The Internet has many truisms, one being that it spreads bad news faster than wildfire. Recently, the cell phone video of a United Airlines passenger being physically dragged through an airplane’s aisles reached millions within minutes.
Medical reports say the guy suffered a concussion, broken nose and lost two teeth. We’ll never know the entire story since United quickly settled with the passenger for undisclosed dollars. True or not, it was a corporate disaster and public relations catastrophe.
Shown repeatedly for days, the video sparked a public outcry and threats of a Congressional investigation. In response, United released a 10-point list of reforms and employee policies.
Consumers spending their money expect basic courtesy and safety. Looking at what we saw in the released video, this guy got neither. Granted, video footage can be edited to obscure viewing the entire situation, but it’s pretty damning to watch security dragging a guy along the floor.
Flight attendants often express appreciation to flyers for selecting them since they have a choice of airlines. When multiple airlines fly identical routes at similar prices, what makes the difference?
Special service and what airlines – or casino companies – offer either attracts or turns off customers. For example, most flyers love Southwest‘s cheap fares, free baggage allowances and snacks, so they tolerate standing in line for unassigned seats.
During the video game craze of my 1980s arcade days, plenty of guys with extra cash considered themselves route operators. We all ran the same machines, but the difference was our commitment and capability for long-term good service and maintenance. They quickly failed, but not before damaging the marketplace.
Like airlines, most large and small gaming organizations are public companies whose “products” are filled with millions of daily customers. Casinos from Las Vegas to Atlantic City to Illinois and Mississippi owe their customers safety, quality and courtesy. Gambling consumers understand they will probably lose in the end, but still insist on a secure, cordial atmosphere.
However, situations do arise where a casino’s authority figures may have to take measures to prevent problems. An unruly player can easily create chaos, magnified by large amounts of money on site and free drinks flowing at the tables or slots. A table’s camaraderie can instantly turn hostile and potentially violent under particular circumstances, so good management should have solid emergency plans in place.
For United, their people seemed to overreact, but some former industry crew members offer a defense. They claim the Federal Aviation Administration‘s (FAA) many rules allow little leeway for crew discretion. Employees worry that any deviation will be recorded and jeopardize that person’s job.
A gaming jurisdiction’s enforcement agency also sets strict regulations. A similar situation is possible enough for gaming executives to take this seriously. How much latitude should a dealer have at his/her table? What rights does security have throughout the casino property?
They must reach consensus with regulatory organizations regarding compliance in unexpected scenarios. The ability to immediately diffuse trouble is crucial to ease customers’ concerns. Another reason is to avoid handing gaming opponents an excuse to label casinos harmful to their neighborhoods.
That does not lessen the customers‘ responsibility for their own conduct. A fine line exists between the “customer is always right” and “it’s time for the customer to go.“
I often questioned my dad’s endurance of verbally abusive, complaining customers over 50 years. His answer was clear…he could tolerate them as long as they were profitable. When they no longer were, he was done.
I argued that some business was not worth having, but ultimately he was right. The situation either resolved itself or soon proved it was time to go and we were out of there.
Large and small casinos must be able to freely assess and defend their onsite decisions. After all, who wants his or her picture on the evening news? In this day and age, the Internet all but guarantees it will be.