Irony, Thy Name Is Delta

Renowned cellist and Inside The Arts author Lynn Harrell published an article yesterday that recounts a recent experience with Delta Airlines and their decision to excommunicate his cello from their frequent flyer program. Oh, they took away all of his miles too and banned him from ever joining the program again. It’s turned into a viral hit and since publishing the post, one of his eagle-eyed readers posted a comment mentioning that she recalled a recent Delta commercial that included a cellist and a quick YouTube search produced a hit on the first try.

Delta Airlines uploaded the commercial to their official YouTube account on March 6, 2012 and although it’s a wonderful production, there’s simply no way to miss the irony between including a cellist in the ad (at the 0:18 mark), featuring a cello in the soundtrack, and the harsh reality of the letter sent to Harrell kicking him out of their frequent flyer program and absconding with all of his and his cello’s miles merely three months earlier.

Harrell posted a copy of Delta’s letter in his blog post and you can watch the Delta commercial below.

http://youtu.be/tl2JztZwstc

If nothing else, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out in light of the fact that Harrell’s post is garnering quite a bit of attention. So far, it’s been picked up by several other outlets in the mainstream media as well as culture blog community.

Equally amazing is the flood of comments at the various outlets. The NBC article has a particularly lively thread and the story has been tossed around Facebook in one form or another more than a thousand times and the comments range from expected anger to some genuinely touching accounts of Mr. Harrell and the power of music (along with shame-on-you toward Delta) such as this one:

…we heard him in Colorado Springs several years ago and I considered taking cello lessons because of his wonderful concert. Grad school, family and life in general got in the way of that but it is probably a good thing. I may have become a world class performer and tried to get too many frequent flyer miles in the process. Delta Airlines, shame on you.

Full Disclaimer Mode: I serve as an executive board member for Mr. Harrell’s charity, The HEARTbeats Foundation which strives to help children in need harness the power of music to better cope with, and recover from, the extreme challenges of poverty and conflict.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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8 thoughts on “Irony, Thy Name Is Delta

  1. I would be shocked if Mr. Harrell didn’t hear from Delta by this time next week. The virality of this story reminds me of the infamous “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube video. Dave Carroll, whose guitar was killed (murdered?) by careless baggage handlers, was offered compensation from united (as well as two new guitars from Taylor, the maker of the deceased guitar).

    Jeff Jarvis also wrote about his terrible experience with what he called “Dell Hell” in his book What Would Google Do?. His “Dell Hell” blog post went viral, and Dell helped him to fix the situation and went on to dramatically overhaul their customer support system for the better.

  2. I think the difference here is that Lynn’s account of his experience went viral.

    Things like “United Breaks Guitars,” “Dell Hell,” and even smaller things like the (in)famous @ComcastCares on Twitter lead me to believe that big corporations are paying closer attention to things like this than a cynic like me would usually expect.

    Perhaps I’m overestimating the sense of corporate shame that Delta is capable of.

  3. Dear Delta,
    Mr. Harrell does not work for you. Fire someone who does. Someone you have on your payroll who disobeyed your policies. Oh, you can’t keep track of your business dealings? Can’t be held accountable for the employee that awarded the cello miles? Well, we can all see the irony.

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