Kidnapped Luggage, Vengeful Customers, and a Spectacular Social Media Meltdown

Commentary about business and finance.
Sept. 4 2013 5:04 PM

“I’m Here for Business Meetings with No Clothes”

Rubbernecking at Air Berlin’s spectacular social media meltdown.

(Continued from Page 1)

“I wonder if he flew air Berlin and that's why he had no normal clothes and proper shoes ;)” (accompanied by this picture of a sandaled star on the red carpet)

“Service ist Katastrophe!”

 It continues, for the airline company has apparently performed genuine miracles of incompetence. They misplaced the equipment of two different bands in one month, first forcing the Swedish metal group Sabaton to postpone a concert (for lack of instruments) and then spiriting away the tools of the trade for a trio of Toronto rockers.

Nicht halten Sie Ihren Atem, Freunde. As shown by the below exchange between a customer and a service representative/Twitter bot, seeking to recover a bag from the Air Berlin vortex lands you in an uneasy layover between the company hotline and the airport Lost and Found. Few who venture into this geography of evasions and runarounds return unscarred.

The business has not yet responded to Slate’s request for comment. Whoever runs its Twitter feed is very busy trying to stanch the blood flow. Initially robotic apologies are becoming more contrite (if you can measure contrition in exclamation points), even though the message remains the same: Please contact someone else.

While speculation that the company may soon waft up to the great tarmac in the sky has quieted with its Oneworld merger, Air Berlin’s total inability to transport a Delsey suitcase from point A to point B can’t be a good sign. If all fails, though, they could have a future in marketing chocolate hearts. Chocolate hearts! This Air Berlin motif attempts to sweeten the otherwise ireful newsfeeds, sometimes as a verb—“We #chocolateheart Kolle,” “We chocolateheart the world!”—and sometimes as a tinsel-wrapped talisman against customer hate: “The chocolate heart is an airberlin trademark and is presented on many airberlin flights as a farewell gift to guests as they exist the aircraft,” explains a press release. These sugary frills amid all the teeth-gnashing mark Air Berlin as either egregiously out of touch or invested in some kind of dada rage-candy performance art.

Regardless, here’s where a Teutonic philosopher would offer a stunning insight about the role of social media as a leveler. Facebook and Twitter increase accountability by bringing mighty companies face-to-face with the everyday people who use their services. Consumers can band together and share experiences. Plus, the public nature of it all makes these platforms a great new forum for the ancient and eternal pastime of shaming. How would Adorno unpack the irony that it’s when businesses try to burnish their images by turning to Twitter and Facebook (“we’re so hip and accessible!”) that they most risk losing control of their brand? What would he make of the queasy drama of Air Berlin’s corporate unraveling? Where did all the luggage go, anyway? Amid so many questions, only one thing seems clear: Whatever you do, don’t fly Air Berlin.

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