Outrageous fees. Deceptive business practices. Angry customers.
You can’t make this stuff up.
And 2015 delivered a bumper crop of ridiculousness — or, as Bill Maher might say, ridiculousity.
It all started with my dire prediction in January that the absurdity would get worse. And guess what? That’s exactly what happened.
They’d just ignore the rules, anyway. Would better laws protect consumers? Not necessarily. As I observed, airlines routinely ignore EU 261, a law meant to help their passengers. Why wouldn’t they do the same thing here? (Answer: They would.)
Crossing the state line costs extra. Here’s one of my favorite ridiculous stories of the year, involving a driver who crossed the state line and had to pay extra for a rental car. Seriously. Where do they come up with this stuff? (You want to know what I loved most about that one? Five percent of the folks who took the poll said these preposterous fees represented the free market at its best. What’s up with that?)
TSA. Enough said! When it comes to the agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems, there’s no need to manufacture outrage (something I would never do, of course). The TSA does it all by itself. We asked some hard questions about the TSA’s ill-fated “managed inclusion” program that allowed random strangers to bypass a few of the agency’s vaunted layers of security, but no one seemed to care. Now that every frequent air traveler has shelled out money for a club membership in PreCheck, the debate is over, isn’t it?
Comcast! Do I even need to elaborate? OK, then. For a company spending tens of millions of dollars on improving customer service, it sure doesn’t have much to show. Try harder, Comcast.
Do airlines try to deceive us? Many airline apologists think this is a game. The people who read every booking screen will be rewarded with reasonably fair treatment. The ones who don’t have the same attention to detail? Well, they deserve what they get. Witness the discussion on this post about American Airlines’ deceptive “hold” policy. Personally, I think the reaction to this story is more ridiculous than the policy. How can anyone think this policy is customer-friendly, and where can I buy what they’re smoking?
And you know what’s next, don’t you? The best — or the worst — is yet to come. Corporate America got away with a lot in 2015. It gave us less but charged us more. It pocketed our hard-earned money when it shouldn’t have. It earned record profits as a result.
Meanwhile, we stood like buffalo facing into a storm and allowed the apologists to tell us that we deserved to be hit with fees and restrictive conditions, because we didn’t read every last paragraph of the fine print. So, in a way, many of our wounds are self-inflicted. The enemy isn’t out there — it’s right here in our inner circle.
Perhaps that’s what 2016 will be all about. It’s clear that corporations have lost their moral compass. It’s clear that they will do whatever they can to increase their shareholder value, even if it means lying, cheating and stealing.
The most ridiculous part of it isn’t that we let them. Often, we had no choice after agreeing to their profoundly unfair adhesion contracts. No, the most absurd part of this is that we allowed other consumers to convince us that this ridiculousness — this ridiculousity — was something we deserved.
Maybe we need to shut down these faux advocates next year. I’ll add that to my “to do” list.