The Customers’ Revenge
by Dan Ariely
Jim McIntire, vice president of customer service at Atida Motor Company, was just about to shut down for the day when he received an e-mail from his brother. “Go to Hell, Angel!” the subject line shouted. The message linked to a YouTube video. In “A Letter for Bill Watkins, CEO, Angel Airlines,” two stolid executives—“Jeff” and “Jerry”—wearing identical pinstripe suits, took turns narrating the story of their airline nightmare. In one scene, the pair sat chained to their coach seats in a stuffy, tarmac-stranded plane. Sweating women and children in prison garb begged for water from surly flight attendants dressed as guards. In the next, the two men crawled on their knees before a leather-clad gate attendant, crowned with devil horns and holding a long whip. They begged her to finally assign them their “guaranteed” seats on an overbooked plane. “Not a chance,” she replied huffily. She snapped her whip dismissively and shouted, “Next in line!” In the final sequence, the men took turns reeling off a series of probabilities. “Lifetime chances of dying in a bathtub: one in 10,000,” said Jerry. “Chances of Earth being ejected from the solar system by the gravitational pull of a passing star: one in 2 million,” said Jeff. “Chances of winning the UK’s National Lottery: one in 14 million,” said Jerry. “Chances of anyone from our 3,000-person company ever flying with Angel in the future: zero!” they shouted in unison. The video ended with a message to Angel’s CEO: “Now, Mr. Watkins, we’re letting the world know about your so-called customer service!” Jim chuckled as he forwarded the e-mail to his wife, his mother, and a few frequently flying executive friends at Atida. “You’ll all enjoy this,” he typed. “Sure glad we’re not on the receiving end of it. Cheers, Jim.” Nor will we ever be if I can help it, Jim thought, as he snapped his laptop shut. During the 40-minute drive home, Jim contemplated the video and recalled his last...
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