Archive

May 2010

Air Canada takes credit

Credit cards, that is.

On a morning flight to Winnipeg, I was anticipating my delicious Harvey’s ham and egg breakfast sandwich. But when I handed $5 to the flight attendant, she informed me that Air Canada no longer accepts cash for snacks, beverages or anything purchased on flights.

They don’t take debit cards either.

The transition happened May 1.  But I was as surprised to hear about it as the woman seated next to me.

One flight attendant explained that FAs often had a lot of cash at layovers, which would sometimes be stolen. And they were responsible.

So this was AC’s attempt at a fix. But do you think the airline could have come up with something a little more customer-focused: say a portable terminal on airplanes to keep track of sales and a place store the cash which could be picked up and deposited when the airline landed? Takes the burden away from FAs and might be a better way to manage sales and inventory.

I asked the FA what happened to kids or teenagers traveling alone who didn’t have a card. Would they not be able to have anything to eat?  She hesitated and said they sometimes gave them food for free.  But what about people who don’t have credit cards? There was no answer to that.

I talked to another FA who said the airline had been informing people when they purchased tickets, but admitted her Mom, a travel agent, didn’t realize this was happening until two weeks ago.  She also said that people were ringing up $3 charges for headphones; $5 for snacks, etc. and the FAs didn’t have a way of keeping a tab open (or letting people take advantage of the 10 per cent discount for $10 or more).  Some FAs were using their own credit cards and then taking cash from patrons.  She didn’t like the change at all.

To be fair to the airline, I checked my e-ticket and there was a mention of the need for credit cards, but it wasn’t called out.  On the AC homepage, it’s simply one of the news items and not highlighted at all.

Yet for even a wrong-headed move like this, if our national carrier believed this was the right thing to do, they should have conducted a more open public information program via advertising, communications to travel agents, front lines, online, PR, social networks. You know, spread the word. But they probably didn’t want to deal with the opposition – and what are you going to do when you’re on the flight?

Trust Air Canada to find a new way to diminish customer service.  We can only hope one of these days Dave Carroll is hungry or thirsty and doesn’t carry a credit card.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo]

What’s that blanket doing under the kitchen sink?

I actually found one not too long ago and wasn’t sure why it was there. (There was a good reason, though I’m not going to get into it.)

But it made me think that no matter how hard we try to be organized, humans are drawn to clutter.  Or perhaps clutter is drawn to us.

We seem programmed to accumulate, collect and save. We want so we get. And we continue on this path ad infinitum.

Except for one thing: storage is ‘finitum’ – at least in this world!  And pretty soon we run out of org space, switch into cram-mode and reach a tipping point where we just start putting things wherever there’s room. And that’s when stuff disappears and/or pops up in bizarre spots (like under the kitchen sink).

It doesn’t matter if this is at home or at work. In real or digital worlds.

Many people tackle the finer points of de-cluttering IRL.

So instead I’ll offer a few tips on how I ‘minimalize’ (as opposed to minimize) all the junk on my computer:

  1. Organize and label folders for projects and then file appropriately. Periodically check to make sure that things are where they should be and delete unused folders and docs.
  2. Save over documents especially when you’re working on multiple drafts. Then go a step further and rename the file by adding the current date. Think of how much looking time you’ll save.
  3. Clear out your temp and cache and that weirdly named folder where PC attachments get stored after you open them. Defrag every couple of months at least (and if you don’t know what that is, you’re either a Mac user or really need to do it).
  4. Put the date on each draft document. This is important for something that’s being revised or updated. (And while this isn’t really related, please remember to paginate, too.)
  5. Spring cleaning should happen more than once a year. Start with your desktop. How many draft documents, spreadsheets and jpgs that you no longer need are just sitting there?  Trash them.

If you can do this on a regular basis, you’ll be able to quickly access most of the things you need, make fewer mistakes (since the likelihood is you’ll be working on the most recent version) and not bombard your brain with all that useless stuff. Who knows, you might even clear enough room for that great idea or insight (or even a middling one, which is better than nothing).

Who are we?

I ask the question in my -30- segment on this week’s Inside PR (2.03). And it feels like PR people – and especially senior practitioners – ask it a lot.  You’d think we’re all existentialists or something.

But the fact is, our profession seems like it’s always searching for its raison d’etre.

It’s not as if we’re in our infancy. The Canadian Public Relations Society, for example, has been around for more than 60 years; yet we just came out with a formal definition of PR in 2008.

Let me ask you: how many times have you responded to the question, what do you do?, with: I work in PR; only to have people say, that’s a bit like advertising, right?

Well, no it really isn’t. And when you try to explain what you do, do you notice people get that smile of feigned interest as you expound on the subtleties of organizations reaching out to their publics? (Can you blame them?)

I think part of the reason people don’t get what we do is that we’ve put too much focus on tactics; the kids’ table where all the fun stuff happens.  We are superb publicists, amazing organizers, detail oriented to the max. I’ve heard folks say if you have to get something done, call a PR agency.

And sure it’s nice to be that reliable friend; the one you can count on; the one you know won’t mind riding in the backseat. Perhaps we need to step out of our comfort zone, think big picture as opposed to pretty picture; and focus on out of the box strategic thinking rather than carrying the box at an event.

It’s my hope that with social media and our profession’s understanding of communities, real relationship building and two-way communications; we can blog, socialize and share our real value honestly, openly and with a little pizzazz.

And maybe one day simply saying our profession’s name will be definition enough.

I’m interested to hear your feedback.

Note: From time to time I’ll be posting a slightly revised version of my -30- segment from Inside PR with Gini Dietrich and Joe Thornley.   In this episode, we also talk about privacy. Have a listen and let us know what you think.

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