I’ve worked in and around marketing long enough that I understand the fundamental logic behind loyalty and reward programs. There is so much competition in most markets and with most commodities that rewarding people for sticking by you is critical. People like to be rewarded and feel they are part of a bigger tribe. People are also fickle. They’re loyalty can be bought with color coding and insincere gratitude.
Guilty as charged. I’ve done it, you’ve done it and, heck, I bet we’ve all done it at one time or another. I’m more than happy to use my free Marriott wifi and have a drink in the Club Lounge. Even my airport parking earns me a status level that comes with no actual perks or benefits.
I think the worst offender on this, by far, are the airlines. I was waiting to board a flight between DFW to LaGuardia about a year ago and the fare I booked included Group One boarding. I was afraid I would have to gate check my bag so I was excited I could get to board in an earlier group and be able to secure a coveted overhead bin.
Thirty minutes before departure the gate agent starts the boarding announcements and, Group One boarding pass clutched in hand, I waited for my turn.
Here’s how it went down: First Class passengers and active duty military followed by Executive Platinum, Pro Platinum and then Run-of-the-Mill Platinum. Next, we moved on to Ruby, Sapphire, Diamond, Peridot, Quartz, Sodium Nitrate and a litany of other precious medals and gemstones. After that was exhausted it was time to invite all of the OneWorld Alliance codeshare passengers whose status involved some sort of Bedazzling. Honestly, I’m quite convinced there aren’t that many combinations of precious metals and gemstones on display at the Tower of London.
Finally, they got to the AAdvantage Tin Foil group. I waited for the gate agent, my boarding pass still clutched in my hand, to call Group One. I felt a bit like Ralphie Parker fantasizing about his essay grade to be called out by the teacher in A Christmas Story. Instead , she said “All passengers in all groups are invited to board at this time.” How could this be? I was special that day. I got to board earlier than other passengers. Then I came to the realization that there were only six of us left at the gate.
We were flying a 737-800. American’s configuration of that plane seats 160 people. Turns out 154 of them were more special than me.