Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Customer Is NOT Always Right!

I am not even sure how to start this. I have so much understanding of how this could happen. Well, let's just go with the facts first. It seems that when a JetBlue flight from Pittsburgh landed in New York at JFK airport on Monday afternoon, one of those dweebs that insists on getting up and taking things from the overhead compartment before the plane has stopped taxiing, insisted on getting up during the taxiing process. When asked to stop by flight attendant Steve Slater, the dweeb dropped the f bomb and the lid to the overhead bin on Mr. Slater. The lid hit Mr. Slater on the head. The f bomb hit him in the brain. (Editor's update: There seems to be some variation in when this happened. The bin lid hit may have happened at the start of the flight, with Mr. Slater having to referee between a female dweeb and a male dweeb fussing over overhead bin space, and the cussing in New York was simply the coda.) Whatever. There was at least one passenger acting like a spoiled-brat over-entitled self-absorbed asshat on JetBlue Flight 1052. Did you know that if you leave the "l" out of "flight," it becomes "fight"?

The plane by then had taxied to a stop. Mr. Slater then got on the intercom, dropped a few f bombs of his own, thanked the considerate passengers, then collected his personals, popped the emergency chute on one of the jet's doors, slid down it, ran to the terminal, grabbed the shuttle to parking, got in his car and drove to his home in Queens. One hour later, the police arrested him there.

OK, I should not be laughing, but I am, as I review the news about him that has come out this day. So many times you have these half formed asshats, running around all self absorbed and self important, wanting everything their way. As I consider this post further, I have a couple of things bouncing around in my head. 1. Herb Kelleher, the founder of Southwest Airlines, in the book Nuts, recounted times that he told unhappy customers that maybe Southwest was not the airline for them, and that they really should use another carrier. 2. There was a story, posted on MSNBC, about how ER nurses are being assaulted in greater numbers by patients in their ERs. 3. That the general comportment of people has become ruder and ruder over the years, with less and less consideration and respect for others. 4. The capacity to correct said rude behavior has become less and less. 5. Generally, people seeing the stories on line are supportive of Mr. Slater, understanding why he finally snapped.

These photos, taken from his My Space page, do not look like the photos of someone who does not like his job. Both his My Space and LinkedIn spaces appear to reflect pride in his work, which he has done since 1990. He was active on committees in the workplace as well. So what happened to cause this man to basically risk his career? Well, he did have stressors outside the workplace. His mother has ALS. His father died recently. But why is there someone acting so self-entitled, self-absorbed and spoiled that he/she/it ended up standing on Mr. Slater's very last nerve?

The accepted philosophy is that the customer is always right. That philosophy needs an update. The customer has a right to have his requests considered. The customer has a right to be treated with consideration. The customer does have a right to get what he paid for. The customer does not have the right to act like an asshat. Back in March, Dr. Edwin Leap blogged on how people behave in the ER, acting in a way they would never dare to act elsewhere. The post garnered several comments, including one that noted that some concerns would rather put up with this behavior than risk losing a customer. I think that is just wrong. Customers are not in the right when they act inappropriately, and they need to be told so. Customers that physically assault those trying to serve them need to be arrested. Customers who repeatedly abuse the people who try to serve and help them should be "fired"--and issued restraining orders to stay away if they can't act right.

Steven Slater did not do right. When you get that angry, it is best to step away. Go do a task that does not involve contacting the public. Take many, many deep breaths. Whatever it takes to step away from that line of breaking. But the idea that it is OK to push service people to this brink of losing it, well, that is not OK either. Mr. Slater is charged with felonies, and could serve 7 years in prison. My guess is this will be pleaded down. If I were the prosecutor, I would take one misdemeanor (for blowing the emergency chute inappropriately) and have him pay some amount to JetBlue. If I were JetBlue, I would take him back, perhaps suspend him for a bit, insisting on counseling, and then expose him slowly to the flying public again. That last is not likely in this litigious time. I hope Mr. Slater makes some money of his 15 minutes. If I had any I'd donate to his defense fund.

I'll end with a sign that a nurse blogger proposed should be put on the walls of every hospital--particularly the ER, but not just the ER. Maybe we need signs like this all over--not just in health care venues.


Ann T. said...

Dear The Observer,
Oh, yeah, the customer is not always right. There are a million ways to deal with this, though, and they need not take the low road.

My view of the public is that many of them expect other people to meet ALL their needs, not just the one they advertise. In retail, you are a 40 hour a week member of the servant class, and the customers frequently brought their moods in to slap you with (anger, anxiety, dissatisfaction, neurosis, marital discord, pet surgery, torn shirts, and all). But even servants have rights.

As a manager, anybody who did any of what was on your sign I booted out myself. I loved to boot them out. I did it politely, too, but it was WAY direct.

Last of all, customers are accessing Expertise--especially when it comes to medical, or law enforcement--and you can't suddenly not take that advice or screw up that system and expect to get the good out of it. You know?

Ugh. What a story.
Ann T.

Bob G. said...

Ann's right...people have this tendency to "expect", and many times, a tad too much.

Blame that on this whole "entitlement" mindset.

It's like trickle UP stupidity.
(or trickle down..depends on which way the wind's blowing)

I do know that service-based companies like to "exceed' the customer's expectations.but no one is ever THAT clairvoyant.

What Slater did might be considered "wrong" by some.
( I liked it, except for popping the emergency chute)

I think he exemplified what too many of us have been thinking for years...he just acted upon it.

I like YOUR solution to this mess, however...that would be the BEST way to handle it.

And, I would bring charges against the passenegers for causing a disturbance in the first place, too.

But to me, when I'm right, to Hades w/the "customer"...unless they prove me WRONG (first)...LOL

Very good post...and an excellent viewpoint.

Have a great day.

Mad Jack said...

Last time I had to go to the E.R. (kidney stones) the nurse wanted blood from me and was botching it. After the third try I asked her what the problem was. She started wiggling the needle around in my hand. I sat up and told her I wanted someone else. This offended the nurse and she started to argue, which I was in no shape to deal with. Lucky for me an older nurse came by and offered to help.

The problem, by the way, is that she was finding a vein but forgot to remove the constriction tie on my arm. Brilliant.

My point is that I was polite and tolerant, but rather than finding a solution the young lady persisted and refused me a different nurse. Somehow, that isn't quite right.

the observer said...

So sorry in being tardy responding to my wonderful readers! As usual, insightful and terrific comments have been received.

Mad Jack--I like your story. As a nurse I find that the majority of people who need venipuncture for an IV or blood drawn are pretty tolerant. As a nurse, I don't push that tolerance. If I encounter problems, I get another person. One has to separate the ability to get an IV in from one's self worth. Sometimes, it's just simple differences in technique--in one ER I worked in, I was the only one who seemed to be able to place an IV in one of our frequent fliers. It was just kind of weird karma.

So I thank you for going with the flow, and then, when you had had enough, politely asserting your rights.

Hope your kidney stones went away--they really hurt !

Ann T:
Yes, people's moods do influence their reactions to things. And you get those when you serve people. The note I made above--about separating your self worth from what's going on in the workplace--that applies in general to the service industry I think. You have to be a fairly secure person to not take to heart some of the flack flung your way. Excellent comment as usual.

Bob G:
Thanks for your good comment, and for reading along. Yeah, maybe he could have avoided using the chute. But then he would have had to stand there in the front of the plane with a stupid fake smile on his face! LOL!

Thanks to all, The Observer