It is 8:30am, and I am sitting in the Business Class section of a 7:30 am American Airlines flight to Miami. I was delighted to learn there is onboard wifi/internet. It will a race to see if this iBook G4 battery dies before the “all electronic device must be stowed” announcement is made.

A few years ago, my firm required lots of travel, and so I flied Jet Blue as much as possible. New planes, good crews, timely service and reasonable fares were only part of the appeal. To an easily bored and restless person (like me) the kicker was the onboard entertainment — 50 channels of TV plus 4 movies to choose from. It made the chore of traveling much more tolerable.

Then something funny happened: We were combining a business trip to California (Santa Rosa, North of San Francisco) with a pleasure trip thru the vineyards of Sonoma and Napa. The onboard movie was Sideways –perfect for our jaunt thru wine country. We hadn’t seen it yet, saw the great reviews, and were looking forward to it.

Then came the line — F%&king Merlot! — that sent Merlot sales down by 40% for the next few years.

Only that wasn’t the line we heard on Jet Blue: Instead, it was “Friggin Merlot.”

I was aghast — it ruined the film. You are left wondering what else was cut out, how much you missed. As soon as we landed, I fired up Amazon, and ordered a 9″ Panasonic portable DVD player.

I still don’t understand the editing of the movie, nor have I ever heard a good explanation why this is done: Its an R-Rated film, that only adults can order with their credit cards. Its on a seatback, its heard thru headphones, why mess up the seminal line of the film? What was the point of this artistic blasphemy?

~~~

But here’s the interesting corporate aspect: I still fly a lot — but not nearly as much as I used to with Jet Blue.

I have both the laptop and the DVD player. I brought a few movies, the first season of Entourage, and the Best of Larry Sanders.

Its weird, but with that inexplicable film edit, Jet Blue lost their competitive advantage as a carrier for me

I wonder: What other bonehead corporate moves have cost firms revenue and sales by alienating their key customers? Are they explainable, defendable, even rational?

Category: Corporate Management, Travel, Weblogs

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

56 Responses to “Winging South (but not on Jet Blue)”

  1. TraderMD says:

    LOL. That’s great. Just “friggin great!”

  2. MorticiaA says:

    New Coke jumps to mind. Plenty of other empirical evidence that I just can’t think of right now. I’ll stay tuned for what others have to say.

  3. flipspiceland says:

    Murphy: Everyone is promoted to his/her level of incompetence.

    ALL human institutions will eventually fail because of this single law. Even the great Warren Buffet.

    How could it be otherwise? The jury is still out on whether or not we descended from apes or apes are an advanced evolutionary species, a level above us, to which we humans will ascend.

  4. webmartians says:

    Toyota – a web site that offers you the opportunity to “Build Your Own Toyota” and then restricts the options to what’s available ON THE LOT at dealers in your area. (sigh)

    …just “F%&king Great!”

  5. deanscamaro says:

    Wow! That’s friggin great. One of the big problems we middle class serfs have to deal with. Pardon me while I go try and find some economic news.

  6. jonr says:

    How about U.S. Airways spending $10MM to un-install all of their video equipment / on-board entertainment on domestic flights in an effort to reduce fuel costs by lowering the weight.

    You’ll notice it the next time you fly cross country on a U.S. Airways flight . . . and pay $2 for a bottle of water / soda. A bad airlines gets worse . . .

  7. Hal says:

    Air Travel has replaced Greyhound due to the pricing structure which is still cheap. Consequently (and I am sure heavy business travelers understand this) you feel like you are on a bus on most flights. Something we have to endure.

    People avoid the fee to check baggage and bring on board massive heavy bags that some cannot even lift to put in overhead. You get small groups who think they have to scream to each other to be heard during the flight. I trust we will not allow tele use while in flight. American has priority boarding–but somehow when they start to board the entire gate area population descends on the ticket agent.

    The point is that travel is exhausting in itself without all the stuff that does not need to happen. The winning airline will figure out a way around that so its frequent fliers do not wish they had the private jets that the auto makers are selling (which IMO was a big mistake-the wimps should have groweled back at congress that the jets wil not make or break the autos–execution of a great business plan is what is important.

  8. phb says:

    poor quality domestic autos…closing my favorite Starbucks location…overcrowded Disney…atm fees…are but just a few consumer examples of boneheaded moves that alienated me from a few businesses.

  9. theqspeaks says:

    On the flip side, Virgin America shows unedited films. And not just language. I’m talking all the nudity and sex scenes from Forgetting Sarah Marshall. I’ll be honest, I was a bit embarrassed to be sitting in an aisle seat watching that. Even so, the fact I can see the actual movie instead of some bastardized version of it makes Virgin America my top airline choice. Virgin has out Jet Blue’d Jet Blue.

  10. Patrick Neid says:

    picky, picky, picky !

  11. CharlesHarris says:

    That’s also my pet peeve.

    It seems small, but something about the idea of some underpaid temp choosing what part of a movie that it took years and thousands of people to make I can watch utterly disgusts me.

  12. gms777 says:

    Watched part of “Casino” on some cable channel a few days ago.

    Bloody murders, dead bodies, drug freakouts, James Woods and all sorts of nastiness…but not a curse word.

  13. awilensky says:

    Friggin ibook G4, Barry? You can play freakin’ DVD’s on the New Macbooks.

  14. Here’s my example of stupid business moves: When my stupid local bank got bought by Royal Bank of Canada and changed all my account numbers, required that I get new checks, and mandated a one-hour training session before I would be allowed to continue to access my accounts via the internet through their crappy server. I didn’t change, the bank did, but I was the one paying the price. And my accounts, since I do real estate closings, generally has a ton of money in it (almost none of it mine, but still, they get the interest for holding the funds until disbursement).

    Incidentally, for future flights, get a boxed set of Coen brothers DVD’s. I got one for Christmas. The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, etc, and especially, No Country for Old Men.

    Next time someone screws you over, take out a quarter and flip it in the air and tell the guy to call it. If he’s seen No Country he’s likely to shit his pants. Especially if you’re carrying an oxygen tank with a strange apparatus attached to it.

  15. wnsrfr says:

    Circuit City firing its most senior employees because they were too highly paid. Now THAT is giving the corporate finger to your customers.

  16. awilensky says:

    I like a small, ultra compact tank of Nitrous. with the proper adapters and fittings, I can take a lungful, or attach it to my car’s intake manifold. Therefore, in stressful situations I can get relief and make a fast getaway.

  17. fravolous says:

    I used to have XM in the car, until in November, when they made a number of changes. Under the new programming, when I started the car it would not start up with the station I’d had tuned, instead it would usually be tuned to XM preview, a self advert channel; noise and yammering instead of music.

  18. Brendan says:

    Sprint wouldn’t reimburse me $0.30 for a three spam text messages that slipped through their messaging service a little over 4 years ago. A few weeks later, when my contract ran up, I switched to Verizon (hadn’t planned to prior to the stupid charge), and just signed up for my third two year contract with them about a month ago. I understand that people try to use the system, but losing a customer over a few dimes (of pure profit, no less) is just ridiculous. After four years of faithfully paying my bill on time and never sending a single text message, did Sprint really think I was trying to “steal” their text messaging service?

    Speaking of airlines, about a year ago U.S. Airways bumped me 2 1/2 hours to the next flight to Seattle because I was only at the ticket counter 43 minutes prior to departure, not the required 45 for checked baggage (yes, I was literally two minutes late). Rules are rules, I guess, but seriously. Charging $2 for water is OK on Alliegiant Air, but for a major carrier, it’s just getting out of hand, even if their ticket prices are $2 lower (compare ticket prices, many times they actually are the $2 lower). Again, I understand the need to limit hand-outs, but there’s also such thing as good customer service. If I get free water and coffee while I wait 2 minutes for a rental car, I think it’s reasonable to expect free water when I sit in a plane for 2 hours. A buck for a can of soda, five for a stiff drink and free water seems just reasonable. Alaska has been getting most of my business lately. On a connecting flight from Portland to Seattle, Horizon (Alaska) gave my girlfriend and me (and anyone on the flight who wanted it) a free glass of wine. Makes me want to fly with them again, and have several times. But what do I know, I’m just the stupid customer!?

  19. I-Man says:

    “Fu*@ing Jet Blue!!!”

  20. edhopper says:

    Chase Cards. I remove cookies often and only accept a few from sites that I need. (don’t like being tracked) Because of this Chase does not recognize my computer when I log in. It asks me to log in, then sends an activation code to my email, I must then retrieve the code from my email, log in again, put in the code and then, yes, log in again. And if the log in process is interrupted (happens often with “time outs” and such) I must repeat the whole process.
    I no longer use my Chase Card.

  21. me says:

    Comcast. I had the premium package with all the movie channels. Then last year they raised the price. I looked at the bill and saw I never watch Starz, Cinemax or TMC so I called to make a change. I was assured that my $20 a month loyalty credit would be in tact, my two movie channels were HBO and Showtime.

    So no, you downgraded your plan so you lose the $20 a month credit and if you want Showtime it is $15 a month extra.

    This year the bill is going up about 10 bucks and I get a notice that they hope I enjoyed my DVR the last several years but it would now be $15 a month additional.

    So after calling last year to lower my bill, I now have way less service for more than I was paying last year.

    Well, not really. The high speed Internet and phone only are $54 a month. So I ask myself, do you watch $5 of Comcast cable TV a day, every day? Answer no, very little with Netfllx and now that football is over.

    So after the Big Game I am cancelling my cable TV altogether. So much for years of being a loyal Comcast triple-play subscriber.

  22. DM RTA says:

    If you can be that irrational about a purchasing decision choosing an airline (I’ve caught myself doing the same stuff) , just imagine how skewed your “rationalized perspective” is when buying securities?

    ~~~
    BR: I don’t think its irrational !

    The company’s behavior annoyed me (and I only watch unedited flix). So once the major reason for using them left, I feel left compelled to use them.

  23. flyingbrick says:

    I have a similar reaction to a censored version of the classic song, “Brown Eyed Girl,” by Van Morrison. When the “Best of Van Morrison” CD was released in 1990, some prude at the record label saw fit to overdub the line “Making love in the green grass” with “Laughing and a-running, hey hey” from an earlier verse. Sometimes I’ll hear that version on the radio and it always makes me want to find that prude and punch them.

  24. pmorrisonfl says:

    My two anti-favorites for boneheaded corporate moves are Bellsouth (now in the AT&T fold), and Dell.

    My wife bought a PC from Dell in ~2002. Its hard-drive crashed hard in 2003, and I spent ~2 hours on the phone with India diagnosing that it needed to be replaced. A tech showed up, dropped a new drive in, apologized for not being able to recover the old disk, and we went on our merry ways. Nothing unusual there, that’s just life. But when the exact same crash happened in 2004 and again in 2005, all for a machine that’s not on the ‘net, I asked them to replace the motherboard or replace the machine. It seems logical to me that there’s something beyond the hard drive going on, but their customer service policies of the time prevented them from taking another course of action. If I kept playing their game, I’d still be on the phone with them, all over a lousy $500 PC that they’d poured hundreds more into rather than replace. Rather, I promised them I’d never buy another Dell if they didn’t replace this one. So far, so good.

    But they’re minor leagues compared to BellSouth. I can’t count the hours I’ve spent over the years bouncing between related departments, but one case in particular got my goat. I spent a year and a half trying unsuccessfully to get them to give me credit for 3 payments they’d failed to apply properly. Having the bank fax the payment records didn’t suffice… since they lost them and the records had to be faxed again. That still wasn’t sufficient. It took writing a letter to the Public Service Commission before they found the inclination to sort things out. I suspect in their case it’s not so much the presence of a bad policy as the abscence of an inter-silo policy. But I take that to be a policy decision in itself.

  25. ElvisP says:

    BigPicture: WordPress login trouble. Ha! I was watching 13 Days once on the plane and they had the gall to pull the scene of the U2 being shot down. Ruined the whole movie but kept everyone comfy.

  26. going broke says:

    More and more when I call a business I get put on hold. You hear the same stupid message “due to an unusual high volume of callers, your wait time could be up to XX minutes.” Then, you hear all of these stupid messages (which are really commercials) mixed in with “you can access your account online, blah-blah-blah”.

    Recently I called AT&T business, on hold for more than 15 minutes, (I’m guessing “high-volume again”). I was greeted in spanish. I was like “WTF, is this AT&T in Mexico?” She repled, “Sir, I’m in Pasadena, CA, and I’m bilingual.” …pfft

  27. Bob A says:

    “What other bonehead corporate moves …”

    jeez Barry… I mean this is America no? what ISN’T boneheaded.

    well… there are a few things. like this blog… and that’s why we’re here.

    but bone headed? that’s pretty much the norm

  28. papa zita says:

    flyingbrick-
    That censored track dates from the song’s release in ’67. Some radio stations wouldn’t play the original single due to that “making love in the green grass” line, so they made a single that cut in the “laughing and a-running hey hey” part. Inclusion on the CD was probably a mistake made when they went through the original recordings. It’s happened before. On a Countours reissue album from the early ’80s, they included an alternate (and wilder) version of Do You Love Me by mistake.

  29. GRV305 says:

    Hope you are bringing a sweater, it’s cold here

  30. mwd says:

    Perhaps it was purely a business decision…

    1. Simple: they just take the standard ‘airline edited’ movie (edit out sex, language and plane crashes) from the studio.

    2. Cheap: It probably costs a lot less to take the standard content edited movie. Perhaps the airline license package is cheap, so they just take it is as.

    3. Customer satisfaction: Perhaps they did a customer movie review analysis (joking) and 5 out of 1000 customers got irate about foul language content, enough to go elsewhere, and only 1 out of 1,000,000 got irate about the edited version, enough to go elsewhere, so they consulted a bean counter and determined .5% > .0001%.

    4. Commercial air travel: Perhaps given all that we are willing to subject ourselves to in the whole course of commercial air travel, that something like this never made the top 1000 annoyances that could be improved list.

  31. Lee_in_DC says:

    Last summer, I called Geico asking for new insurance ID cards for my car. They sent that along with a $30 bill for the service (which the lady over the phone never told me about). Within 3 months of my ignoring the bill, they sent off the payment to a collection agency. So Geico could have made $200 every 6 months off me for my state-mandated auto insurance, but chose instead to enforce a one-time $30 payment.

  32. zorkon says:

    That’s a pretty weak grievance against an airline considering all the other crap they put their customers through. I think you can figure out the proper translation from “friggin”.

    For the airlines, I can’t stand when they make a big deal if your checked luggage weighs two pounds too much. When some prick at the counter forces me to have my luggage opened up in the middle of an airport so I can move two sweaters from one bag to another, THAT is an inconvenience.

  33. Hal says:

    LOL reading thru this all:

    this is just scratching the surface of crappy service and product to the consumer.

    And its pretty widespread. We all know that. Even Mickey D’s suffers from it and they are pretty darn good (the other day I bought coffee from MCD and the little lady had to have me ask for sweetner, cream and sa stirrer separately ). There was no drive nor enthusiam .

    So look around–what prevents us from becoming better-from top to bottom its folks who do not care-are not motivate about anything but the paycheck including the top guns who do not care about the company employees, customers , shareholders or society/community.

    Everybody wants something out of the system, and thinks they are the greatest.

    My pet peeve is grocery stores that require their id card for discounts–so they can id customers habits.

    I say simplify the system and give us better prices.

    It seems everything is a hassle. (how many different discounts are there on GM cars?)

  34. Hal says:

    another pet peeve is the gas station pump where as sson as you life the nozzle you start hearing commercials from the pump. But this goes with previews at the movies that last 20 minutes.

  35. spiderjhn says:

    Circuit City a couple of years ago laid off employees and then offered their jobs back, with a nice wage cut. What a slap in the face. I hadnt walked into one of their stores since. I was surprised the other day when a coworker said the exact same thing when they had to shut down after bankrupcy. My friend, speaking of CC managment, ended with ” fu#@ the bastards, I hope they enjoy their paycut”

  36. Hal says:

    another idea: I just watched Prez Obama speak about ethics in his adm. He wants top level ethics and skills in his Administration.

    How odd is it that at the same time, the Senate is Grilling Geithber over his “error” in his reporting of IMF income–is he ethically challenged or careless –either way it says the wrong thing. Further complicating the issue is the infraction is within the area of expertise he should have.

    So which is it–A skills lapse or an ehtics lapse–either way a red flag should be out and Pres Obama should have asked Geithner to step aside if Geithner did not figure that out himself. .

  37. PrahaPartizan says:

    Barry, I hate to point this out, but the CEO for Jet Blue is a Mormon. I don’t know how devout he is (and, from personal experience, I can tell you they come in all sizes) but that might account for the bowdlerizing which occurred with the movie’s soundtrack. You can’t shock the troops.

  38. buzzp says:

    fr0m a biz veteran – mwd is right – this is done by the distributor, not the airline –

    BR: if you want to know who to bitch to, contact me and I will send info

  39. buzzp says:

    I should also add that to the best of my knowledge it is not possible for an airline to run/rent a film in any form other than as delivered by the distributor – remember CleanFlicks: it’s copyright no-no to edit somebody’s film – only possible excuse is “fair use” (art, educ, etc.), and no way is this distribution channel “fair use”

  40. papa zita says:

    buzzp –
    Wouldn’t the bowdlerization be at the behest of a client of the distributor? Otherwise why do it? If a client is big enough, a distributor will do whatever it takes. The distributor must have enough demand for this to make it worth doing, unfortunately.

  41. Ken says:

    I don’t understand this thread. If you have a complaint about the product or service that an airline, an electronics chain, a national fast-food restaurant, a cable company, or whatever provides, you should start your own competing company, correcting the problems and thus providing superior goods which the consumers will purchase. In this way, all companies quickly reach maximum efficiency.

    (Sorry – sometimes I just like taking pure economic rationalism to its illogical limits. In this case, that would be the peculiar strain of libertarianism that insists a system of competing corporations provides any particular good or service in the most efficient possible manner.)

  42. Whammer says:

    It sure would be nice if I could set my own password in WordPress, so I could remember how to log in without a lot of drama…….

  43. buzzp says:

    papa zita –
    the process of preparing an airline version of any non-G movie is costly, tedious and fraught with peril – the distrib knows the “least objectionable” version is the one that will receive the greatest income, so there is no interest in doing any other version – the market is not big enough to do more than one version in any single language, and not that many language versions either (in most cases of mildly successful films – like this one- not more than half-dozen or so) – sorry to say, that’s the end of the argument

  44. I’d def. invest in a more modern macbook, or get to know and love Handbrake (http://handbrake.fr), so you can rip your own, unexpurgated DVDs and watch them.. Heck, I find the iPhone screen sharp enough to handle DVD-quality video pretty nicely, and you don’t need to buy funky headphones!

    As far as JetBlue goes, I’m afraid you’re going to find that bowdlerizing is going to be on any carrier’s inflight entertainment, at least until the Criterion Collection starts its own airline…

    (but how great would _THAT_ be… “Tonight’s inflight movie will be.. Dr. Strangelove”)

  45. johnbougearel says:

    Barry,

    I have a found a great moral to this story…. You just prefer a good f#$%

  46. jrhyno says:

    BR, Glad y0u posted this topic. My wife and I have a Subaru rewards Chase issued Visa card. I pay various parts of the bill every month from 3 different bank accounts (mine, wife’s, joint). The geniuses at Chase have their online bill paying system set up in a way that makes it extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible to pay from 3 different bank accounts.

    First off, I can never schedule all payments for the same day (payment due date). I always get some sort of error message, that basically says that I have to wait 3 days before submitting another payment. In order to work around this, I schedule payments on different days (thus letting them use the float when I pay before the due date). Now I’m getting an error message, once again stating that I have to wait three days to make additional payments. Curiously, this would then guarantee that I would be paying the entire balance late. This is possibly the desired goal of Chase.

    I wasted about 20 minutes on the phone on Monday, and as soon as I can remove all of my automatic card charges, Chase has lost a customer who never carried a balance…..oh, that’s right, I don’t make them fee money, no wonder they weren’t helpful….

  47. papa zita says:

    buzzp –
    You misunderstand. I meant that the airlines would be the client and the distributor would be the one to fashion an “unobjectionable” version for them. The distributor would only create one “airline” version of the film. If there wasn’t enough of a market for it, the distributor wouldn’t even bother making that version for the airlines. It’s much like the old pre-cable TV versions of big movie hits which had the salty language and nudity excised.

  48. flipspiceland says:

    Big bonehead corporate moves?

    Those little program promo videos at the bottom (or anywhere else) of the TV screen. If I owned a .50 Caliber pistol, I’d shoot the #&** thing.

  49. Lynn says:

    Barry,
    You’re main reason for choosing Jet Blue was the movies? Are you serious?
    In defense of the airline, they probably have a wholesome image to uphold and would lose more (overly sensitive) customers if they didn’t edit out the ‘bad’ words. Do you think otherwise?

  50. MorticiaA says:

    “What other bonehead… moves have cost revenue and sales by alienating their key customers?” I thought of another one: the GOP. They certainly succeeded at alienating me.

    “Are they explainable, defendable, even rational?” That would be “no.”

  51. kaleberg says:

    Yikes: “so I flied Jet Blue”. Has your English went? (That should be “flew”, not “flied”).

  52. BKM says:

    Barry, tough customer!!!

  53. m1ek says:

    I took two business trips whose destination was Eatontown (from Austin) at the end of 2008. My company’s a military contractor, so cost is fairly important (although they sure don’t seem to mind us flying at the last minute sometimes).

    I chose JetBlue non-stop to JFK even with the drive over a 1-stop to Newark (much closer but a bit longer trip in time terms; nonstop on Continental was already too steep) or a nonstop to Philly on SW (a bit farther away but more reliable drive) specifically because of the TV. Yes, specifically because of the TV – my laptop battery doesn’t last long enough to work, and mine is so huge that on many airlines I can’t comfortably work anyways.

    The last trip, the TV was broken on the way up. Free movies. Fine, I found one I wanted to see anyways. Then, the next night, the TV was broken on the way back. Free movies again, but pickings getting pretty slim at this point.

    I can understand one time – but when there’s basically no fix (and no warning) for the next day, it betrays a lack of understanding of what their advantages really are.

    I complained, and they offered a standard credit of something like $15 (they said they’d already done it based on the rules in their internal passenger bill-of-rights). Well, that’s more than I would have expected from another airline, but still not enough — because when thinking about my next trip, I have to weigh the now-dubious promise of TV against the fact that the other airlines will still be quicker and/or not have me drive across Brooklyn and Staten Island.

    (At least the TV worked on the Xmas trip from Austin to FLL and back via Orlando – and I would have used them anyways on those legs).

  54. Lugnut says:

    “Sideways” sucked. That is all

  55. mkkby says:

    Edited movies… I bet the company got a complaint from some religious group. They decided it was easier to just bend.

    Reminds me of a recent study on why Christmas/elevator music is so annoying. It’s because anything that appeals to the lowest common denominator and doesn’t offend anyone is also so boring it irritates everyone. Corporate America is so stale and boring that it’s doomed to become the next dodo bird.

    Guess that’s just opportunity for the rest of us to compete with them though! And for consumers, just save your money for retirement and be just as happy or happier without all the useless crap.

  56. Yogizuna says:

    I think the number of people turned off by the “friggin’” thing were for the most part, equaled out by the number who were glad they did not hear the original wording… I guess most of them hear enough four letter words almost every day of their lives and in the media, etc, and eventually get sick and tired of hearing them all the time or too much of the time.
    I do like your point about “boneheaded corporate moves” though. :)