A Sweet Story for the Future
This is a departure from most posts here as it is not ruminations about some event or trend or prediction about the future gleaned from developments in the world. Instead it is taken from a personal experience that was unique, pleasant and perhaps an idea to be embraced by individuals and companies alike.
To set the scene, one which is all too familiar to most readers, I was sitting on a United Airlines plane at Oâ€™Hare, waiting to pull away from the gate for the 4:30p departure to Newark. The full plane was soon told that, due to a fast moving front of thunderstorms on the east coast, air traffic had put a ground hold on planes flying into Newark and LaGuardia. We were told that it was not known when we would be cleared for take-off. At 5:30p we were told that the ground hold had been lifted and we would wait in line for take-off. During this time the flight attendants were doing their best to keep people hydrated and comfortable. Around 6:45p we were told that we would be taking off in 50 minutes. In days long gone, the airline would have broken out snacks since it was dinner time and people were getting restless. Of course these days, airlines donâ€™t carry food on board, let alone snacks, at least not for an hour and a half flight.
We had now been on the plane for three hours, and since it was dinner time, stomachs were growling and tempers were getting short. Then sometime unique happened. A flight attendant came on the intercom and said: â€œThe very generous people sitting in 5D and 5E work for the Dove chocolate company and would like everyone to know that they would be glad to distribute candy bars to everyone on board. The choice is dark chocolate or milk chocolate with almondsâ€. The applause and cheering was lusty, loud and long. Food! Chocolate no less! A spontaneous act of human generosity and kindness for every passenger! The flight attendants then passed out large Dove chocolate bars asking â€œDark chocolate or milk chocolate with almonds?â€ The mood on the plane was instantly infused with a bit of human magic and fun. Another prolonged round of applause broke out.
After enjoying a part of a delicious milk chocolate with almonds bar, I walked up to 5D and 5E to thank the heroes of the flight. They were Roberto Garcia and Toni Wasik, both employees of â€œMasterfoods USA, a division of Mars Internationalâ€. Evidently they were on their way to a Mars convention and were responsible for bringing a large quantity of their product to the convention. Realizing that the human need for food on the plane was, perhaps greater than distributing candy bars at a candy convention, they made the impulsive decision to give all their samples to the hungry and ill-tempered passengers. Of course they certainly created a lot of good will for the Dove brand of candy bars. A simple act of human generosity that was also became good marketing.
Why do I write about this? Well, in todayâ€™s world we bemoan the lack of service and consideration everywhere. Flying on airplanes used to be fun, glamorous, exciting, and if you were a frequent flyer, somewhat privileged. Not anymore. No food, no upgrades, no pillows, no blankets; certainly not in this day of $70 oil. In many other places we also feel a loss of service and community as budgets get cut at the city and state level, corporations cut services and costs, leaving us to deal with machines and cyber voices on the telephone.
People are increasingly self centered and rude as they go about their daily lives in part, I believe, because the sense of community and shared personal experience has been largely purged from their daily economic lives. Look how we embrace the experience of walking into a Starbucks because the barista actually knows what kind of coffee we want. Look how we develop social lives via the Internet to replace the community lost in the physical world.
In the high tech future, corporations will increasingly use technology to interface with customers and they will also let individuals fend for themselves â€” such as bringing your own food onto airplanes. To make the future more comfortable, more human, we all need to step up and provide the high touch experiences no longer provided by companies and institutions, even if it revolves around a marketing message for our companies. I hope that Mr. Garcia and Ms.Wasik are trendsetters in this regards. Thanks for the chocolate, it really was good.