Some blogger I am.  A momentous milestone in my Road Warrior life came and went a couple of months ago, and I forgot to mention it.  Let me make amends for my careless transgression.  I’m a Premier again with United Airlines.

For those who don’t travel, in a nutshell that means I have essentially been given the keys to the executive washroom.  For those who don’t understand my offbeat references, it means I’m a preferred flyer again on United Airlines.  That’s funny, because I thought I always was a preferred flyer on United Airlines, but unfortunately for the first eight months of this year United didn’t agree.  Here was my argument:

  • 24 years in a row of logging 25,000 miles or more a year sitting in their airplane.
  • Over 900,000 miles of lifetime travel sitting in their airplane.
  • Behaving myself even when confronted with terrible customer service, nasty flight attendants, and a systematic reduction in services over the years.

Here was my reward:

  • A shorter security line in larger airports.
  • A “1” on my boarding pass that let me load before the Weekend Warriors and casual flyers.
  • A seat in the Premier Zone, meaning, a few extra inches of legroom.

So, after 24 years in a row of achieving this status, like many, I ran into a brick wall called, “Our Economy in 2009.”  No one was putting on meetings, no one had a budget, and Road Warrior Rob didn’t get his 25,000 miles in the air.  Surely 24 years of dedicated travel, status, and miles would account for something!

Nope.  Like a weary soldier coming home from a failed war, I was stripped of every perk I had been given.  Here was my new reward:

  • Long security lines in larger airports.
  • A “4” on my boarding pass that let me load dead last.
  • A seat in the back of the plane.

Oh, I know you are probably saying, “Well certainly you picked up the phone and called United.  Obviously they would want to work something out with you.”  I was stripped of my ability to speak with anyone at the Premier desk and only given the option to write customer service.  I did, and over a month later in three short sentences, my request was denied.  It was a black and white issue.  I guess looking at everything in front of them caused them to believe I hadn’t earned it.  For $450 they offered me to opportunity to “buy” what I was requesting.

There was no use in getting angry.  In fact, United had every right denying my request for a Premier status.  The rest of my travel resume that includes a total of over two million miles in the air obviously held no weight in the matter.  And no, I won’t be rushing off to punish United Airlines.  I live in D.C. and this is a United town with a United hub.  Punishing them would be punishing myself.

But I will never forget.  Never.

It might be next week, next month, next year, next decade, but someday a scenario will play itself out and United will be seeking some level of loyalty from me.   Maybe they’ll write me, or call me.  Their request will be denied.  It’s a black and white issue.  There will be no dollar figure to buy from me what they will be asking for.

There’s a wonderful business lesson wrapped up in all of this.  There are no black and white issues in business.  I have clients that have been loyal to me for decades and I can assure you the rule book goes out the window in situations like this.  They’ve earned it.  This loyalty that took almost 25 years to create was lost forever in three short sentences between United and Rob Jolles.  Letting me know I could “buy” what I was requesting added salt to the wound.  If you have a client with decades of loyalty, or maybe even a contract or two of loyalty, I’d suggest you think twice when they ask you for a favor.  Learn how to say “no” in a more compassionate way, and for goodness sakes, don’t offer to sell that favor to them.

Not only does United break guitars, they break loyal customers too.

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