Brands Don’t Care; People Do

I must apologise for there being a break between my blog posts, but I’m hoping this one is a real cracker. Okay – instead of hobbling through these bad puns, I’ll just say it plain – I broke my foot. I fractured my fifth metatarsal in my right foot and I’ve been on crutches now for 8 weeks. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, why not use it as inspiration for a blog post?

I thought this would be a great opportunity to write about how my relationship with brands changed because of this new perspective, or how companies accommodated for me as I limped my way through these last 2 months. But instead I came to the realisation that it’s not the brands that care, it’s the people who do.

Let’s start at the beginning. I wasn’t just unfortunate enough to break my foot, but do so overseas. So my crippled journey starts with an international flight back home from London courtesy of Singapore Airlines. Thinking I would could milk this opportunity for all it was worth I tried for the hail Mary – a business class seat, and then the slightly more achievable seat with extra leg room. However, Singapore Airlines failed me. They couldn’t upgrade me at all, even with a doctor’s note suggesting keeping my leg elevated. The best they could do is put me in an aisle seat – my health was at risk here guys and Singapore Airlines had let me down, but fortunately, the flight staff were incredibly helpful. They were super accommodating and made way for me, stowed my crutches for me (which truly have no place in the narrow confines of an aeroplane), offered extra pillows and – most importantly – made sure that other impatient passengers were patient for me.

After arriving back home I had insurance policies to claim. I’m sure there’s no shortage of blog posts about the irony of insurance companies ‘caring’ for their customers, and going through my PDS, I saw statements about how my choice of medical provider could potentially void my claim, or that my medical documents may have to be translated to be accepted. A phone call to a representative put my mind at ease however. She admitted that those statements are there literally just to scare customers and after hearing my plight, she said I shouldn’t have any issues with my claim as is. She even advised that it’s worth ‘over-claiming’ things (like my series of 500-metre Uber trips and padding for my crutches), which turned out to be a very handy tip – in the end I got everything refunded.

Lastly, I have to talk about public transport. Not easy at the best of times, right? What if you were on one leg, AND there were replacement buses on your train line? Then even when the trains started running again, the elevators weren’t operating at my station yet (Skyrail’s disadvantages were starting to dawn on me). At least the Level Crossing Removal Authority were thoughtful enough to have mobility impairment shuttles running between stations where the elevators were out. What wasn’t very thoughtful though was to set up the temporary stops miles away from the platform with no seating to use while waiting for the shuttle. While many people would attest that Metro or the LXRA have no foresight whatsoever, I can attest that at least some of their staff do. Upon noticing me suffer in silence, a marshal ran and got me a plastic chair from their staff room to use while I waited for the shuttle to arrive.

I know what you may be thinking; But James, the brands didn’t fail you, their staff who helped you are an extension of the brand itself! There is definitely some truth to that statement. But the truth is that people are often the personal touchpoint of a brand, and sometimes their actions seem to be independent of the brands they work for. It’s important therefore that if a brand’s staff are going the extra mile, to make sure that is reinforced by the brand itself. As an example, Uber drivers have been extremely accommodating of me as I (literally) hop into their cars. But this is because Uber has encouraged drivers to do so, and urges riders to report any discriminatory behaviour from drivers towards disabled or mobility impaired passengers. Whether you agree or disagree that brands don’t care about customers, I would definitely not advise you to walk a mile in my moonboot to find out.

To finish, I should make a special mention of one brand who has been particularly helpful during this dark period. A special thank you goes to The Interpreters for making me cups of tea, holding doors open for me, and allowing me to use boxes of printing paper to put my leg up at my desk.


By James Shelley

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