[LINK] What's in a name? Everything! [was: Smartcard mooted for federal welfare payments]

Stephen Wilson swilson at lockstep.com.au
Tue Apr 21 14:39:56 AEST 2009

Marghanita da Cruz wrote:
> Customer, Client, Consumer, Citizen...what's the difference - perhaps we could 
> just use relevant or irrelevant voter
The difference between Citizen and Customer is surely obvious, and 
non-trivial.  Customers pay for service.  Service providers treat paying 
customers differently.  The trend to label everyone as a "customer" 
could be an insidious societal propaganda program that drags us all 
unwittingly into a user-pays mind set. 

For instance, what's the underlying agenda when a patient in the public 
health system is called a "customer"? 

And why do they always call public transport passengers "customers"?  
The language makes it axiomatic that the user pays, marginalising any 
argument that perhaps we should travel on government transport for free, 
for the broader good of the community. 

And so on and so forth. 

But the most ludicrous example I've seen of misusing "customer" -- an 
instance that is so illiterate that nobody could ascribe a conspiracy 
theory to it -- came from law enforcement a few years ago.  A brochure 
from the manufacturer of fingerprinting equipment designed for the 
police said something along the lines of 'The ACME 9000 allows you to 
digitise the fingerprints of your customers more quickly ...'.

Huh? Since when are criminal suspects the "customers" of the police?  I 
thought if anyone was their "customer", it would have been me, the citizen!


Stephen Wilson

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