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Changing minds is different from surprising people

I had an interesting back and forth with Johnnie Moore here: Johnnie Moore’s Weblog: Nagging doubt about the story thing.

My point is that you can’t easily change people’s minds, even with a powerful story. But you can (you MUST) surprise them if you want to be remarkable. You get in because you match their worldview. You spread because you’re surprising or magical or special.

We don’t have to care, part I

I don’t like traveling.

That said, my trip the other day set a new record. I chalk it up to the new "We don’t care, we don’t have to" economy. In many segments, so much profit has been squeezed out that there’s no room to hire and train great people. And there’s not enough competition to harm the bad actors.

I got to JFK with plenty of time. Good thing, too, because the parking lot next to the terminal is closed. The signs are optimistic, though, and point you to the relocated short term parking. Same crazy pricing, of course.

Well, it turns out that it takes half an hour on the bus to get from the parking to the terminal. They have half as many buses as they need, and at $24 a day, it’s not because they can’t afford it. It’s because they don’t have to care.

Got to American, an airline that gave up a long, long time ago. The line for security is 30 people long. But wait! there’s a sign that says, "Business class, Gold, Platinum, etc." I walk over to the sign. The harried woman checking boarding passes says, "Go to the end of the line."

"But there’s a sign."

"I know there’s a sign. We ignore that."

As I stand in line for ten minutes, I watch this act repeated with no less than ten people. It never occurs to the TSA or to American to take down the sign. They don’t care. They don’t have to.

I get on the plane. It hasn’t been refurbished in a decade or more. The seats are creaky. The flight costs more than ten times as much as JetBlue, but nothing about it remarkable in any way. The amazing thing is that I recognized the staff from past flights. Good people. People capable of trying. But they don’t care any more, because management gave up a long time ago.

I get to the Avis counter at SFO. The two women behind the counter have no other customers. I am not making this up–they literally are cackling with glee when my paperwork is messed up. The best thing that happened to them all day. And then when I present my credit (not debit) card, they cackle that they don’t take debit cards, and engage me in a spirited debate about whether or not it is a debit card after all. They don’t care, they don’t have to.

We don’t have to care, part II

The good news:

Dragging my butt, disheartened by the new "we don’t care, we don’t have to" economy, I showed up at the W hotel in San Francisco. Other W hotels hadn’t blown me away, but this place was across the street from my speaking gig and the booking agent put me here, so no big deal.

I walked in with diminished expectations.

Two extremely attractive people behind the counter looked up. The guy said, with a genuine smile, "welcome." And it all started to change.

These people were actually trying. Because they wanted to, not because they had to.

I got to my room. The turn down person handed me a crisp fortune cookie as I walked past her on the way to my room. My room had an etcha sketch on the desk,  a tres cool CD softly playing on the stereo and very neat toiletries in the bathroom. Extra cost, maybe $3.

I called for a wake up call. A truly nice person answered the phone, not a computer. They also asked if I wanted breakfast (at 4 am!!). I did. Net profit for having a person answer? $15.

There is no perfect experience. But this was great storytelling, storytelling with authenticity from caring people. It restored my faith (at least a little) in what organizations can do.

So Seth, you haven’t been on Swedish TV lately

Your prayers are answered:

svt.se – 24.

click on Se senaste programmet. (a realplayer will opend up)

And then click on:
24 Nöje

It’s about one minute in, after some unusual footage of a guy on a bike and then David Bowie (of course).