US Airways flight attendants paid $50 commissions to interrupt us in flight

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Worst Practices  |  Marketing  |  Advertising

I've gone beyond being angry when companies I do business with interrupt me with loud marketing messages that I cannot ignore. Now I just laugh. And blog.


I was on a US Airways flight from Phoenix to Boston earlier this month. The flight departed around 3:00 PM and because of the time change was due in at around 11:00 PM in Boston. Time for a nap. After the movie, about a third of the plane was quietly reading, listening to their iPods or working and the remainder of the passengers, like me, were sleeping. Everyone was mellow.

An hour and a half before landing the lights come up and an announcement comes over the loudspeaker, waking up nearly 100 people from their naps.


"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have great news for everyone flying with us today. You qualify for a free trip anywhere US Airways flies just by applying for the US Airways Signature Visa Card…" As people were rubbing their eyes, there was more form the speakers. The whole vibe of the plane changed as a point-by-point explanation of card benefits was run down. And then, just to make certain that everyone was fully awake, the flight attendant passed through the aisles talking up the Visa card and handing out applications.

I took an application and noticed the flight attendant's name and employee ID number is already filled in. Why so much effort at interruption? It turns out the flight attendant makes a $50 commission for each successful sale.

They're finding new and more efficient ways to interrupt us:
> Rhapsody streams ads while we try to enjoy music.
> Shaw’s Supermarket "informational segments" plays on video screens throughout the store and in the checkout aisles.
> Simon Malls blares advertising in the food court.
> American Express tries to sell us add-on services as we call to activate our card.

Why do these companies deem it important to annoy their existing customers, who are the best prospects they have for repeat business? Why do these companies insult our intelligence? Do they think that loud, unwelcome marketing messages are good for their brand? Or is there some rouge marketing genius doing something that the CEO and the head of customer support doesn’t know about? Or is it just me who is annoyed and other people like this stuff?

I'm naming US Airways to a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Interruption Marketing Hall of Shame.