Saturday, January 3, 2009

America's most-hated brands.

I checked onto my flight back home from Mexico this morning and was immediately stuck with a $25 surcharge for having an extra carry-on. Now, if I'm not mistaken, the surcharge was imposed by the airlines because gasoline at the time was up around $120/bbl. and the weight of extra baggage forced the airlines to pass a fuel surcharge onto fliers. (Though I find it nearly impossible to believe that it costs $25 in fuel to transport a bag anywhere.)

Today, of course, gasoline is about 75% lower than it was but the surcharge remains. What also remains, I believe, in the hearts and minds of consumers is the conviction that the airlines are a bunch of extortionate liars.

Like the ersatz big three automakers, a handful of airlines will go chapter 11 this year. They will cry high costs, they will plead for government bailouts, they will bemoan ails of their own creation. Like the automakers, the airlines brought their woes on themselves. They betrayed any implicit trust the consumer might once have had in their product. So people hate them.

Airlines, automakers, big-box retailers, etc. aren't going belly-up because of union contracts or outrageous pension benefits. They are going down because they haven't lived up to their word. To provide a good product at a fair price. And when they hand you a flight delay or a lemon rather than making good, they dissemble.

There are whole categories that operate this way. PC-makers. ISPs. Airlines. Detroit. Who else?

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