programs” that require customers to carry around cards that thicken’ wallets and slow checkout in stores, it is the right of customers to obsolete the coercive systems to which both sellers and customers have become accustomed. We will do this by providing ourselves with new tools for leveraging our native human powers, for the good of ourselves and sellers alike.

We therefore resolve to construct relationships in which customers control their own data, hold rights to metadata about themselves, express genuine loyalty at their own grace, deal in common and standard ways with all sellers and other second parties, assert fair terms and means of engagement that work in mutually constructive ways for both themselves and the other parties they engage, for the good of all.

We make this Declaration as free and independent persons, each with full agency, ready to form agreements, make choices, assert commitments, transact business, and otherwise act in the free and open environment we call The Marketplace.

To this we pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our precious attention.

I dunno. It would be fun, perhaps, to run down a long list of grievances, as did the original Declaration. Also to clean up the sylistic clash between Jefferson’s (which I copied, pasted, and edited) and my own. But I’m too busy (as are many others around here) actually building the tools we need for putting customer independence and freedom to work.

So consider this grist for our mills. And an excuse to post something after too long an absence (during which we had two excellent workshops).


  1. christopher carfi

    my original list of grievances / grievance-like-objects is here:

  2. Chris Heuer

    For too long we have had to suffer as captives of big corporations in markets with few alternatives… good statement of ideals

  3. Grace Rodriguez

    Although I agree with most of this declaration, I have to admit I enjoy some of those loyalty programs: I actually like receiving discounts in exchange for already being a fan of a company or brand. I’m not a “slave” to the company if I also choose to purchase elsewhere; but if it’s someone I already give significant business to, it would be nice to see some form of appreciation for it.

  4. Henriette Weber

    oh I just love how the anarchistic ways of the internet are starting to transcend into business – and it has to. =)

  5. Doc Searls

    Grace, I’m curious about what companies you are loyal to, through their loyalty programs. Is what works for you rewards or discounts at the time of purchase? Or something else?

  6. Master Craig

    Granted it is long (winded) but it holds a lot of truths to it. Often times sellers are overbearing to their customers and why customers continue to put up with it is mind boggling. I like the idea of giving the customers some rights, to get rid of coercive practices and have both parties live in harmony.

    An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens. quote by Thomas Jefferson, in a letter to John Melish, 813
    Seller – this refers to you not exercising power over your seller.

  7. Keith Hopper

    Your mention of “owning customers as slaves” makes me thing a reworking of the Emancipation Proclamation is next!

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