All that glitters is not gold!

The crowdspanking goes on

The crowdspanking goes on

Last night a person (yes a real human) made several mistakes. They made an error and then the attempts to manage it weren’t so great and things didn’t exactly resolve themselves as they could have.
Ever happened to you? In your working life, have you ever made one of those mistakes that sent chills down your spine? I know I have. I once type “ rm *.* /” (or to that effect it was a long while ago) on a Linux web server before going to make a coffee to come back and find an empty machine.

Deliberate? No. Horrible? Yes.

You know that sometimes it happens. We are people not angels or robots that can operate continuously without error. In fact, they cannot either.

So why is it that the tools of Social Media make tools out of people?

Yes, companies, people and organisations of any sort can and should be open to criticism and correction of poor behaviour. I agree totally. However I don’t agree that Crowd Spanking of everyone that does something wrong is effective nor necessary.

The Open tools of communication should make for better communication. Unfortunately, last night that didn’t happen. Before the company involved had a remote chance to respond, the crowds were out in force spanking hard and frequently. There was some sanity amongst the masses thankfully.

If you spanked your child every time they made a mistake (maybe you do which is much worse), or every employee that made a mistake or yourself ... you get my point.

There needs to be thought first action later.

Key facts:

  1. It appears to be a dumb mistake.
  2. Everyone who got one knew that they weren’t entitled to it; simply the wording of the message told you that. If you only flew once this year how could you have gotten close to the 50,000 points required to be a Gold member.
  3. Yes, virgin blue could have handled it better once it broke. Maybe they called it an IT error so they didn’t fly off the handle and blame a staff member without facts. They were probably fixing it first. Protecting staff is a good quality IMHO.

I am all for consumer advocacy and for consumer rights but I am also an advocate for common sense and understanding and human errors. If we are too afraid to make mistakes, we will never take risks!

What has been forgotten is that someone a person or small team of people are in a whole load of pain right now. Any of them your friends or family? Any of them maybe might lose their livelihood, or their credibility. How would you feel if it was you or yours?

Step back from the computer.  Take a deep breath.

Remember before you wade into the groundswell of consumer hysteria to apply some balance. Social Media Tools are not all one-way traffic. In addition, your rights are meant to be your rights. First, think about what your rights are and then be honest as well.

Really how many people just purchased a flight within 1 hour of ‘going gold’ for the extra benefit of access to the lounge, quick check in and extra luggage? I am a lounge member and nice as it is, it isn’t that flash, better than outside yes, but not worth a desperate purchase to get into. Maybe it tipped someone over the point of purchase, but in such a short space of time that would be a rarity.

The truth is people have now decided to seek out the freebies everywhere, jump on bandwagons of discontent without having any reason to.

Those that chose to wade in from overseas, or those that were not even part of it, who have never flown with them, really should stop being ambulance chasers. Stop the crowd spanking.

If you decided this fiasco was such a mess you would now fly Jetstar well good on you, you have consumer choice. I have flown Jetstar and I will happily stay with Virgin Blue. They treat me well every time I travel, and I travel a lot! I was actually pretty close to getting Gold, and do I feel slighted? No. I DID NOT deserve it, I HAD NOT earned it.

I lost nothing.

In fact while I KNOW Virgin Blue aren’t perfect I also know how well they treat me well, and that they have done more than Qantas ever did for lowering the cost of airfares in Australia. The fact so many of the crowd spankers have actually flown regularly is because of what Virgin Blue has done for Australian flying. It used to cost 3-4 times as much before and it was not that long ago!

Add some balance to your thinking and demands. Do you really want to force a business when they make such a mistake that you would be happy to force them to honour something that may well cripple a business? Add some perspective. This is not a corporation that has exposed their staff and customer to asbestos and are denying compensation. It is an upgrade people!

So what could have Virgin Blue done better?

  • They could have communicated quicker and better.
  • They could have made sure the messages they distributed were better constructed and more thought out.

Before all the Social Media Gurus come up with the 10 things that Virgin Blue could have done better blog posts think through how businesses and people at work live.

  • This was late on a Friday.
  • Under the pressure and volume of complaints they were receiving it can be very difficult to step back and create something creative and concise to appease the hungry hordes. To deliver a Virgin style message is not something that happens quickly, a lot of thought and effort goes into them.

Under the guns of public scrutiny and the pressure of the war of errors, the team of people involved probably thought they were doing an okay job, but one can only assume a lot of yelling was going on behind closed doors and there were a bunch of people hurting about it. Most people I know take their jobs pretty seriously (I have 15 of them). They would have been feeling very uptight and stressed about it.

Maybe they didn’t think it was life threatening, and who can blame them. It wasn’t.

However, the ideal lists of strategies to employ written by the gurus that have rarely ever had to deal live with these sorts of corporate problems will flow and be digested.

Step back from your keyboards Crowd spankers. You and I know that despite your howls and cries of bad play you will be on the next cheap flight because you aren’t a loyal customer that necessarily has a voice, you like me often choose purely on price. You will be back. They know it and we know it.

If you want to howl with rage then find something worth howling about. There are still plenty of real world travesties going on.

Well that is what Ireckon!

PS> If however this was a silly marketing ploy they thought they could turn well that is a whole different story 😛

16.11.09 > Several Blogs with interesting comments have appeared over the weekend.

Mumbrella has a post about it which has gathered a lot of comment: Virgin Blue's gold class Velocity email blunder

Stilgherrian has a great post with similar sentiment to mine: Virgin Blue's mistake reveals countless selfish whingers


  1. Great post, DK! Only thing missing is the #whinge hashtag 😉

    This pointless debate needed some balance. I made a few comments at some other blog posts, but their owners have decided to not publish them. (Truth hurts, huh?)

    Nothing, other than a freebie of some sort, is going to placate the ‘victim’ mindset now it’s deeply embedded thanks to group-think.

    Amusingly, the people who actually deserved/were entitled to an upgrade – have already been looked after. It’s the screaming mass of people who travel every six months on $1, $10 and $39 budget tickets who seem to be most distressed. Oh, their shattered illusions – that they were worth SO MUCH to an airline.

    Cut ’em free, Virgin. Let Jetstar or Tiger absorb them and get on with it. Margins in this industry are tight and we don’t need another Ansett situation.


  2. At last. The only sensible blog post I’ve read on the whole affair. The angst that’s been poured out by simple minded fools who knew they had not qualified beggars comprehension. The twitters on the matter confirm that twitter is for twits. The threats to take Virgin to the OFT or TPC are infantile. Comments such as “I’ll never fly Virgin again” are welcome, as I’ll never have to sit next to such prats.

    It was a *mistake* people. They’ve said so. They’ve apologised. Move on.

  3. Pingback: Virgin Blue’s gold class Velocity email blunder - mUmBRELLA

  4. Well said, Darryl. I was astounded to see so many people whinging about needing to be “compensated” — some even demanding free flights — and I was thinking “compensated for what?” Compensated for being too stupid to realise that the email was obviously a mistake of some kind? Compensated for having a vastly over-inflated sense of entitlement?

    I don’t think that’s Virgin’s fault!

    @Crain Welch: The old “Twitter is for twits” line confuses, as always, the person with the medium. By all means don’t use Twitter if you don’t find any value in it. However there’s plenty of people who do, and calling them all “twits” is also, in my opinion, infantile.

  5. Pingback: Stilgherrian · Virgin Blue’s mistake reveals countless selfish whingers

  6. Hear Hear! Great post.

    I was quite surprised (and somewhat saddened) by the great outpouring of perceived injustice and entitlement. Lazy social media bandwagons. Sigh.


  7. I think this post is 100% correct. I just wish that Virgin would have the guts to say to people what Derek in comment 1 here says: Margins are tight and people who don’t get that are a drain on resources. Let them go elsewhere.

    And does anyone *really* fly Virgin for any reason other than cheap flights? I usually end up with Virgin for just that reason. I feel no loyalty to them, and I expect nothing from them except getting me from point A to point B.

    Twitter can be great for arousing people to anger in cases of real injustice. But this isn’t one of them – this is just entitled whining from privileged people who need to neck a cup of concrete. People need to realise they can either have the “good customer service” they demand, or they can have cheap prices, but not both. That customer service is provided by working people, often less privileged and worse-paid than the people who use Twitter or comment on blogs.

    So, no sympathy at all for people who are sad because they don’t get a special luggage tag. Cry me a goddamned river.

  8. Prior to this year I was quite the frequent traveller. I’ve flown Jetstar, Virgin and Qantas. I only fly Qantas when it’s the only option (sadly some rural flights are only catered by Qantas). I will never ever ever ever ever fly Jetstar for as long as I live.

    Every time I flew with them it wasn’t a good experience. I am one of those notorous “excess baggage” people. That has a big impact on who my choice of airline is..

    Get this.. one time.. whilst the airfare was ‘free’ (someone else had bought the ticket and bought on price alone) .. I had to pay nearly the same due to excess baggage. I did the math. Excess baggage on Virgin is ALWAYS cheaper than Jetstar. Always.

    Whilst I’m not a frequent plane flight traveller and may not have excess baggage anymore.. I will still rather pay that little bit more for a Virgin flight vs Jetstar. I won’t ever touch Tiger unless I want to be stranded at an airport for hours upon hours.

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