I love the book and the movie, Animal Farm. Early on in the story, right after the animals take over the farm they erect a sign that states, “All Animals Are Created Equal.” I love the sentiment. By, the near end of the story, after the pigs have taken over control of the other animals, that sign changes to “All Animals Are Created Equal, Some Are More Equal Than Others.”
As many of you know, I’m a huge Southwest Airlines fan. I often opt to fly them knowing a connection is needed, than take a direct flight. Sounds crazy, I know, but that’s how much of a believer I am in their brand. It’s been well documented that they’ve really nailed customer service in the age of the real-time web. I’ve always been impressed with how fast they’ve addressed feedback.
When the Kevin Smith situation popped up a few weeks ago, I took Southwest’s side. I genuinely felt they handled the situation appropriately. In the face of tough feedback from a very popular and influential traveler, the stood their ground and didn’t bend to Kevin Smith’s pressure. As the Kevin Smith situation was blowing up, I again, couldn’t believe how quickly they were addressing the situation. From tweets, to apologies, to phone calls, to even a blog post, they were Johnny on-the-spot.
Last Thursday, March 11th, I had a very uncharacteristically negative experience with Southwest. I was flying my seemingly weekly flight from Chicago to Minneapolis. The arriving airplane that we were to use was coming from Florida. Unfortunately for me and the other flyers it was more than 2 hours late because of weather, which I never hold an airline accountable for. Look, weather problems happen and you definitely want to be safe up there in the sky. The situation got worse though. After the flight landed in Chicago, there was a maintenance problem. Apparently the forward lavatory “spilled” or “over-flowed” (both terms were used) and maintenance would need to clean things up. Again, hey, mistakes happen. And I can completely understand the need to clean up something as unsanitary as bathroom “waste.”
Well, unbeknownst to many of us sitting in the first few rows, the spill/over-flow didn’t just stay contained to the galley; it went as far as the first few rows of the plane. The carpets underneath the seats were soaked. But, you couldn’t really tell this unless you looked very closely. Unfortunately, I looked closely, far later than I should have. I had put my Timbuk2 bag that contained my laptop and some documents under the seat in front of me. That makes sense right? You always put your smaller bag underneath the seat in front of you…at least that’s what the flight attendants encourage you to do.
When we arrived in Minneapolis, 3+ hours later than scheduled, I we pretty beat. When I reached down to grab my bag, I noticed the entire bottom was soaked. The spill/over-flow had soaked through my bag, thus ruining it and the documents it contained. Thankfully, the laptop was ok. To make matters worse, you can’t wash this Timbul2 bag and there was no way I was going to keep using a “waste” soaked bag. Sorry, but that’s just not very sanitary. So, for the first time ever, I tweeted something negative about Southwest. To their credit I instantly received a direct message stating “Uh oh! I’m so sorry! I hate hearing that…what happened? Anything I can do? Feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org.” Literally within an hour of receiving it, I sent an email to the Southwest employee that explained a shortened version of the above. I proactively included my Rapid Rewards Number (I’m an A-List member) and my confirmation code for the flight. After I sent the email I sent a direct message back letting them know I sent the email, per their request.
It’s Sunday and I still haven’t received a response back. I’m bummed, but I’m not surprised. Where as Kevin Smith got a formal apology, a flight credit, a blog post and a whole lot more; I’ve gotten nothing. But, you know what? I’m ok with it. Why? Because, I’m not silly enough to think that I matter as much or more than Kevin Smith. It would be nice if I did, but I know that I don’t. Southwest has less to lose with me than they do with him. As they’re prioritizing who to respond to and how quickly, I’m sure that Adam Kmiec is further down the list than a celebrity like Kevin Smith.
If you will, “Some Animals Are More Equal.” As paying customers, we sorta need to remember that, even though it kinda sucks.