Sunday, February 14, 2010

Silent Bob speaks up: I weigh in on the issue

Picture source @ThatKevinSmith's twitpic

ThatKevinSmith vs @SouthwestAir

Kevin Smith, the B-list actor/director better known as Silent Bob, or more recently for his work on the great television show Degrassi: The Next Generation, was removed from a Southwest flight for being, well, too fat to fly. As the story goes (or so does my compilation from both sources), Smith was waiting standby for a flight from Oakland to Burbank, a common trip for him. He had originally purchased two seats to accommodate his larger size but in last minute plan changes, opted for one standby seat on another flight.

Apparently, Smith was among the last to board, was able to situate himself in the single chair, buckle his seat belt and put down the arm rests comfortably. It was after then that an attendant noticed Smith was, according to Southwest policy, too large of a being to be in one seat and would have to exit the plane. He was compensated with $100 flight voucher and accommodated on a later flight.

Well, kudos to Smith for being humble enough to fly an airline known for having the most reasonable rates and not requiring first class accommodations. But that's about as down-to-earth as he is going to get, as Smith took his woes to those he knew would care the most: his fans. Smith began declaring his dissatisfaction with Southwest on Twitter, which quickly snowballed into anti-Southwest rally. Such Tweets included:

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

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

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

In reply, hundreds of Tweeters began to share their own Southwest horror stories, from - gasp - delayed flights to other 2-tickets required passengers.

It is understandable why Smith is upset with Southwest. Humiliation is quiet possibly the worst feeling a company could evoke in a customer, although I doubt Smith was truly embarrassed as much as he was just frustrated by the inconvenience. But have some tact, man! Under the account @ThatKevinSmith, the director has posted complaints, rants and tangents to @SouthwestAir as well as proposed challenges and placed bets.

Every two minutes.

For the past two days.

That's a lot of tweets.

He's starting to sound like @OfficialTila, and lets be real, people follow Ms Tequila just waiting for the train wreck to ensue.

Southwest's PR team jumped on the issue, as Southwest does a fairly good job utilizing the social networking site. They issued a public letter of apology after trying to settle the issue privately. The letter is what is to be expected from a major company, assuming all responsibility, apologizing profusely and clarifying policies. Now what?

Let me say, I'm all for getting corporate attention via Twitter. Be it tickets to NBA basketball games, taxi fare refunds or three-armed Snuggies - all of which I have obtained by heckling the right accounts- Twitter is a great way for the little guy to get attention from the bigwigs. That is, if it's done correctly.

First of all, there is a reason Twitter limits 140 characters, and it's a good one. Its microblogging, get your point out, cultivate interest and quickly. I have 700 people to follow, I don't want to be reading half- or in Smith's case- a third of a Tweet when it's continuation may be lost in the shuffle. Once the interest is generated, engage in conversation with fellow Tweeters. Then you can make several points over the course of several Tweets. But don't write a full length article, put that in your blog and make a link...that's the point.

Second, don't draw so much negative attention to yourself. Smith is no longer the victim. Of course his fans and his followers may side with his point-of-view. But c'mon, was Southwest really being malicious? A situation was poorly handled. They apologized. Smith spat on their apology and now wants to appear on the Daily Show sitting in a standard Southwest seat, to prove his innocence from obesity to the world. We believe you, Smith. You got the seat belt fastened and put the arm rests down. Congrats. Still, the number on his scale is against the airline policy, something he was aware of prior to the flight.

It will be interesting to see if Southwest accepts the challenge, because now there is a charity donation at stake. Hopefully the charity will be one fighting childhood obesity.
I give it another week until Smith's fans tell him to shut his pie hole. Might do him good in more ways than one.


  1. Give Smith's account of the tale a listen.

    At about 54 minutes in, you learn why this moved from being a gripe to being a crusade for Kevin. Think of what it must feel like, when you're a bit overweight to suddenly be told you're 'too fat to fly' and consider whether a $100 voucher would make up for that embaressment and grief.

    Southwest's blog post apologizes in one line, but then goes on to justify their actions labelling Smith again as 'too fat to fly'. What's more, Southwest goes ahead and reveals customer data (Smith's seat buying habits) in an attempt to cover themselves, "See - he always buys too seats because he's too fat"

    An apology is just words if there's no action behind it. All Kevin really needed to hear from them is that the treatment he recieved is NOT typical and they will make sure it happens to no one else. Instead what he got was 'sorry ... but we've done nothing wrong'.

  2. I agree that Smith was treated poorly and that this has provided him with a platform to help change the policies that are unfair to overweight customers. However, I believe Smith is lashing out in a very immature way. Twitter is a great way to gain supporters, but I feel that his point - other than being very angry- is lost in his tirade.

    And I'm talking only Twitter. If he chooses that to be his medium, he should use it appropriately. Only his devout fans, those most likely to side with him anyway, will listen to an hour long podcast.