The controversy over the American Airlines eShopping Mall with the Verizon mistake and the US Airways Mall with EasyCGI still continues to rage. Both sides are waging a fierce battle of principles on the forum boards and eloquently stating their cases.
The issue for me is not just the deal at hand. There will always be another deal. We win some and we lose some. Mistakes are honored. Mistakes are forgiven. Each individual deal in itself is not that important. The more important issue at hand is corporate accountability.
In the Verizon, American, Catera Commerce case, things are particularly muddled. Catera admitted the error but continued to run the incorrect promo, then offered a paltry settlement and has been very slow to respond to customer inquiries. Many are reporting that their purchases don’t even show as “pending” in their AA mall account. Verizon seems to have taken a “We Know Nothing” approach. It is all up to American and Catera.
Most important to me is the position that American Airlines seems to have taken. I have seen a copy of the letter sent to one of the participants in the promo by the Senior Legal staff of American Airlines. They clearly appeared to denying any responsibility for the action of their eShopping Mall.
I’m “old school.” I grew up in small-town America where the shopkeepers used an age-old business model — “The customer is always right” — successfully for years. The actions in this day and age seem to imply that nobody is responsible. Let’s just pass the buck. Here is another example of how far things could go:
Customer: “Hello, is this American Airlines?”
American Rep: “Yes it is. How can I help you?”
Customer: “You lost my bag on the flight from Chicago to Detroit this morning.”
American Rep: “I am so sorry to hear that. But our baggage is handled by the Chicago Municipal Sewer Workers. You’ll have to call them to locate your bag,”
Customer: “But I bought my ticket from American Airlines.”
American Rep: “I know, but we subcontracted that service to the Sewer Workers. They are the ones responsible for your bags.”
Or this one:
Customer: “Could I please have another bag of peanuts?”
Flight Attendant: “I’m sorry all requests for additional services are handled by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders. We only handle initial disbursements.”
My point is this: If American Airlines has its name on that eShopping Mall, it is responsible for the operation where any reasonable person would expect to be dealing with American Airlines. If that is not the case, then change the name to the Catera Commerce eShopping Mall.
Those who are insisting, “It was a mistake. You knew it or should have known it. You don’t want people to lose their jobs over this, do you?” are missing my point. Mistake or not is not the issue. Who is taking responsibility for posting 83,871 miles next to the “Buy it Now” button?
I contend it should be American Airlines negotiating in good faith with its customers, not Catera Commerce and not Verizon. It is indeed the airline’s name on the eShopping door, isn’t it?
Is my stance to hard and firm? I don’t think so. It is easily correctable. If you are going to subcontract out your shopping mall, disclose it for all your customers to see. Don’t hide it in some obscure terms and conditions page. Put it right up front in big letters on a page all customers must read when entering the mall. Require your subcontractors to carry errors and omissions insurance to protect your customers and your good name. American Airlines is a good name and a good company. And most importantly in that E and O policy, American Airlines shall have the right to make things right with its customers based on that E and O policy and will undertake the task of doing just that.
Update to this post: I emailed the head of the American Airlines AAdvantage program as a media request to try and get their response to pass on to all you readers. I was in hopes the “Media Request” label would get the letter looked at by a higher up in the organization. It did, I think, as my response came from the manager of the program on behalf of the President of AAdvantage, but the response was the same boilerplate letter that everybody else got.
I’m done, bent but not beaten. I still believe that American Airlines should have addressed this issue directly, but it is obvious to me now that just isn’t going to happen. The end result for me is I am the proud owner of 3 headsets from Verizon. The headsets in all probability will be given as door prizes at the Chicago Seminars after I wear them at the Halloween costume party with egg on my face.
I tried but life is just too short. For others that so choose “Carry on the good fight” my best wishes. We win some. We lose some. And some are called because of rain.