Monday, May 03, 2004

Off-Topic Rant of the Day for May 3, 2004 When my flight landed in Chicago, I discovered all the major rental car agencies have abandoned their airport terminal offices and replaced their human staff with signs directing customers to catch the shuttle bus to their parking facilities. They also installed courtesy phones. Most have phones with two buttons: one button will supposedly connect you to their world-wide reservation system and the other will supposedly connect you to their local airport office, presumably the one at the parking lot. Clearly, the executives who run the rental car agencies implemented this system to improve employee productivity by eliminating half of the airport staff and shifting their duties to the remaining half. I’m sure the executives implemented this policy would say they did this in pursuit of that cherished Holy Piss Pot of free-market capitalism that economists call “competition.” As a public service, I field-tested the system. The two-button telephone system is genius. The designer obviously anticipated a scenario where some disgruntled asshole, like me, might use the Avis courtesy telephone to book a reservation with a competitor, like Hertz. Unfortunately, if you press either button you’re connected to a robot-voice that invites you to “make a selection from the following menu.” There is no keypad on the phone, so if you want to make a reservation, change a reservation, check rates or do anything else the robot-voice tells you is available, you’re fucked. In theory, increased worker productivity lowers production costs and the resulting savings are passed to the customer in the form of lower product prices. A company that can offer lower prices for products or services will attract more business than its competitors and earn more profits. Productive workers are more valuable than less productive workers and are compensated accordingly. In practice, customers get screwed. The customer gets to wait in a longer line to be served by a surly employee whose duties have doubled without corresponding compensation. Cost savings that result from reduced staff go only to support the compensation packages of the corporate vampires and MBA dingle-berries who design a system where a prospective customer can’t even buy their product. Since I don’t believe in rewarding stupidity, I used the public phone to cancel my reservation with Enterprise. I hailed a taxi to take me, my business and my money to the local Rent-A-Wreck. They try harder. 86-43-04. Pass it on.


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