When I edited Jessica Monsell’s follow-up story about a Beaches Turks and Caicos guest whose vacation had been ruined by a disruptive photo shoot, it was accompanied by an unusual request: Don’t forget to post a picture of the swimsuit models.
Being a guy, I would publish a picture of a swimsuit model with every story on this site, but on this particular story, it was appropriate.
To say this guest did not have a good time would be an understatement. Lounge chairs were removed, chained and locked, beaches and restaurants were closed, and helicopters buzzed overhead while swimsuit models occupied the property and floated in the pools.
Of course, I posted a photo of a swimsuit model with the story. And, of course, it was our most popular post of the week.
I’d like to think Jessica’s advocacy skills lured all the readers. She did an incredible job of persuading Sandals and TripAdvisor to reconsider the case and address the problem. But a picture of a model on the beach can’t hurt, either.
We all have rights
As I reviewed her case and the photo selection I made for the article, I thought: “You know, it’s easy to trivialize this, but everyone has rights. Even swimsuit models.”
That’s easy to forget, especially if you work on the other side of the counter.
Everyone has rights, no matter how much you paid, regardless of the color of your loyalty card, or whether you purchased insurance or not.
But how often do you read the comment on this site (or even hear it muttered under the breath of a ticket agent): “You get what you pay for.”
How often do you tacitly agree with someone who claims the shabby treatment a reader got at the hands of a company was deserved? That if you pay chicken scratch for your airline ticket, you should sit in less than humane conditions? And indeed, that if you don’t pay for something you use — like a Facebook account — you deserve to be the product?
Perhaps George Orwell said it best in Animal Farm: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
Who benefits the most?
Segmenting customers is great if you’re part of the 1 percent. Who wouldn’t love to be a platinum VIP with a private butler and late checkout privileges?
But you have to wonder: Who is benefiting the most from an industry that obsessively divides its customers into “haves” and “have-nots”? And when everyone buys into this warped system, where only the folks with metal-plated cards get treated with any amount of respect and decency, who is the biggest beneficiary?
If you guessed the elites, you’re wrong.
No, when everyone concurs that the “gate lice” and cheapskates deserve next to nothing and have fewer rights than the best customers, then the company benefits the most. They fall back on their adhesion contracts, the laws passed by the paid-off legislators, and a public deceived by loyalty program propaganda and proceed to give their customers the least amount of service possible while charging them the most they can.
Their shareholders benefit, but you lose.
Arthur Boas, the traveler we helped last week, wasn’t a VIP. Sandals had been ignoring his request for compensation for years, and TripAdvisor was arguably complicit in that denial. Boas didn’t have any elite status or special media connections until we stepped in to help him.
Boas had rights. Swimsuit models have rights. You have rights.
Perhaps that’s why the elites don’t like the mission and message of this website: That everyone has rights. I’m not surprised. The ruling elites get nervous and do whatever it takes to cling to power before every revolution.
But revolution is inevitable, and trying to silence our advocacy only makes the privileged class look as desperate as I know they are.