Thursday, April 30, 2009

BUSINESS- Pay Me or I Won't Let You Pay Me

As French romantic novelist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr famously said, "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"- the more things change, the more they stay the same. Certainly anyone who thinks that crashing the world economy is going to change the absurdity of what passes for American business management style nowadays should keep this quote in mind. Business seems to have completely abandoned the idea of growing their profits by developing better products, providing superior customer service, or engendering customer loyalty through fairness, in favor of gaming the system and finding new ways to charge customers for simply doing their jobs in the first place. For instance, when banks started implementing ATM machines it was a win-win. Customers had greater convenience and banks saved money because maintaining an ATM was much cheaper than employing a bank teller to do the same job. So what did the banks do? They charged their customers extra for something they had been doing for free and were saving money doing differently. Brilliant! Nowadays grocery stores are in the process of weaning customers away from the idea that their checkout should be done by a store employee by implementing “self-checkout”- basically making their customers work for the privilege of buying from them. But this story has to be a new low in managerial inventiveness to get paid extra for doing what you are in business to do in the first place.

US Airways president Scott Kirby has decided that simply paying a fee for the privilege of having a change of clothes with you on a trip- something that is the airline’s business and was previously free, isn’t enough. He would also like to be paid extra for letting you pay the first fee. Yeah, you read that right. In addition to paying $15 to check your first bag and $25 to check the second one, Scott now wants you to pay $5 extra if you check your bags at the terminal. Basically an extra charge for reaching out and taking your money.

Way to go, Scott! I wonder what you plan to do as an encore. Is charging me an extra fee to pay for my ticket far behind? Or is that too much douchebaggery even for US Air?

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