Tag Archives: Delta

Death to the D.I.Y. Society

Image result for self-checkout boycott

I admit it: my bias derived from self-interest. I was a bag boy. But that didn’t make me wrong when I reacted to the news that supermarkets would make customers bag their own groceries. This, I told my friends at the time, is the first brick in a road to perdition.

Since the 1970s corporate efficiency experts have burdened American consumers with a constantly expanding galaxy of tasks that businesses used to perform for them. Craig Lambert calls it “shadow work”—labor imposed on you that you’re not conscious of.

The Do It Yourself (because companies won’t hire workers to do it anymore) movement faced little resistance in a culture that elevates personal responsibility and rugged individualism. Which is how, in less than half a century, we have become accustomed to pumping our own gas and planning our own vacations and scanning our own groceries and running our own cable TV diagnostic tests, forgetting how much easier life was with service station attendants and travel agents and cashiers and technicians who came to your actual house. Not only do we work harder, we earn less due to the disappearance of service personnel jobs from the    labor market.

Corporate profits uber alles.

I recently visited a Burger King with touchscreen kiosks where you’re supposed to order your food because God forbid BK should fork out $10 an hour to a human being so you can simply tell him you’d like a #2 combo, size medium, drink is a Coke please. Come the Revolution may the scoundrel who thought of this be deported to an exceptionally unpleasant re-education camp.

Now that they have us doing everything ourselves, companies are making us provide our equipment as well.

On United Airlines from Los Angeles to New York recently, the plane was new—and the infrastructure was retro. In place of the seatback TVs that have long been standard on long-haul flights were plastic clips where you’re supposed to place your tablet or smartphone. You can imagine the discussion at United corporate:

“We’ve already conned the idiots into checking themselves in on their phones. Seat-back televisions cost as much as $10,000 per seat to install and maintain. Passengers have their own devices. Let them watch movies on their own tech!”

Liberal soon-to-be-fired executive: “What about old people who aren’t tech-savvy? Poor people without devices?”

“Screw ‘em. Plus they have to download our app and register to watch movies, so we collect more data!”

Liberal: “Some people might say we’re being mighty cheap for a company that makes $3.2 billion in profits a year.”

“And now it’ll be more billions!”

I have a smartphone. And a tablet. And a laptop. But as long as aviation remains a for-profit business sector (one with atrocious customer service), I don’t see why I should subsidize a CEO’s outrageous paycheck with wear and tear on my personal hardware.           It’s only a matter of time before we’ll have to fly the planes ourselves too.

Feeling stressed out? Overworked with a million little annoying things to do? It’s not your imagination. The D.I.Y. society has you performing jobs that older generations had done for them by someone paid to do it—and was better at it, too. Every upward tick of the Dow Jones Industrial Average is fed by the rising stress and anxiety caused by corporations schluffing their work onto us.

I would like to think that the market will self-correct by inspiring a new generation of entrepreneurs to build businesses predicated on old-fashioned standards of service. But there’s no sign of that—not for ordinary people. Only the wealthy command bespoke attention, and only from luxury brands.

It is hard for most Americans to grasp how unpleasant the DIY society has made our lives because few of them travel overseas. If they did, especially to the developing world, they would find overstaffed restaurants and stores. Because labor is cheap in those countries, there is always someone available to wait on you. They can’t afford automation so the human touch dominates. Travel agents, for example—if you’re too young to remember the pleasures of having a professional work out a complicated multi-city itinerary and score you a great hotel deal via a personal relationship, you should try it when you go to the developing world. It’s a wonderful vibe and I miss it terribly stateside.

Our only hope is individual resistance.

It’s already begun. Many shoppers refuse to bag their groceries. Others are boycotting self-scanning checkout lines to save the jobs of flesh-and-blood cashiers. “They’re trying to basically herd everyone in, get everyone used to the self-checkouts to continuously cut down on staff,” a Canadian named Dan Morris explained to the CBC. “Machines don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay into the pension plan.” Only 11% of Canadians use self-checkouts.

On that United flight fewer than a third of passengers watched a movie. Who wants to clutter their device with an app for every airline they fly? I will avoid carriers like United and American that eliminate seatback TVs, favor those like Delta that are not, and so should you.

Any time a company gives you a choice between human and machine, like at BK, choose the person. Pick full-serve over self-serve. Patronize businesses that keep people on the payroll and avoid automated BS.

The DIY society will probably win. But we shouldn’t go out without a fight.

(Ted Rall, the cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Francis: The People’s Pope.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

One Delta Flight That Highlights Why Air Travel Sucks So Bad

Originally published by ANewDomain.net:

why air travel sucksOn Friday I traveled from Seattle to New York on Delta. By the standards of American air travel in the year 2015, flight 419 was fine.

My seatmates were nice, the woman in front of me didn’t recline her seat until halfway into the flight, the flight attendants were attentive, and we arrived at JFK 45 minutes early – during a snowstorm, no less.

Yet it totally sucked.

The unacceptable state of commercial aviation has become accepted. The insane has been normalized.

It was the best possible terrible experience — one that perfectly exemplified why air travel sucks these days — and everything that’s wrong with the airlines.

Knee Torture

As the guy next to me exclaimed upon sitting down, “They design these seats for midgets!” (It was early, so I didn’t inform him of the more politically correct terms “little people” or “persons of short stature.”) But he’s right: Delta is tied with United Airlines for the dubious distinction of offering the least legroom in coach.

why airtravel sucks

I’m 6’2″. At under 200 pounds, however, I’m a skinny dude. Especially by American standards. I can’t imagine what bigger people do. Or taller ones. Or pregnant ones.

Only the airlines could make me feel sorry for Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle, both of whom have suffered from deep-vein thrombosis associated with flying while stuck in cramped seats. (Don’t those guys get at least business class?)

Check out the photograph above: those are my knees, pressed totally against the seat ahead of me – before the person in front of me opted to recline. (Side rant: reclining should only be enabled on red-eyes.)

You can’t see it here, but my butt is pressed into the corner of my seat; I am sitting straight up. In other words, there is no way to scare an extra millimeter of knee room out of this torture contraption.

I know it could be worse. Someday, probably soon, it will be. A few years ago, you may recall, Ireland-based discount carrier Ryanair flirted with the idea of forcing passengers to stand rather than sit. I also know that the airlines have thin profit margins in a competitive business. However, you’ve got a problem when your customers are driven so crazy that they get into midair brawls over when or if it’s OK to push your seat back.

It’s an even bigger problem when your service is to be endured rather than enjoyed.

Which I might not even have thought about, much less written this piece about, if not for this charming ad on the seat in front of me:

why airtravel sucks

Grim chuckles emanated all around every time this thing cycled through, you know, 14 inches ahead of our faces because – we were definitely not comfortable.

It is hard to overstate how maddening an ad like this is when your knees look and feel like they do in the photo up above. Who’s handling PR for Delta? Howard Schultz of Starbucks? It’s not like we don’t all want to be in first class. It’s not a choice. We’re not riding in coach because we’re cheap.

We’re poor.

Being poor sucks. But you know what’s worse than being poor? Being reminded that other people are rich. Not to mention being told that your poverty is your own damn fault.

Never Saying Sorry

why-air-travel-sucksOne thing I love about flying is that it can be a great place to get work done, particularly if I get a window seat so no one is trying to get past me to go to the restroom.

Unless I can’t.

Friday’s flight would have been a bust the second the woman in front of me reclined her seat into my face; even Houdini couldn’t jam a MacBook Pro between my relatively flat stomach and a reclined seat on Delta. Anyway, it didn’t matter because the Wi-Fi didn’t work.

A five-hour flight is a long time to go without the Internet when you’re a writer, so I’m willing to cough up the outrageously extortionate rate of $33 for GoGo Inflight Internet. Unless, as happened Friday, that wasn’t an option.

As we taxied away from the gate, the pilot helpfully explained that an on-time departure was more important than “the part we would have needed to wait for” in order to get the Wi-Fi working.

Look, I get that stuff happens. Given the fact that it was starting to snow at our destination, I agreed with the pilot’s decision.

What’s annoying is that when the airline inconveniences you – in this case, denying five hours of potential online work time to over 200 passengers – they shrug it off with a glib “oh well.”

When we screw up, we’re expected to pay through the nose. If, for example, you get stuck in traffic and miss your flight, Delta will charge you at least $50 to change your ticket to a later flight the same day. Why can’t I charge them $50 because the Wi-Fi was busted on Friday’s flight? What’s with this unequal relationship?

Foul Food

I never thought I would say this, but I miss the old days of airline food mainly because it was warm.

The war historian John Keegan has remarked that, all things being equal, armies with access to hot food tend to defeat those without it. That’s because the calories and other nutrition inside food is absorbed more effectively when it’s cooked.

I hate the brave new world of airline food, and not only because you have to pay for it à la carte. Morning noon and night, your options are limited to cold lunch: nasty cold cheeses, nasty cold fruits, nasty cold sandwiches. (And Delta’s options are the best of a bad lot.) Give me those old-fashioned mystery – possibly powdered – eggs! Or that plastic tasting ravioli! Just make it warm!
Seasoned travelers like yours truly have learned to work around the dismal state of airline food, or lack thereof, by grabbing a big hot meal on the way to the airport. But there are times, like Friday, when that just isn’t possible.

Think about it, Delta: the flight is at 7 AM. You have to be at the airport at least an hour ahead of time, add a half-hour if you are returning a rental car. At the Seattle Airport, restaurants aren’t open until 6 AM. And the choices are grim.

All I wanted was a light breakfast, maybe a toasted bagel or something ,but that was too much to ask at SeaTac. The guy next to me settled for something called “French Toast Stix.”

Gross.

I would have happily paid $10 or even $15, for some warm powdered eggs.

Mr. EEEEEE

TSA agents are refusing to accept Washington D.C. drivers licenses as valid forms of ID at the airport because D.C. isn’t a state. Now it’s time for me, as a suffix-impaired American, to call out the TSA for another form of discrimination.