"They Don't Owe Us Anything..." Or Do They?

On these boards, I’ve seen quite a few people say they wish Lego (or some other company) would do this or that thing, only to get shot down with “They don’t owe us anything.”

But is that so? Well, yes…but in some ways, no.

We all know how it works: the company manufactures and distributes the products, and the consumer buys the products and expresses their opinions on it via written or video reviews. It’s a practice that’s been going on for decades. Sometimes the consumers’ feedback can affect the company’s decisions, and other times, the company just does whatever it wants.

I feel I should note that the people who run the companies are not gods; they are human beings, just like us. They cannot force us to buy, or like, or endorse their products. They have no authority over us as human beings. But at the same time, the consumers aren’t gods, either. They cannot coerce the company into manufacturing the exact product that they want. The only exceptions are companies that offer custom jobs, such as Build-A-Bear or car dealerships that offer custom paint jobs. But even then, they often have limitations on what they can give you.

However, the way companies stay afloat is by getting revenue from selling their products. That is the role consumers play. They pay money for the company’s products, and that money helps support the company. But, again, the company can’t force the consumer to do that. It is all up to the consumer, what they want to support. So, in a way, when a consumer supports a company by buying their product, they are doing the company a service. And when the consumers form a fandom and keep the community moving even after the product has ceased production, some might even say that’s doing the company good, too, showing their appreciation for the product.

Of course, the reason companies exist is to make money for the people that run them, not to please every person on the face of the Earth. But in many cases, when a company rolls out a really good product, they do end up pleasing a lot of people. That is reason for the consumer to show appreciation for the company. And, when the consumer spends money on the company’s product and supports the company, they are doing the company a favor as well.

Therefore, it stands to reason that the company should show appreciation as well. But you know what? In many cases, they do. Authors like J. K. Rowling and Rick Riordan have thanked their fans for reading their works and helping them reach the level of success that they have attained. After Avengers: Infinity War was released and broke box-office records, Kevin Feige posted a message thanking the Marvel fans for making this happen. When the ninth Fast And Furious movie was delayed to 2021, Universal released a message thanking the fans for understanding their decision. When the much-anticipated Incredibles sequel was released, Pixar put out a video message from the filmmakers and cast members that played before the movie. The message thanked the fans for being patient and waiting for the people at Pixar for getting the sequel just right. And, of course, as you’ve probably been expecting me to bring up, there’s the case with Lego and Bionicle. Years after G1 was cancelled, Bionicle fans continued to make MOCs and write fanfictions and petition Lego to bring Bionicle back. And you know what? Lego did bring Bionicle back! Greg Farshtey even said that the Bionicle fanbase should be proud of accomplishing their goal. And when they had to cancel it again, they took the uncommon step of releasing a message saying that they were cancelling it, and that they were sorry they had to do so. But even to this day, we still get Bionicle references from time to time (Hidden Side, anyone?).

In the long run, companies do owe the consumer some degree of appreciation. But in all the cases I mentioned above, and many more, the companies did show their appreciation. Us consumers know that the company appreciates our support, and that they’ll keep making more products for us if we continue to support them. So, in a way, the people who constantly say “they don’t owe us anything” are right, because we’ve already gotten what we deserve.

I guess I’d agree. I don’t really think the community “deserves” any sort of gratification or thanks though - I feel like every positive comment is balanced out by a hateful and negative one.

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Interesting… I’d kinda agree, but I think when people say that they don’t owe us anything I don’t think they’re being this deep. So I feel like you’re kinda just saying something that if they thought about it, most people here would come to a similar conclusion.

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I think companies owe consumers the same amount of appreciation that consumers owe the company for existing.
It’s a circular relationship

Without demand, there is no supply. But when there’s no supply, the demand begins to dwindle.
No consumer equals no company. But no company equals no consumer.

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I definitely don’t think companies owe consumers anything in 99.9% of cases. You pay money, and you get your product. If you pay for something and don’t get a product, sure, the company owes you. In the case of Bionicle and Lego, we got what we paid for. It’s not like we’re still sinking money into Lego on some promise we’ll get Bionicle back.

The thing that I see pop up repeatedly when it comes to this mentality of “Lego owes us___” is it usually comes into play when people talk about Lego “disrespecting” Bionicle, “the line that saved the company.”

The fact is that I’ve trawled through what reports Lego is willing to put out there (there’s not a lot) and outside anecdotal evidence about internal conversations where Lego execs “say” Bionicle saved the company, I can’t actually find any evidence that points to that being the case. Bionicle certainly contributed to pulling Lego from the brink, but then so did Lego Star Wars.

Interestingly enough there are plenty of scholarly resources basically talking about exactly what you’ve brought up - whether or not companies owe their consumers any loyalty and to what extent. The takeaways differ depending on the article/paper but overwhelmingly it’s a circular feedback system - We purchase products that Lego creates. Without one, there can’t be the other. However, the product came first, and Lego doesn’t owe us more Bionicle any more than Microsoft owes us Xbox 360’s or Windows XP. Offerings change, c’est la vie.

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Didn’t the massive royalties LEGO had to pay for Star Wars basically bring their profits back to square one?

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No Idea - Lego doesnt release financial reports. Least, not incredibly useful ones.