Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Man. from New Hampshire.

Before The Man from Singapore Part 2, let me just use this post to discuss current events relevant to Justice Calling’s primary mission – holding Big Business accountable to the Consumer. 
AccountabilityRecently (video) and WMUR New Hampshire (text) ran a Consumer Power story about Charles Wheelan, a Dartmouth professor of economics and public policy and a columnist for Yahoo Finance whose luggage was lost by United for weeks.
His summary of what happens when the Company fails you as the Consumer is perfect.  Wheelan says, “…you have failed to fulfill what you promised to do for this $25…”
Here’s a graphic I made based on one from (funny perspective - Social Media Venn Diagram) to summarize this too-common situation:
I believe it’s easy for large corporations to feel cushioned in anonymity within the hugeness of their organization. The role your minute voice of discontent plays in the overall churning, lumbering mechanism is meaningless to them in the big scheme of things. Read all about it and what you can do as a Powerful Consumer in Gotcha Capitalism.
So Wheelan decides to hold United accountable and files a small claims suit for the $25 baggage fee and $72 in court costs. A few days later the bag was returned and United’s lawyer called to apologize and arrange to send a check for the $25 and $72 in court fees. This is the kind of power a consumer has.
But he suffered for it. He spent his precious time on the phone with disinterested Customer Service Reps. Since he resorted to filing a lawsuit, he probably didn’t get satisfaction through Customer Service.
Isn’t his time worth more than the perfunctory payment they made?  Did United acknowledge that their customer still ended up with a net loss because his time is worth money?
On the Accountability Meter (which I haven’t officially created yet, and so in the interim is going to be the same as Netflix ratings) I give Wheelan’s Power Consumer activism 4/5 stars “Really Liked It.”
I have to reserve 5 stars “Loved It” for a statement of accountability and reform from the Company in question. I suspect this will be a truly difficult rating to achieve for Big Business.
Don’t Give Them Your MoneyHow can we avoid paying ridiculous baggage fees? Any thoughts?
Here’s all I’ve got so far:
1. USPS ships for free packs of boxes to you, you pack very lightly and pay a flat rate of $14.95 to ship a 12 1/4” x 12 1/4” x 6” box to your destination and avoid paying $25 or whatever the airline decides to charge.
» Pro: You Don’t Give Them Your Money.
» Cons: You only save $10. You have to embrace the art of packing lightly.  You will need to be visiting friends or family, because I don’t know how you feel about your “box luggage” arriving at your hotel.
2. Pack lightly and use only a carry-on bag.
» Pro: You Don’t Give Them Your Money.
» Cons: You don’t get to take as many pairs of shoes as you’d really really really like and kind of need. You are going to add to the bottleneck of getting onto a packed, unventilated airplane and people will probably glare at you.
3. UPS now sells ‘luggage boxes
» Pro: You Don’t Give Them Your Money. (but you give another Large Corporation your money).
» Cons: Doesn’t seem to be very cost-effective unless packing very lightly (see #1 and 2).  Now you are the proud owner of “box luggage” that you feel bad throwing away.  Please contradict if you have found these to save you $$!
4. Use Southwest (2 free bags) or JetBlue (1 free bag) if at all humanly possible. They are so much more human on Southwest, and I haven’t had the pleasure of trying JetBlue but hear they’re very personable as well.
5. Drive.
Again, any other thoughts?


  1. Hi Lara--Some very good points---I fly on Southwest later this month, and will keep these in mind!! Great idea for Blog---Katherine

  2. I always fly Southwest when I can, and I never think twice about luggage fees. I just flew Taca to Costa Rica (a Costa Rican airline), and they didn't charge luggage fees, either. Not sure I could travel again on an "old school" airline!

    Great blog, lots of passion. Keep it up!

  3. Wow. This is something I never even think about. Thanks for blogging about this :)