Don’t Pretend Your Business Never Fails

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April, 2023 * Volume III, Number 4

Dear Airborne Reader,

Here it is! The latest edition of your favorite news-free email newsletter, Word PLAY! Dropping from cyberspace like a paratrooper (or bird excrement).

This month, we tell horror stories about air travel. Who doesn’t love those? Also, we talk about the benefit your business derives when you’re really great at taking care of customer problems.


Joking aside, THANK YOU for reading, and for making Firewords Creative Copy your go-to source for the words that win and the funny that makes money. I am humbled by your support, and seriously grateful for your business.

- Michael

Michael D. Hume, M.S.
Senior Author and Passenger In Seat 8C
Firewords Creative Copy

Meanwhile, in this edition of Word PLAY...

Straighten Up And Fly Right
Don't Pretend Your Business Never Fails,
Just Solve The Problem When It Does

Word PLAY… Playful Monthly Commentary
On Persuasive Copy For YOUR Business

A few of us were standing around at a lawn party the other day, swapping horror stories about our air travel experiences. This is an easy conversation to carry on these days, and it took about four days for everyone to tell their best (meaning, worst) stories.

We finally had to limit it to “Your Top (Bottom) Ten Worst Air Travel Experiences,” just to keep the thing from rolling on for another four days.

As a former Frequent Flyer (and paratrooper), my list was easy to come up with:

  • I jumped out of planes during my Army stint. I know, I know, everyone says “Why would you jump out of a perfectly good airplane?” Hardy har har. The fact is, at least when I was doing my paratrooping, the military didn’t have any perfectly good airplanes. Jumping out mid-flight was actually a rational choice.
  • So one entry on my list would be the many times I jumped out and ended up with twisted lines, which doesn’t kill you but does tick you off a bit… or the many times I failed to execute a grand Parachute Landing Fall and, instead, hit the ground like ten pounds of oatmeal in a five pound sack.
  • Technically, those are air travel experiences. And not good ones.
  • Or the time I raced across the Frankfurt airport to make a tight connection, and arrived (through multiple security lines) 45 minutes before departure time, but while I could see the airplane sitting prettily at the gate, just waiting for me, the (let’s say) militaristic gate agent informed me that I’d missed the flight, and that I would have to stay in an unpleasant airport hotel and fly home a day later.
  • At least they had marijuana muffins in the buffet line at this particular unpleasant airport hotel, which was perfectly legal in Germany back then (apparently), and is now perfectly legal practically everywhere (apparently).
  • Yes, I had one. I didn’t feel any effects. Maybe I should’ve had a dozen, just for kicks. But I didn’t, and that’s the only time I’ve ever ingested marijuana, and in fact I didn’t realize I’d ingested marijuana until a fellow traveler told me what was really contained in the “herb muffin” I’d just eaten.
  • No really. I don’t do pot. I know, as a faithful reader of this space, you have your doubts.
  • Then there was the time I was flying back home from Canada, and watched as the plane backed away from the gate while my very-distinctive-looking (orange) suitcase was lying there on the tarmac, in the rain. It took three days to get it back from the airline’s “lost luggage” system.
  • Back to my Army days, and back to Germany… I once got a really plum assignment, to fly to the Hanover area, where the 82nd Airborne Division was participating in military exercises, and to work as a press escort for two civilian reporters who wanted to “write about the paratrooper experience,” by which they seemed to mean “Drink beer at German gasthauses.” I was the perfect choice for this assignment, since I don’t drink beer. But the plane caught fire as we were leaving Pope Air Force Base (told ya – no perfectly good airplanes)… and we made it back to Pope just before the wing fell off, I think. Reporter: “Is that normal?” Me (looking out at the flaming wing): “Oh, yes, of course, we get that all the time.” Pilot: “Gentlemen, as soon as we land, leave all your belongings on the plane and RUN!” Scary, but everybody lived, and more importantly, we did end up flying the reporters to Germany and plying them with enough of the local beverage to keep them from wiring in the burning-plane story.
  • But even THAT doesn’t rank as my Worst Air Travel Experience. That (dis)honor would have to go to the regional commuter airline upon which I was recently booked for a flight from Denver to my small Colorado city, which does have an airport, and does have this ONE airline which occasionally services it.


Now, I’m not saying our airport is small, but it is often mistaken for a convenience store. Imagine the disappointment people suffer when they pull in, go inside, and find out there are NO gas pumps and NO bad coffee and NO heartburn-inducing nachos. But that’s our airport.

And during my recent experience with the Airline Which Shall Not Be Named, they cancelled my flight, but DIDN’T TELL THE PASSENGERS. In fact, all monitors in the Denver Airport said the flight was “On Time,” until an hour after its alleged departure, when it was finally listed as “Cancelled.”

There were only five or six of us booked on that flight (which might explain the “mechanical failure” that caused the cancellation, meaning the “failure to book enough passengers to make a profit.”) Oh well, this happens. But what annoyed me most of all is that, operating on instinct alone, I had to walk up and ask whether the flight was going to actually depart, and only then was told it wouldn’t.

I did make it home – fun story about that, for a later time – but the point I’m making is that the airline’s idea of customer service in the face of this “mechanical failure” was to wait until we all gave up and found another way home.

Here’s the point: Things go wrong in every business, despite our high aspirations. But you should have a better plan for solving your customers’ problems than to wait for them to give up and stop bothering you.

Luckily, the clients for whom I write lightly-humorous email newsletters are very good at customer service. But all the entertaining, influential copy I can write for them wouldn’t help their business if they sucked at solving problems that come up.

You know what they say: When you do a good job, your customers might tell a few other people, but when you drop the ball, they tell EVERYONE. But when you drop the ball and then do a great job of taking care of your customer’s needs in the wake of the problem, they mention THAT in their online reviews, too.

And those “They dropped the ball, but really took care of me” reviews do a lot to bolster the perception of your company. Customers know that problems come up in every business. But they also know that businesses are not equal when it comes to solving those problems.

Great marketing moves, such as publishing an entertaining newsletter, can really help your firm’s bottom line. But terrible customer service can destroy all the good your excellent marketing can do.

It just won’t fly.

Key Take-Aways From This Edition

  • It can take days for a group of people to tell all their Air Travel Horror Stories.
  • Good marketing mixed with bad customer service is a cocktail for business disaster.
  • Twisted lines can make even the most easy-going paratrooper cranky.
  • Problems come up in every business. It’s how you solve those problems for your customers that shapes the way your ideal prospects think about you.
  • When a problem does come up, it’s best for your customer to hear about it first from YOU, instead of having to figure it out for themselves.
  • When you don’t use marijuana OR beer, it’s easier to remember your worst air travel experiences. Maybe that’s why beer is served on airplanes.

Now, those Take-Aways are certainly Key, without a doubt. Want more? Of course you do! But you’ll just have to wait until next month’s edition. Enjoy the anticipation.


Discussion Questions

  1. 1
    What tops your personal list of bad air travel experiences?
  2. 2
    Extra credit if your anecdote involves either parachutes or burning aircraft
  3. 3
    How well does your firm handle the inevitable problems your customers encounter?

Send your answers to The most creative, inspirational response will be eligible to win a PRIZE! *

(* Prize is at the sole discretion of Michael Hume, his heirs and assigns, and a focus group comprised of Frequent Flyers and ex-paratroopers. How will your entry “land” with them? Ha ha. Top prize this month may or may not be a round trip ticket from Denver to the airport which was not named in this month’s edition. But relax: The flight will probably be cancelled anyway. The airline’s employees and their families are to be pitied, so they’re perfectly welcome to enter. Deadline is a relic of the failed policies of the past. Odds of winning are better than one in a million… you’ll just have to enter to learn how MUCH better. Boring, lackluster, or unimaginative entries have no chance of winning, and may be thrown out of an airplane. Who wants that? Keep it entertaining. Best of luck!)

Last Month’s Grand Prize Winner: Stephan H. of Littleton, Colorado won by mentioning “Stuck In The Middle” by Steelers Wheel in his entry, which was otherwise unintelligible and slightly profane. But what a great tune! Call before midnight to claim your prize. Meanwhile, you (yes, YOU!) could be next month’s big winner! Enter now!

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Copyright 2022 by Michael D. Hume, M.S. All rights reserved.
No one’s ever lost a dime with Word PLAY!
FireWords Creative Copy, 195 South Rancho Vista Drive , Pueblo West, CO 81007, United States

Michael D. Hume, M.S.

Michael Hume is a freelance writer, singer, and songwriter, and author of The 95th Christmas. He's an honor graduate of the Defense Information School, and holds an M.S. from the University of Colorado School of Business. Michael is the author of hundreds of online articles, including the popular series Great Leadership Requires Inspiration, The Conscience of a Restorationist, Appreciate Your Adversaries, and Take Care of Your Business.

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