I have an idea for making lots of money but I'm too lazy and frightened to do it myself.  The idea is to become a consumer advocate against a confusopoly. A confusopoly is any group of companies in a particular industry that intentionally confuses customers about their pricing plans and products. Confusopolies do this so customers don't know which one of them is offering the best value. That way every company gets a fair share of the confused customers and the industry doesn't need to compete on price. The classic examples of confusopolies are phone companies, insurance companies, and banks.

To get things rolling, you pick a confusopoly to target and you build a web page explaining the problem. Then you collect signatures of support. and demand legislation to standardize how prices are presented to customers.  Then you wait for the lawyers and lobbyists from your targeted industry to pay you to go away.

It seems entirely legal to lobby the government for regulatory reform. And I'm not aware of any law preventing companies from paying you to leave an issue alone. Perhaps they'd need to do it in some sort of stealth manner, just for PR purposes. I could imagine, for example, that one of the companies would offer you a job trying to organize a simpler pricing scheme, which is exactly what you're asking for. You'd work for a few years, get no cooperation from anyone in the company, fail miserably at your task, and collect a big paycheck. If you work from home, the failing will be far more efficient, requiring no more than a few emails and some unreturned phone calls. You could do the whole thing in your pajamas, start to finish.

As always, I don't recommend taking advice on anything important from cartoonists.

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+13 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2011
Has anyone chimed in with, "Simpsons did it," yet? In "Homer's Odyssey," Homer loses his job at the nuclear plant then becomes a safety advocate in the community. Realizing the nuclear plant is the biggest safety hazard in the town he lobbies against Burns, who finally offers him a job as the safety inspector. For the past 21 years he's been collecting a paycheck for eating donuts, taking naps, and drinking beer. I see zero flaws in this plan.
Apr 6, 2011
I'd guess it could work once, after that you lose credibility and are no longer a legitimate threat to whichever confusopoly your are targeting. So if you're gonna do it, do it big.
Apr 6, 2011
bookeater is right about the patent thing. Rather than starting a company to get other companies to pay you off, patent the idea, then sue the companies that start doing it. Although drug companies already pay off other drug companies to not make generic medicines, so there's some prior art out there.
Apr 6, 2011
If you're going to do the cell phone market, be sure to really wake people up by including how pricing is done in Europe. And of course, a full definition of "unlimited" is worth a cartoon or two...
Apr 6, 2011
Though the companies are much smaller than your examples, I recommend someone (-else, I'm too lazy) question Mattress companies. Other than the elite (read - patented products) ones, they all advertise to beat each other's prices, but somehow don't carry competitive products.

Go get 'em!
Apr 6, 2011
Of course it's "legal." Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have been doing this for years. Give them (or their "churches") money or they'll bus in the protestors.
Apr 6, 2011
Thanks for the idea!
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
Apr 6, 2011
Instead of hoping for the companies to pay you to keep quiet, (there's a good chance that they'll just try and make your life a living hell) why don't you just make the site useful enough that people will actually visit it before going shopping? Then you will be able to generate enough consumer traffic to justify advertising your site and you can continually make honest money instead of a one-time lump sum bribe.
Apr 6, 2011
I'm pretty sure if you check, you'll find that extortion is illegal. Lots of people get away with it though when it's disguised as advocacy.
Apr 6, 2011
Great idea! You might be interested in a paper of mine with Robert Sugden exploring your ideas. In short, we think that as long as consumers like simple choices, the situation *should* right itself... though obviously, that is only the theory ;-)

I have a blog post about our paper, illustrated by one of your cartoons:


The idea you had about firms colluding to keep prices confusing is very interesting, and not really taken into account in our model. Maybe something for us to work on!
Apr 6, 2011
The only reason this doesn't happen is because there is no Dogberts in the world.
He has an unique mix of brains, guts and contempt for mankind.
As you can see I'm a big fan of his... :)

Apr 6, 2011
More helpful would be to start a website that clearly explains their pricing, keeps up with the latest products and contracts and not only compares rates between companies but across region and state lines. A legal team would be necessary as well as web design, but it's possible that the company could be funded by government grants/donations. Possibly companies with the best plans would compete for advertising on the site.

But it would also be less funny, so I can see why you went the other way.

(Can you patent a business plan? I'm a graphic designer, all I know is copy-write law and how to ring up a cheesburger)
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