1. One of my pet peeves when traveling [and I travel quite a bit these days] is when I get assigned to the middle seat on an airplane.
We all know why; we all know middle seats are uncomfortable and nasty. We all know that they basically suck.
Sure, the good airline folk will tell me, they've already booked all the window and aisle seats. They've only got middle seats left. Sorry etc.
Which always makes me think to myself, "Those middle seats shouldn't be on the airplane in the first place".
Middle seats are, to me, a product of a different era. They were invented when the first long distance jet airliners came around, the Boeing 707, the VC-10 etc etc. Before that they just had aisles and windows.
Thirty or forty years ago, airplanes were designed before the airline industry was deregulated, when air travel was REALLY expensive. When people had far fewer choices.
Jet Blue currently buys long, skinny airplanes to make getting rid of the middle seat economically viable. But they're a new airline. Older, larger, more established airlines are still beholden to their old, fat airplanes, stuffed to the brim with middle seats.
It won't happen overnight, but there will come a time when offering your airline customers a middle seat will be tantamount to economic suicide.
Because people simply don't want middle seats. They never did. And they'll gladly take their business over to someone who doesn't have them on offer.
This middle-seat-free day arriving will great news for us customers, of course. But not if you're "Middle Seat Guy".
2. Middle Seat Guy is the guy at the airline whose job it is to figure out the middle seats- how many of them they can cram onto a plane, and how to sell middle seats as efficiently as possible [to people who never wanted them to begin with].
Suddenly, he's out of a job. People aren't buying middles seats anymore, suddenly the world has no more use for his services. He's at home; he's bitter, he feels personally betrayed by the airline who employed him for twenty years. His life sucks and he's hitting the bottle before noon etc.
Whether we're talking about airlines or any other kind of business, the fact is, the Internet has made it MUCH harder to sell your customers metaphorical "Middle Seats". And the punishment for trying to get away with it keeps on getting more swift and severe.
3. No, we don't want to give you $7500.00 in order to help you pay off your six-figure student loans from Law School. We'd much rather download something off the internet that does the same job for $99.99.
No, we don't want be interrupted by you, so you can show us your well-crafted, multi-million dollar marketing message about how wonderful your client's automobiles are. We'd much rather get the skinny from an online forum.
No, we don't want to buy your generic, cardboard-tasting, mass-produced cookies from the local convenience store; we'd rather order some online from this Trappist Monk Weirdo Lumberjack in Alaska, who makes by-hand-in-tiny-batches THE MOST AMAZING cookies ever.
No, we don't want to buy your $25 bottle of nasty, Califonian vinegar. We'd rather buy this great little $10 Australian red that this cool wine blogger turned us on to.
4. The only time I really watch TV is when I'm staying in a hotel room, like I was last weekend while visiting Austin for SXSW. Usually I just turn on CNN, and listen to the pundits blether on. Background noise. Fairly mindless stuff.
It was quite a disconnect for me to hear the guys on CNN yapping endlessly on about THE RECESSION, in contrast to all the groovy cats I met at SXSW, who told me how their businesses were booming. It was like two alternate universes colliding. Which one was the real one?
To anyone reading this who has lost their job to the recession recently, first let me say how sorry I am to hear that. I lost my job during the last recession, and I know how rotten it can be. I utterly sympathize.
That being said, while I'm watching CNN I keep asking myself the same question. What percentage of these recession victims were just plain, randomly unlucky, and how many were in the business of selling metaphorical "Middle Seats" before they got laid off?
I don't know what's going to happen in this recession in the long run. I do know, however, that a lot of Middle Seat Guys, i.e. those who currently make their living via "The Ignorance Premium", are going to be suddenly out of work, with ZERO idea about what to do next. I hope that doesn't include you.Posted by hugh macleod at March 20, 2009 8:00 PM | TrackBack