When I was a kid, I wrote a letter to Nintendo.
It wasn’t just a letter. It was a complete pamphlet full of an entire map outlining how a second Metroid could be made. Levels, secrets, new and old enemies.
The letter went into the mail and some time went by. Then, imagine this, I received a letter back from Nintendo of America.
It contained photocopied maps of Legend of Zelda, the first Mario, and Metroid. The photocopies had circles and notes all over them of where I could find secrets in those games.
They never made my version of Metroid 2, sure. But what they did was astounding. They responded. More than a “thank you for blah blah blah” kind of thing. Someone at the company made a concerted effort to show my appreciation for what they were producing was duly appreciated. I spent a bunch of time creating something that they would never use, but that showed I was the exact kid they wanted: the one asking his parents for games. The one who would grow up loyal to Nintendo, never own a Sega, a Playstation. They created a lifelong customer.
Maybe printing out those maps took 60 seconds, including the time it took to walk to the copy machine. Maybe circling some secrets, for the guys who got paid to play the games, took 5 minutes. And maybe mailing it back took five more.
In 11 minutes they helped solidify in a young boy what would be literally countless hours playing and mastering every Mario, Mario Kart and Zelda from NES to Wii. Eleven minutes for thousands of dollars in sales.
Thousands is a big number. But not that big.
Consider when you have an issue with your cell phone company. Do they rectify it? You probably pay them between $50-300 / month depending on how big your family and/or data plan is. That’s $600-$3600 a year. Or $200,000 in the latter case over a single lifetime.
My experience with cell phone companies? They could give a shit. You’re either under contract or have so little choice, only two companies if you actually want your phone to work outside of cities, that they know that even if you leave you’ll probably just be back some day.
What about your car insurance? $1000 a year if you’re a great driver. And as soon as you need some of that $60,000 you’ll pay them over your lifetime (at very conservative estimates), they raise your rates or drop you.
Now what about your bank?
Remember with your cell phone and car insurance, you’re at least getting something. Phone service, valuable for sure, peace of mind with the latter. Protection from catastrophe.
With a bank, they’re giving you very, very little. A safer place to stash your money, perhaps. But they need us. Without us, they have absolutely no product. They make trillions over and over again on us, and aside from how difficult they have made it to buy anything large without them, they give us what back?
No ATM fees? Free checking? These things are just ideas they created in the first place. Why should we have to pay them to get our money out of machines or send one piece of paper that only represents other pieces of paper?
It’s our money!
All of this works—from cell phones to big banks—because we have allowed it to. We participate.
Ma and pa, and their shops, nearly disappeared in the 90s. We fought the revolution with our dollars. We said no to Walmart. Not all of us, but enough to make a difference.
Craft beer. Local coffee shops. Handmade bicycles. These things exist and are now abundant because we all decided they matter.
We can start the revolution. No lives need to be lost. No demonstrations in the street. A little inconvenience in our lives, perhaps. Is it easier to pull through a Starbucks drive through than it is to find and walk into a local cafe? Yeah, it is. Could our lives use the additional experience? The slowing down?
You tell me. It’s your life.
Do you want to live it and live it well, or give it away, and your kids version of it and theirs, for 5 minutes of convenience a day?
Nintendo may not answer my son’s letter should he decide to send one these days. I can’t say for sure.
But big banks, cell phone companies and insurance companies definitely will not listen to your individual pleas. Still, I can guarantee you that if people keep sending letters, keep choosing, voting with their dollars, things can change.
You may not feel like you can do much, but 350 million of us can easily outnumber the less than 1% running the show.
You make the choice.