February 14 2010

Kevin Smith Uses Social Media As A Weapon Against Southwest Airlines

In the age of social media, there have been many pundits that have said it shouldn’t be used as a “weapon”, but the question is: Why not?

Companies are putting customer service reps on to sites such as Twitter with increasing regularity due to users turning to that site more and more as a place to vent their frustrations with a company.  Last night service rep for Southwest Airlines got a definite work out as film writer and director Kevin Smith took his anger with the airline to the masses.

The creative mind behind such films as Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma and others was taking a flight from San Fransisco to Burbank on Southwest Airlines last night.  After he had put his luggage in the overhead bin, and been seated, he was informed that the Captain of the fight had decided that due to his extreme weight that he was a “safety risk” and had him removed from the flight.  As is the way in this day and age, Mr. Smith took to his Twitter account, and what followed was a slew of Tweets, the name for the messages on Twitter, from the director (language left intact for impact):

Dear @SouthwestAir – I know I’m fat, but was Captain Leysath really justified in throwing me off a flight for which I was already seated?

Dear @SouthwestAir, I flew out in one seat, but right after issuing me a standby ticket, Oakland Southwest attendant Suzanne (wouldn’t give

last name) told me Captain Leysath deemed me a “safety risk”. Again: I’m way fat… But I’m not THERE just yet. But if I am, why wait til my

bag is up, and I’m seated WITH ARM RESTS DOWN. In front of a packed plane with a bunch of folks who’d already I.d.ed me as “Silent Bob.”

So, @SouthwestAir, go fuck yourself. I broke no regulation, offered no “safety risk” (what, was I gonna roll on a fellow passenger?). I was

wrongly ejected from the flight (even Suzanne eventually agreed). And fuck your apologetic $100 voucher, @SouthwestAir. Thank God I don’t

embarrass easily (bless you, JERSEY GIRL training). But I don’t sulk off either: so everyday, some new fuck-you Tweets for @SouthwestAir.

Wanna tell me I’m too wide for the sky? Totally cool. But fair warning, folks: IF YOU LOOK LIKE ME, YOU MAY BE EJECTED FROM @SOUTHWESTAIR.

Via @byrneification “save the anger for SModcast” Believe it, Son. @SouthwestAir? You fucked with the wrong sedentary processed-foods eater!

(1/2) @pigz “I know several people bigger then u who have flown on other airlines” I saw someone bigger than me on THAT flight! But I wasn’t

(2/2) about to throw a fellow Fatty under the plane as I’m being profiled. But he & I made eye contact, & he was like “Please don’t tell…”

Dear @SouthwestAir, I’m on another one of your planes, safely seated & buckled-in again, waiting to be dragged off in front of the normies.

And, hey? @SouthwestAir? I didn’t even need a seat belt extender to buckle up. Somehow, that shit fit over my “safety concern”-creating gut.

Hey @SouthwestAir! Look how fat I am on your plane! Quick! Throw me off!

Hey @SouthwestAir! I’ve landed in Burbank. Don’t worry: wall of the plane was opened & I was airlifted out while Richard Simmons supervised.

This wasn’t even all of them, but I shared with you the most important ones to follow the story.

The Southwest employee charged with monitoring Twitter for the evening did reply to Mr. Smith on several occasions, and claimed that calls had been placed to him to try to make amends, but the damage was certainly done by that point to the airline’s reputation.

My question is why is this such a bad thing?  Mr. Smith was being wronged by the airline, publicly humiliated in front of a plane full of people, and he shouldn’t use the tools at his disposal to talk about it?  Mr. Smith has been very upfront about his weight in interviews and on his podcast, Smodcast, and if his weight was such an issue, why wasn’t anything said at the ticket counter?  At the gate?  Why was he let on another Southwest flight after being removed from the first?  He had a legitimate complaint to make, but I am sure the “social media purity police” will wag their fingers at Mr. Smith for sullying their Utopian society of social media tools as a weapon.

I have a dog in this fight as someone who used to need a seatbelt extension on airplanes, but that isn’t why I’m taking Mr. Smith’s side in this fight, and nor is it because I’m a fan of his work: it’s because companies and brands should be held accountable for their actions, and now the consumer has a way to do this.  In the old days you would write them a letter, you might get a voucher if you were lucky, but usually you would hear nothing of substance.  You’d tell your friends about it, and that would be it.  Mr. Smith has over 1.6 million followers on Twitter, and with just a 140 character message, he was able to tell all of them about the situation.He shouldn’t do this?  There is some sort of shame to this?

The shame is that people feel that you shouldn’t, and I plan to explore this more through out this week.

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