Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Steven Slater , taking the slide

Of course the best way to start this Steven Slater story is the Taiwanese animated re-enactment. For many more Slater updates, check here (some NSFW language, it probably goes without saying).

Steven Slater is a hero. The JetBlue flight attendant acted out the fantasy of millions of working people. He told off the jerk who had cussed him out, then he quit his job in style -- in his case, by grabbing a beer, popping the emergency slide on the plane, and gliding off to freedom. Take this job and shove it, I ain't working here no more.

Steven Slater is a jackass. He overreacted to a rude passenger, made it all about himself, got arrested, and became instantly unemployable anywhere except for reality TV.

Steven Slater is a symbol -- a symbol of disgruntled workers, a symbol of our in-your-face society, a symbol of the everyday torture that comes with riding the airlines, and working for one.

To me, more than anything, Steven Slater is a warning. Because he did the kind of work most people will end up doing in this country. He wasn't a maker, he was a server. And not everybody is cut out to serve.

You know the score, but here's a couple of details. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Carolinas lost 460,000 manufacturing jobs between June 2000 and June of this year. Over the same period, the Carolinas gained more than 93,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality field.

That's a lot fewer working in mills and factories, and a lot more people working at customer service desks.

That's not a knock on service jobs -- my mama was a waitress for 20 years. It's just reality. People are doing different kinds of work in different settings that require different attitudes.

Here's the main difference. If you work in a manufacturing plant, you have one or two bosses. You might grumble about them -- everybody grumbles about the boss -- but you probably learn to deal with it.

In a service job, you have those bosses, too. But the real bosses are your customers -- hundreds of them, maybe thousands. And in a group that big, somebody's bound to set you off.

Steven Slater didn't flip out at a supervisor. He flipped out at a passenger who had been involved in a preflight dispute about the overhead bin. There are several versions of the story, but two parts are consistent: Slater took a shot to the head when he tried to break it up, and after the flight landed, when he approached the woman, she four-lettered him.

No doubt it was a bad scene. But lots of service workers put up with worse, every day, and hold their tongues.

The customer is not always right, and lots of times the customer is flat-out wrong. Customers leave popcorn boxes on the floor of the theater. Customers stiff waiters making $2 an hour. Customers return pants they've worn 10 times. Customers do all sorts of crazy things, and then rant when they don't get immediate satisfaction.

A professional in the service business has to take that junk, swallow it, and figure out a way to make the customer happy. Most customers are good ones, and if all you do is focus on the bad ones, you'll drive yourself crazy. Which Steven Slater, at least temporarily, did.

Steven Slater isn't a hero or a jackass. He's an ordinary American worker who was faced with what's becoming a more and more ordinary situation.

What happened makes you wish that, when we're in customer mode, we have a little more appreciation for the people on the other side.

And it makes you hope that, when somebody feels the need to pop the emergency slide, we can provide the kind of job that's a good place to land.

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good ink.

I dunno man, Slater reminded me of a chimp who makes tools out of twigs dipping them into the honey holes of ants and termites.

Exit Stage left.

He also reminds me of obama blaming bush, they both had a job to do...and bailed early do to stress override on the inability to perform said job as intended.

Regardless the scene creates a precedent for future evacuations of all kinds.

Timothy Whitson said...

A couple years ago, a story about what this guy did would have been in the "News Of The Weird" section. As it stands, it's still somewhat of a novelty story. Within 5-10 years,I bet you'll read stories like this weekly. That's where our society is headed.

Anonymous said...

"You know the score, but here's a couple of details. According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Carolinas lost 460,000 manufacturing jobs between June 2000 and June of this year. Over the same period, the Carolinas gained more than 93,000 jobs in the leisure and hospitality field."

Must have been those damn unions which are so prevalent in the Carolinas. You can only have manufacturing jobs without unions, lol. Meanwhile, non-union made foreign branded cars in the USA are getting recalled every day.

I met Slater on a return flight to CLT a few weeks ago. he was nice to us, but definitely burned out.

I had a woman spit on my working at a pizza place a looong time ago so I told her to effff off. And I still worked there.

Anonymous said...

Employees, especially service employees, put up with an awful lot, far beyond their pay scale.

That being said, people don't deserve a soft place to land when they go off fully-cocked like that. This is a guy who totally lost it. Would you have any confidence working alongside this guy or even relying on him? Certainly not me.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 4:47: Maybe not now, but he did this for 20 years and he is only 38. That's a pretty reliable employee, although he only worked for Jetblue since 08.

wiley said...

The customer is not always right, and lots of times the customer is flat-out wrong.

Then your mama never told you the rules of customer service.

CUSTOMER SERVICE RULES

#1 - The customer is always right.

#2 - If the customer is flat out wrong, see Rule #1.

Adrian DeVore said...

There's nothing heroic with his actions beyond unemployment.

tommy tomlinson said...

Anon 4:45: I wondered if Slater ever ran jetblue's CLT routes. We took it from here to Boston a couple times. Much nicer planes than what USAir was running -- and cheaper, too, if I remember.

Wiley -- I hear you about the customer service rules. It makes business sense to go by them. But we both know they're not true.

Anonymous said...

"wiley said... Then your mama never told you the rules of customer service.
CUSTOMER SERVICE RULES
#1 - The customer is always right.
#2 - If the customer is flat out wrong, see Rule #1."

Your mama needs an update. The new saying is "The customer may not always be right; but, the customer is still the customer."

wiley said...

tommy tomlinson said...
Anon 4:45: I wondered if Slater ever ran jetblue's CLT routes. We took it from here to Boston a couple times. Much nicer planes than what USAir was running -- and cheaper, too, if I remember.

Wiley -- I hear you about the customer service rules. It makes business sense to go by them. But we both know they're not true


Tommy,

I've dealt with the public all of my working life and know what it is like to deal with unruly customers of all kinds, at all levels of business.

Slater had his position on his side. He could have simply handled it in a different manner but chose not to.

He has only himself to blame.

Anonymous said...

I worked part time in retail for 10 years. For the most part, the customers were kind and friendly. As you say, however, it only takes one or two to spoil a day and that is where one focuses if not careful.

I used to say that like the draft, every high school graduate should have to work one year in retail so they would know how to act when they were on the other side.

M said...

Neither the customer, nor the flight attendant, was "right." Both exhibited poor impulse control, poor communication skills, poor emotional regulation, poor common sense and common courtesy, lack of humility, self-respect or respect for the community of passengers, co-workers and all those affected by decidedly un-heroic behavior.

Heroes land planes on the Hudson; heroes take the high road; heroes help others and raise a situation; heroes don't act on entitlement and hug it with a smug air of vindication and excuse-making.

Symbols aren't necessarily heroes. Novelty, this time, doesn't count for more than distastefully newsworthy. Bad behavior shouldn't be elevated as serious social commentary. Symbols merely stand for something ... and what the players in this situation stood for isn't worth celebrating.

Anonymous said...

Wiley,

The sad part about what you believe is that it has become the way for every "customer" to treat every individual they come in to contact with like garbage.

Don't like your bill...yell at the service rep.

Don't like your seat...scream at the person who had zero to do with it.

Don't like the person your luggage is sharing a bin with...smash the flight attendant in the head. It is ok...YOU are the customer!

No. You are a human and no more. You are in a public place so act like you have some sense. There are dozens of people on that plane JUST AS IMPORTANT AS YOU!

Sit Down. Shut Up. Put your iPod on and stop causing a scene!

Wiley...people like you have made America what it is today...a place full of loud, rude, self-absorbed morons. I fly constantly and am amazed at least once a week at the manner in which other humans are treated. I have literally watched old people be pushed down by "customers" so self absorbed in either a Blackberry or a phone call that they have no concept that the entire rotation of the earth is not going through them.

I hope the entire story comes out and this woman's name is made public. So far, this "customer" was allowed to assault an individual on a plane, and has faced absolutely no scrutiny.

Maybe she needs to have the mirror held up to show who who she was when she was more worried about a piece of luggage than another human being.

Anonymous said...

The notion that "the customer is always right" came about as an antidote to high-end stores who "told" customers what they should want. It means that whatever product the customer wants, they should get. It doesn't mean customers get to treat workers like dirt.

Adam said...

He may not be a hero or a jackass...but his actions sure were ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand why Slater is being treated in any way other than a criminal. Had a passenger stolen a beer, popped a slide, and exited, they would be only regarded as a menace.

Phillip said...

You are correct when you say that customer isn't always right sometimes. Because customers like us may tend to be righteous especially if we're not getting what we want by these companies. And we must always look at the other side also on how these companies make their best effort to give us the excellent customer care.

For example, these customer service call center agents who do nothing but to ensure us that before we hang up the phone, we are being served very well by them, and our concerns have been solved. So I think for me, we must always give credit to these people who only wants to give us the best customer service.