The Cassowary and The Sentinel

New Symbol for The Consumer Sentinel Network

When the two-wattled cassowary decides to travel, it begins by flapping its wings. However, evolution has made the wings a decorative item only. They move the air but not the bird. When flapping ends, hopping begins and the cassowary hops to where it tried to fly. The bird is the perfect the symbol for the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network.

The Consumer Sentinel Network is “Law enforcement’s source for consumer complaints”—or at least that is what the Federal Trade Commission wants consumers to think. The FTC chooses its words carefully, just as a corporate marketing campaign  is carefully managed to seem to make a promise which the organization is not prepared to keep, i.e., all flap, no hop.

Three features of The Consumer Sentinel Network stand out:

-The FTC claims over 2,000 law enforcement agencies belong. The number is inflated by inclusion of several Better Business Bureaus around the country. The BBB is not an enforcement agency. Just under 100 years ago it was created to get the advertising industry to not make foolish claims and to help negotiate resolution of consumer claims about ads. I am frequently approached by the BBB in New Jersey to join. It has no idea what I do, confuses me with a corporation, and hopes I’ll cough up a few hundred dollars for membership that includes a suitable-for-framing certificate.

-The Montclair Police Department’s Detective Bureau is one of the law enforcement agencies. One detective said that now and then he checks the sentinel for complaints filed in Montclair about matters like identity theft. But he agreed that it is an informational tool, nothing more.

-Consumers cannot register or have access to The Consumer Sentinel Network. Use of the word consumer in the title is like a calling the cassowary a bird even though its wings have not worked for several millennia.

Tomorrow’s Post: How the FTC uses The Consumer Sentinel Network.




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