Thank you, Virgin Blue, for sending your “erroneous” email Friday night. You’ve done us a great public service. You’ve exposed a pack of greedy, selfish, shallow tools who deserve to be ridiculed publicly. Thank you.
On Friday evening, Australian airline Virgin Blue sent an email telling some Velocity Rewards members they’d been upgraded to Gold status. But as documented at mUmBRELLA, the email went not just to those entitled to the upgrade but their entire database — including people who’d opted out of email marketing.
Including me because, yes, I’m a Velocity Rewards member.
“That can’t be right,” I thought. “I haven’t flown with Virgin Blue this year.” Then I saw others saying similar things online and I figured the mistake was more widespread. I chuckled, knowing that someone had a bit of a mess to clear up.
Sure enough, three hours later a second email arrived.
Oops! Due to an error you’ve received our previous email by mistake. Please disregard the free upgrade communication as unfortunately you do not qualify for that upgrade.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Mistake. Correction. Apology. That’s the end of the story, yes? Alas no.
Suddenly a whole bunch of people are demanding their Gold status should stay even though, like, they’re not actually entitled to it. People are “upset”. They’re demanding compensation, some even saying they should be compensated with a free flight voucher.
Compensated? Compensated for fucking what, exactly?
Compensated for being too stupid to realise the email was obviously a mistake? Compensated for having a vastly over-inflated sense of entitlement? Compensated for being so much of a consumer-puppet that you validate yourself by bragging about some confected faux-status symbolised by which colour plastic card sits in your wallet and then being embarrassed because, oh sorry, you’re actually still just another cheap-arsed prole after all?
I don’t think that’s Virgin Blue’s fault.
Now of course there’s a metric bazillion blog posts and comments banging on about how this is “epic fail” on Virgin Blue’s part and how they’d have handled it so much better and faster. I won’t link to them because it’s too depressing to realise how many instant fucking experts appear after every little glitch is made public.
However I will link to Darryl King’s excellent piece about what he calls Crowd Spanking.
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 …
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! …
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.
“Epic fail” on Virgin Blue’s part? Bah! Step back a little and think about the full gamut of things which an airline can get wrong and the potential consequences. Up one end, you’ve got mistakes where hundreds of people die in a ball of flame, traumatising their loved ones. Down the other end you’ve got… gosh! A marketing email that was sent to people by mistake.
To the folks who reckon they’d have handled it better and quicker, well, are you really set up to handle such an unusual situation on a Friday night when people have gone to the pub or gone home for the weekend? Personally, I reckon identifying the problem and getting the second email out in three hours isn’t a bad effort — especially when in the meantime there’s, you know, a fucking airline to run!
Well done, Virgin Blue. Well done.
I reckon — and this is just my opinion here — but I reckon we save the Really Big Stick for mistakes which actually matter. Also, stop being such selfish, judgemental little pricks.
[Update 16 October 2009: To illustrate some points I'll be making in the comments, here's a screenshot of the erroneous Velocity Rewards email.]