The Customer is NEVER Right - A Nurse Practitioner's Perspective
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Now that the dust has settled and everyone has returned to their corners let’s discuss the fiasco that happened on United Airlines flight 3411 with a passenger being dragged off the aircraft by police. First, four caveats, (1) the passenger who was dragged off will sue and United will settle out of court. (2) As stated many times, I am NOT a customer service expert but instead an expert of customer complaints. The difference, I dismiss the drama and focus on the facts. A recent example, Hawaii is an island in the Pacific Ocean. Not only is that a fact in the Library of Congress but those who live in Hawaii boast about their island-style living all the time, which I agree, island living is pretty cool. The Hawaii analogy being an example for the WE victim card; WE being our group and WE can call OURSELVES “XYZ” but others, others being those outside of our group, CANNOT and more significant BETTER NOT use the same “XYZ” to address us. But I digress as that is a different topic. (3) The police were NOT United employees. (4) And, lastly, after the fact, of course, because who knew it would escalate to where it did but the entire situation could have been managed differently. However, that wasn’t the case thus why such a fiasco. Nonetheless, those other speculatory scenarios and their just as speculatory outcomes are NOT the scope of this post.
A disclaimer, about a month before the mentioned United incident I got into a heated disagreement with an American Airline ground crew. Actually, the disagreement was one-sided as the ground crew ignored me and they went about their business, which I understand as I do the same when others break into their hissy-fits, like mine, as well. That said, the reason for my baby melt-down, my carry-on bag was tagged by the ground crew for check-in after they decided my bag was too big for the overhead compartment. Again, a one-person show because despite vocally loud the ground crew had already determined my carry-on was being checked-in and was no longer a carry-on. Most significant and what matters most, as I do the same when others come unglued as I did, there was nothing I could do but get upset. Which I did. And boy oh boy was I upset! But to the ground crew’s credit, “When [others] go low. [They] go high.” Got it. But damn was I pissed!
But how could I get upset if my mantra is that the customer is NEVER right? Because to get to that physical point in my travel I had already carried on the SAME carry-on bag on three, YES three, other flights, in the SAME type of aircraft, to include the one I was attempting to board. Because of that, and me traveling frequently with the same carry-on bag, I knew the carry-on DID fit. On top of that, NOT that it matters, the bag had fit just a week before in the SAME type of aircraft just in the opposite direction. And why I knew my bag fix as it was STILL the SAME type of aircraft with the SAME overhead compartment capacity REGARDLESS it was going in the OPPOSITE direction! That’s why I was so pissed and came unglued. It did not help when I got inside the plane to find a number of spots where I could have easily fit my bag and why after everyone boarded I went to retrieve my bag but it had already been stowed away. That just made me more upset.
That said, disagreement is NOT a hate crime or a crime at ALL! Different from others, I guess, my disagreements are at that moment with that person and without intent of going any further. Is there really ANY reason to complain to anyone else for such disagreements or to hold onto those disagreements? I don’t think so but I guess I could be wrong.
That aside, in the book, I mention, and continue the same practice every time I fly, to make sure I thank the flight crew as I very much appreciate the work they do. Why am I then challenging the ground crew? The ground crew is NOT the flight crew. That’s why.
Granted, the ground crew’s work is important as well. However, the ground crew has a different mission. Not that I know but from my travels what I have noticed is that the ground crew’s mission is to get passengers onto the aircraft. That said, my problem is NOT with them getting us on the aircraft. My problem is with how that is done and what I believe is their other mission of getting the aircraft out of the gate on time. Again, don’t quote me on either as I could be wrong but that is what I have observed over years of traveling. If correct, then my disagreement with the ground crew is how they go about getting the aircraft out on time. For me, the most upsetting of those methods is tagging carry-ons for check-in as an attempt to expedite boarding. What I have noticed from my bias point of view, and I could be wrong, by them tagging the carry-ons to be checked-in the ground crew avoids time lost from passengers looking for a place to store their belonging and then storing them. How do I reach that conclusion? Again, I could be wrong, but I have seen way too much overhead compartment space that goes unused, especially when every seat on the aircraft is taken and which was the case on the mentioned flight I was returning on. But again, that is my observation and I could be wrong.
Anyhow, another reason I was upset, I have NOT checked-in my bag in the last 25 years but for less than five times and each of those times was because I was traveling with someone who was checking-in bags. That aside, I know my carry-on fits. And the ONE time it was checked in by the GROUND CREW, for the same reason despite, again, it was the same bag and once boarded there was plenty of space it would have it. But that ONE other time the ground crew decided to check-in my bag was lost for five days before it got to me. Another reason to get upset. Because not only does the bag fit both times there was plenty of space for it.
My primary reason as to why I rather NOT check-in my bag, I DO NOT want to wait for it in baggage-claim on the other side as it adds another hour or more of wasted time when I have NO reason to.
With ALL of that out of the way on to United flight 3411.
Where to begin? It is likely everyone has seen, adopted and secured a version of the story and their own verdict about United flight 3411 and there is NO way I can change those versions and/or verdict or do I intend to change. However, in order to maintain the integrity of this post only a single drama-free version can be entertained. For that purpose, the following is this post’s version.
Regardless if the flight was overbooked or not. Regardless if passengers were offered a refund or not. And regardless for what reason four passengers were asked to deplane. Three of the four passengers asked to deplane had done so, without drama, prior to one passengers being dragged off the plane by police. The rest is drama. Again, the difference between an expert of customer complaints and a customer service expert—drama-free facts.
That established, in the book, I point out that customers are ONLY aware and ONLY care about where their two feet stand, in this story where their buttock sits. Again, regardless the reason and regardless the methods to obtain the goal four passengers were asked to deplane. A practice that was NOT new in the airline industry and which I have witnessed passengers being asked to deplane for whatever reason without the drama at least 2-3 times in the past 25 years of me traveling. Thus, a precedence that has been well established for some time and likely why, as already state, three of the four passengers asked to deplane had already done so. Of course, NO one wants to get “re-accommodated” (the term used by other airlines and NOT only United) and why the airlines resort to accomplishing such however they do so, which is also irrelevant for this post.
So, what made this person special? Absolutely NOTHING! There was NOTHING that made this person special. Thus, why didn’t he deplane, like the others, on his own rather wait to be removed. Who cares!?!
The reason who cares, DRUM ROLL please, without ALL the drama or the what ifs, the passenger was wrong as he failed to comply with the order of the flight crew. Did the passenger know that failure to comply with a flight crew was a felony? Irrelevant as well. Because from my experience in court judges ALWAYS point out that ignorance of the law is NOT an excuse. Thus, knowing or not knowing the law does NOT matter. The passenger was asked to deplane and he declined. Did the defying passenger have to be removed in the manner he was removed? That is irrelevant as well and NOT the scope of this post either. Especially since the other three passengers deplaned without the drama.
That said, NO ONE is suggesting passengers, customers, patients or anyone else, like me, cannot complain as WE are only venting their frustrations, anxieties, and feelings of powerlessness. I described my own melt-down above. However, during my melt-down I made sure not to cross the line where I was interfering with the ground or flight crew or do I get others involved. That said, my life [wife] who is ALSO my conscious was with me and for who I am grateful as she always gets me to reason, although sometimes it takes longer than others but I eventually get there with her being present. But I digress again.
In the book, I compare the airline industry to healthcare a number of times and for a number of reasons. One of those reasons being the pervasiveness of inappropriate behavior in our society when in public, which is prevalent during airline travel as well.
In this excerpt from the book the above-mentioned point is highlighted, “In the New Yorker magazine, David Sedaris [a travel subject matter expert] wrote about air travel and the tendency for humans to behave at their worst on planes and in airports; ‘We’re forever blaming the airline industry for turning us into monsters. But what if this is who we truly are, and the airport’s just a forum that allows us to be our real selves, not just hateful but gloriously so?’”
That inappropriate, hateful and gloriously so behavior, which they see as normal, taken to another level not ONLY during travel but simply when away from their home, which includes while seeking medical attention. Everyday behavior they DO NOT see as being inappropriate when in public. Unfortunately, in the five-plus years since Sedaris wrote about it nothing has changed as an unrelated source published the same “gloriously so” behavior just six months ago.
All of that said, why is it that videos of passengers being inappropriate towards flight crews or from any other industry DO NOT get the same outcry? Wait. I take that back. What was I thinking? Now I have to hear critics who will pull out the victim card followed by the IDIOT-ology that “XYZ” must be held to a higher standard. How convenient? It’s ALWAYS someone else that is to be held to a higher standard but NEVER the instigator.
Video of passenger pushing pilot w/o cause…
So then, NO! I WILL NOT take it back! Because what the HELL does that mean, a higher standard? Are we NOT all cohabiting on the same planet? If so, then why one standard for some and a different standard for others? Isn’t society in constant turmoil over reaching a consensus of ALL being equal? Thus, ONE single CONSISTENT standard for all. Or is that ONLY when it is convenient or fits the narrative?
Another all too same old, same old, story. Just because your inappropriate behavior or soft jab to draw first blood missed does NOT mean I CANNOT counter-punch. And just because my counter-punch was delivered with overwhelming force you should not be upset. As your failed attempt to draw first blood is no fault of mine. And along the same lines, where is the account of what took place prior to the drama as whatever happened before ALWAYS seems to be missing?
Now, as to my mention that the police were NOT United employees.
You are at your home and you hear someone trying to break into your home. You grab the phone, hide, and call 911. The police arrive at your home and through a crack in the front doorway you express your concern. With your concern as their own the police enter the side gate and proceed to your backyard. Your dog hears the police and goes out the doggie door to the backyard, barking. The police shoot AND kill your dog.
Now your best friend and your guardian is dead. Dead no fault of her own because that is what dogs do—bark and protect us
If not her fault. Whose fault is it your best friend and guardian is now DEAD?
The police? They were ONLY there because you called them.
Your fault? After all you were the one who called the police.
It depends who you ask and their prejudice.
For those new to this blog the focus here is a continuation from the book where the same was pointed out. First, these customer service debacles are few and far in between. And second, the drama is nothing more then EXAGGERATED UNREALISTIC EMOTIONAL EXPECTATIONS. Despite more of the same as in the book NEVER a dull moment.
That said, for this specific post, more important of ALL, despite ALL the DRAMA and ALL the speculatory outcomes the United CEO stood by his employees from the onset of it all. And despite the facts were still developing the CEO DID NOT immediately side with the customer over employees as most administrators do. Most shocking, for me, despite ALL the fallout the United CEO CONTINUED to stand by his employees and publically adding, “No one will be fired.” That pronouncement despite ALL the drama being shown over and over and over and the dissection of such DRAMA by every media outlet imaginable and the public’s outcry for the CEO to step down. The CEO stood fast and stood by his own that NO ONE WILL BE FIRED.
At the end of it all, the CEO may be defiant and may not volunteer to step down but he really has no say as to whether he gets to stay or not. United’s board will make that decision. However, in my biased opinion, the CEO demonstrated a great example of testicular fortitude, which lacks in healthcare, to stand with employees. And most notable to stand with employees not after an investigation but from moments of the incident.
Again, healthcare CANNOT be compared to other industries and here is another example as to why. Because although healthcare is top heavy and saturated with managers healthcare lacks leaders and even JUST managers willing to stand with employee during such turbulence.
Another disclaimer, United Airlines along with Southwest Airlines and American Airlines are the airlines which get most on my business, like 99%, in that order of preference as well. On that note, for as long as I can recall, it is United Airlines’ CEO who addresses those working for United as coworkers and not subordinates. A relationship I always thought was more publicity hype then actual. However, now, after witnessing the loyalty to coworkers over a customer by its CEO I stand corrected.
After all the above, as far as I see it, again through my customer complaint expert prism, the ONE passenger who refused to deplane will have a difficult time explaining why to a jury of his peers. Especially, after three before him deplaned under the same orders without any drama. Yes, this passenger will sue, as the unhappy always try to find compensation for their so-called woes, even if circumstances they create, and likely the whole thing will be settled out of court. But if I were the Federal Aviation Administration I would make sure this defying passenger sees his day in court. Despite President Trump is who will be blamed for the passenger’s defying behavior.
Why should the passenger be charged for his defying behavior? Because defying a fight crew’s orders is still a felony. Drama or not! If not this passenger, because of ALL the drama surrounding the case, a new precedence is set where a flight crew’s orders could be dismissed if one creates enough drama that captures public attention and opinion.
To critics who say we should not make examples of people after such public humiliation. Why then do we point to positive examples when they occur in public? We CANNOT have it both ways or only when it fits the narrative.
Aside the CEO’s support for coworkers another reason for this post is to point out why when patients refuse to leave after discharged I leave administrators to manage those with disagreements. As I do patient care and not management of disagreements or the RECOVERY of customers or those who disagree.
Something else I point out in the book is the disservice to those who participate without the drama and this story is an excellent example of the same. Again, at the end of all of this, the passenger who was dragged off will be financially compensated for his display of drama and more significant his uncooperative behavior. I can only hope the felony does not get dismissed as well. Additionally, because of the public exposure and the “bad publicity” everyone else on United flight 3411 that day will be reimbursed for their experience as well. ALL of that despite the endpoint which is if the defying passenger had deplaned when asked none of this would have happened. NONE OF IT!
Article for Those compensated as well.
Not to mention, the ALL to common collateral damage highlighted in the book as well from these customer service debacles. What prize do the three passengers who cooperated with deplaning without the drama get? Likely NOTHING despite they were the stars of this whole ordeal. Stars because without them, plus one more, the FULL plane would NOT have departed at all. But those stars are the forgotten ones as the squeaky wheel gets ALL the attention. And in this case, those exposed will be rewarded as well despite none of them stepped forward to be a star to end the drama.

Safe travels. Just my two sense [sic].

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