Who is the real customer?

You might think you’re the customer at the supermarket, but actually supermarkets make most of their money by selling shelf space to manufacturers. They are the real customers.

You might think you’re the customer when you buy a newspaper or watch the TV, but the media make their money by delivering viewers/readers to the advertisers. The advertisers are the customers.

Who is the customer of public transport? The user, paying their fare to travel? Or given that (in this state) the private operators make the bulk of their money from government subsidies, would it be the government?

Are the customers of the health insurance companies sick people, healthy people, the hospitals/medical industry, or the government who are subsidising them?

PS. Okay this is probably painting it a little one-sided… in each case, the end consumer is an essential part of the picture.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

2 replies on “Who is the real customer?”

Don’t consultants run ‘planning workshops’ at exotic locations for companies to tell them who their customers are, so it sounds as if they’re as confused as you are ;)

I remember when I was 18 I used to think that, while there was a lot of BS in most human endeavours, business must be serious. Then I started a commerce degree and very soon realised that most of what business is about is BS, and swapped over to arts, which is a lot more serious and down-to-earth. The whole thing about customers is just so much vaseline to make us not struggle so much. As you well observe, much of the time the people are just a renewable resource. Staying with the university experience I remember once reading some university planning paper which would have been stupid were it not frightening. It made it quite clear that for the university the students were not people, not even customers, but raw materials to be turned into a product to be sold to other companies as ready-to-use human resources.

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