The Customer Is Always Wrong

It was the dragging seen ‘round the world. A man who had paid for his seat, and already boarded, refused to remove himself to make room for an employee from a subsidiary airline of United. So the airline called in local police to “re-accommodate” him (with a broken nose, two missing teeth, and a concussion).

Yes, it was outrageous, but something else contributed to the feral howl that emanated from nearly every one of the millions who viewed the video. Who among us hasn’t felt manhandled, even assaulted, by the giant corporations who hold sway over pretty much every aspect of our lives?

For example, flying used to be fun. You had room not only for your belongings, but for your body. You were served full meals on white china bowls and plates, not six pretzels plus soda you have to pay for. Then came deregulation in the ‘80s, when airlines were released from the so-called “heavy hand of job-killing regulations,” and they went from operating as a public utility to performing as profit-making corporations whose sole aim was to extract as much money as possible from the flying public while seeing how many service cuts that same public would stand for.

Consuming used to be enjoyable. You could purchase a product and expect it to last for many years. If by chance you had a problem with the product, or a service you’d paid for, you could pick up the phone and find a human on the other line, whom you could understand perfectly. Then came the days of unfettered corporate power and the decline of union membership, when the employees who built and maintained your business came to be considered just another bottom-line expense to be “slim lined,” “downsized,” “outsourced.”

In days gone by, you could call your phone company or bank or insurance company—without pressing buttons—and find a friendly operator who would ask, “How may I direct your call?” If you weren’t sure, she would listen to your story and help you find the right person to resolve your issue.

Recall the scene from “Back To the Future,” when Marty McFly lands back in 1955 and sees a car pull into a Texaco station. Four smartly uniformed attendants rush to pump his gas, check his oil, clean his windshield, and refill his tires. When shown in theaters, audiences regularly guffawed at the scene, because even by 1985, such service was already a distant memory.

The customer these days, hamstrung by lack of competition among product and service providers, and by binding arbitration clauses in every contract from your credit cards to the software you use, has become an afterthought at best, a pigeon to be fleeced at worst.

All in the name of maximizing corporate profit.

In the aftermath of the United incident, airlines rushed to retool their policies regarding boarding, bumping, and compensation. But notice that the flurry of revisions were confined solely to that one area. Have any of them announced that they’ll reconfigure their seats to accommodate anyone larger than a child? Or that they’ll reintroduce actual meal service? Or even stop charging their passengers for pillows and blankets?

Don’t kid yourself. These new policies were put in place only partly to mollify furious flyers. They were also a preemptive strike against the reintroduction of any kind of government regulation. Which might cut into their huge profits. (As an aside, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz, is expected to receive $14 million in pay this year.)

This is why you need someone like Billshark on your side. While we may not be able to finagle room for your knees on your next flight, we can help you fight the good fight against the corporations who are out to extract every extra dollar from you that they can get away with. We know their tricks, and we can help you keep every cent possible in your own pocket.

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