Pennies from heaven

Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s CEO has an in-your-face reputation, or as my mother might put it, no class. When he suggested last week that passengers might have to pay to use the washroom on flights, I thought this is as low as it gets.

One of the functions of a business is to make money. O’Leary has never been a proponent of leaving anything on the table: he wants it all – always. I reckon that his latest wheeze is just a cheap publicity gag, even if it does cheapen human dignity along the way. (Would passengers need a doctor’s certificate to prove incontinence, or will such people have to pay a surcharge for overuse of the facilities?) And such gags say a lot about what image of humanity someone carries around inside them.

Tonight it got a tad lower. I came across a Harvard Business Publishing blogged article Why Ryanair’s Bathroom Plan Sort of Makes Sense. The author’s rationale is that if a company is average, or middle-of-the-road, it’s nothing. To survive, companies need to stand out, to accentuate their uniqueness. “Pay to pee” fits into this strategy. Sounds like a warped view of the Purple Cow. I don’t think Seth Godin is going blog anytime soon about the merits of treating customers like scum.

Note to Harvard Publishing: Write out one hundred times, “Debase human dignity and you debase business ethics.”

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