Monday, February 22, 2010

Daily Rant

Evan got a little upset with me yesterday. He said it's hard to listen to my rants. Imagine that.

I had just read an article about Virgin Airlines charging $80 for aisle seats. Even though consumer attitudes toward the air travel industry are extremely low, the airlines keep finding new ways to inconvenience and infuriate travelers. When asked about their charge for aisle seats, a Virgin spokesperson replied that it was not a departure from industry standards. Further, they explained, customers are used to paying extra for amenities at ball parks and theaters, so why should they grouse about paying extra on an airplane.

We have been considering changing from the family cell phone plan we've had. In the course of considering options we noted that the plans we were interested in had attractive pricing... until you started factoring in all of the "extras" that weren't included in the basic plan. Sally got so frustrated that she simply stopped looking.

My rant tied together the Virgin Airlines story and the recent TV ad for Subways that features the continual repetition of the word "ANY" as a part of their $5 footlong promotion. Slipped into the ad, inconspicuously, is the word "regular". So ANY footlong is $5. ANY, ANY, ANY, ANY regular footlong is $5. That limits the field quite a bit, but then, by the time you've made your way to Subways for the deal you probably won't leave just because of your careless misreading of their ad.

I decried the patent dishonesty of such advertising, and Evan countered that he has grown up with it, and has no expectation that an ad should be honest. And therein lies the rub.

As reported in the Spokane Spokesman-Review, a recent survey of teen ethics by the Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics found that 30% of 30,000 teens admitted to stealing from a store the past year, 64% said they' d cheated on a test, and 36% admitted plagiarism. The scores on these biennial surveys are in steady decline. Some blame the internet, or the indiscretion of public figures like Tiger Woods, or high visibility scams like ENRON or Bernie Madoff.

I wonder if we haven't all become numb to the daily, continual lying and cheating inherent in commercial capitalism. I don't fault Evan for having no expectation that an ad should be honest, but I do wonder about the price we pay when living in the midst of a society with such low expectations.

In my growing up, I often heard the phrase, "two wrongs don't make a right." I was not able to convince my parents that ethical and moral standards did not apply to me simply on the basis of my being able to find others in the crowd who didn't share my parents' values. Looking back, I now realize that, instead of intoning "everyone else is doing it" I should have made my case by citing the more professional sounding Industry Standards.


  1. Did you hear the NPR commentary by a comedian saying that airlines were going to install coin-operated oxygen systems that needed 5 cents every so many minutes?

  2. A lot of it does have to do with expectation, I think. I get frustrated when things I expected to have access to suddenly have an associated charge. I don't get mad at having to pay hundreds of dollars of student fees, but when one of the lunch places near the university changes its lunch special from 5 dollars to 5.75? That is cause for tooth gnashing and frustration.

    I am sorry to have missed the olympic curling competition, but feel pleasantly insulated from TV commercials which lie. Even if I know they lie.

  3. Well curling isn't QUITE done. Just today in the women's semi-final between Canada and Switzerland the commentator waited until the 8th end (out of 10) before exclaiming, after an errant shot by Switzerland, "That's a Swiss miss!". Arrrrggghhh!