16/11/2004 - 21:00

Not much fun on this flight of fancy

16/11/2004 - 21:00


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I had a consumer experience the other day that I have been stewing on, wondering how I could share my pain when I have a pretty solid rule that journalists should take a cautious approach to airing personal issues.

Not much fun on this flight of fancy

I had a consumer experience the other day that I have been stewing on, wondering how I could share my pain when I have a pretty solid rule that journalists should take a cautious approach to airing personal issues.

Then, on Monday, I had a cathartic moment. I was proof reading Jeffrey Gitomer’s column, Sales Session, on page 31, which detailed his “joy” at being reinstated as a customer and a passenger on US Airways, and realised I had been given the opportunity I needed.

My experience, like Jeffrey’s, was with an airline.

I thought I had a grievance when, in fact, I now realise it was all my fault. I share this with you now in the hope that you don’t make the same mistake that I did and learn from my errors of judgement.

Initially, I thought my first error was at 6.30am on Wednesday last week when I received a phone call. In my surprised and somewhat unprepared state I was taken aback when the caller told me that the flights my family had booked for the Christmas holiday period had been changed.

You might be thinking that my first mistake was to express dismay when, in fact, I should have been apologising for being a little sleepy and not quite understanding what the lady, from Virgin Blue, was telling me.

After all, having read what Jeffrey had to say, how could a customer service operator have known that the number she had dialled was in Perth and that daylight saving meant there was now a three hour time difference from the eastern States.

The silly thing is that she apologised to me when I pointed this out … when all the time I should have been more on the ball. If I hadn’t been distracted preparing for my breakfast interview with Tony Fini I never would have let slip the time and made her feel bad about it.

Of course, that wasn’t my first mistake, was it?

No and, in hindsight, it’s so abundantly clear. Nor, I might add, was my first mistake the subsequent rebooking of flights that meant we lost two days of our holidays, including accommodation we’d reserved months ago, like the flights, because we knew how tough it is to get anything decent over the festive period.

I look back (it’s only a week ago, so it’s quite fresh) and think how ridiculous it was for me to think that an airline might be responsible for the cost and inconvenience of changing holiday plans. A good customer would just thank his lucky stars that he will get there at all.

So what was my first mistake? The costly error of judgement that I was seeking to lay blame on others when it rested squarely upon my own shoulders?

It took Jeffrey Gitomer’s wise words to expose the horrible truth to me. It was like a mirror held up in my face for the very first time.

My first mistake was to think that an airline might actually honour its flight schedule at the festive season.

How stupid of me. These guys have a business to run, they can’t be fussing about and worrying over everyone else’s plans. Imagine the logistics in trying to anticipate that people flying close to Christmas, or any time for that matter, might have plans of their own. It doesn’t bear thinking about and I am truly sorry to all concerned for even imaging that my family’s needs could ever register on the radar of such a mammoth organisation with so many important things to achieve.

My naivety in this regard is compounded by the fact – and here’s an admission that probably brands me as a serial offender in this regard – that I was a customer of Ansett with heaps of frequent flier points; some people never learn, I can hear you say.

But I have learned and I am sorry for my faults in travel planning. I apologise to anyone if they got the entirely wrong impression that I knew what I was doing and maybe, just for a moment, felt bad for me while they attempted to salvage some holiday for me from a mess of my own creation.

There now, I feel better. Cleansed, almost. Thank you Jeffrey, and thank you Virgin Blue.

Government role in skills shortage

One of the disappointments to me from our recent skills shortage lunch (see page 12) was the perceived role of government in addressing skills shortages.

While I agree that State and Federal governments are needed to solve this crisis, it is not always the case that government need be there – that’s determined by the level of regulation.

Education and Training Minister Alan Carpenter said the current skills shortage was a clear case of market failure – where demand was not naturally met by supply.

That is simply not true.

In many cases the skills supply is there, we are simply not letting them in the country. Migration is regulated, heavily, so you can hardly blame the market. In the case of the medical profession’s specialists, they regulate numbers entering these fields, so you can hardly claim the market isn’t working there either.

And remember, if you want all skills during boom times to come from a limited group of people such as our local population, you potentially curse a part of that population to being jobless during troughs in the cycle.


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