Is “Consumer” An Offensive Word?

There are better words to describe a ‘consumer,’ says noted copywriter Mark Stiltner.

Is using the word “consumer” disrespectful to describe people who buy products and services? Copywriter Mark Stiltner seems to think so. In his column in The Denver Egotist, Stiltner believes that referring to people as consumers devalues them and gives a negative connotation to the relationship between people and the companies serving them. He says people are more than just consumers; they are also creators and have an ambitious life outside of just consuming things.

Instead, he advocates using the words “customer” or “audience” which better describe and appreciate real people.

From the publication:

It is my long‐held opinion that the word “consumer” devalues people. It strips us down to the lowest common denominator and defines us by our most basic behavior. Even pond scum can consume. At a time when many of our nation’s most deadly diseases are self‐inflicted symptoms of overconsumption, the term also reinforces a negative relationship between people and the companies that serve them. That’s right, the companies are there to serve us, not the other way around. Which brings me to my next point; the term “consumer” places people squarely at the bottom of the commercial food chain. Thinking of potential customers as consumers hinders the way marketers and businesses interact with people. Because guess what? I’m not a consumer, and neither are you.

The Denver Egotist: “Consumer Is a Dirty Word”

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