Bob Lefsetz -02I often get asked how, with all the drivel Bob Lefsetz writes, do I determine which columns to take apart. Well, when one of his e-mails comes in, I look at the Subject. More often than not it’s about something I have no opinion on and I delete it instantly. But if it’s something with which I’m familiar and – more importantly – I have time and am in the mood, I open it up. If, within the first two paragraphs, I have a few responses, I go to work on it.

So most of his stuff that I read consists of his music posts, but every once in a while he writes about a business – like Five Guys – that I have considerable experience with. This morning I woke up, checked my e-mail and saw a Lefsetz Letter ”Southwest Airllines” in my Inbox. I’ve flown Southwest lots of times over the past 15 years or so, most recently in December, and while I wouldn’t say I’m a loyal customer, I do check their fares first when I’m looking to fly. So I opened it with the usual ”Oh, dear what kind of crazy, fucked-up analogy is he going to make today?” sense of dread.

Somehow he tries to make the point that Southwest’s unique model of first-come, first-served seating should be the model for the way our country is run, but only if he also gets his peanuts. Don’t think that’s possible? Read on…

It’s like going to school.

And who doesn’t want to recreate that?

Back in the olden days…

Oh, shit. Bob is going to start reminiscing. Can somebody please get me some coffee?

…when everybody went to public school, except for the privileged few who prepped and the Catholics with their parallel education system, we were all in it together.

We were never all in it together. The motto of our country isn’t ”E Pluribus Unum,” but rather ”Me, Myself and I.”

Nobody had better shoes, nobody flew to Europe for the weekend, we lived in an egalitarian society, everybody was equal.

Everybody was a straight white male!

Those days are through.

Those days never existed.

But if everybody was forced to take Southwest Airlines, if there were no private jets and no first class, America would become a better place.

Because pure, unadulterated socialism has worked so well in other countries.

It’s such a different vibe. From the people who check you in to the colloquial flight attendants, everybody seems to like their job and to be having fun.

True. As I wrote above, I’ve flown Southwest a lot over the years – including having to postpone flights –  and can’t recall a single experience when customer service wasn’t helpful and friendly. That said, a friend had a particularly bad one, and I was genuinely shocked when she told me about it.

Makes me proud to be an American.

Reading you makes me ashamed to be one.

(my obligatory gratuitous slam of the day)

Once upon a time Southwest Airlines only flew in the Southwest and was cheaper than its competitors. Now, Southwest can cost top buck. But you still get two bags free, and peanuts and crackers. Hell, they’re not worried about allergies on Southwest.

They started offering crackers because of people with peanut allergies. If you can’t fly without shoving 20 peanuts into your face, buy a bag at the airport, you cheap bastard.

Yup, you few with your peanut phobias made it so the rest of us could never eat nuts at 30,000 feet ever again.

A genuine medical condition is not a phobia, you twit.

That’s modern America. Wherein one person gets to spoil it for everybody.

”Yeah, you selfish bastards with your anaphylactic shock. How dare you completely ruin airline travel FOR ME!!!”

One person gets hurt on the playground? They remove the monkey bars.

The nerve of providing an unsafe environment for kids to play!

One person writes a letter to the television network? They cancel the show.

Bullshit, because you can bet that more than one person has complained about Whitney, and that piece of shit is still on the air.

That’s what ruined network TV, the lack of edge, which exists on cable. Because the network producers are too afraid to piss anybody off.

Good luck saying that at your new gig at Variety, Mr. I’m-Beholden-To-No-One!

And at Southwest someone realized if you print your boarding pass at home, they don’t need to reprint it when you check in. I’ve never figured that out. Why do I need to replace my paper with yours? Why do you need to put it in a little blue jacket? Furthermore, why do I need my ticket once I’m on board?

All of this is true. Southwest were ahead of the curve with online check-ins, an example of how they made things easier for passengers when their competitors made things tougher.

Yup, when you check in at the gate, get on the plane, the attendant takes your boarding pass and never gives it back!

I’m completely unburdened without having to carry one piece of paper around!

Then again, it’s open seating on Southwest.

Oh, I know, you can pay extra to get on first these days.

But what I love is lining up. It’s just like in elementary school.

I guess it makes sense that someone who acts like a child enjoys being treated like one.

All types and sizes in it together. You do it by number, no ad infinitum instructions are necessary.

And yet, I’ve still had plenty of times where people try to get in ahead of me.

That’s the bane of the frequent flier, the endless repetition of nonsense…

Yeah, it really sucks that all the seminars that you’re paid to partake in and ski resorts you go to aren’t within three blocks of your home.

…like not to leave your bag unattended. Hey! In today’s fearful society, where you can’t let your kid walk two blocks to school alone, do you really think people are going to leave their bags unattended? So they can get ripped off?

Bob, next time you travel leave your carry-on at the gate when you go to the bathroom. See if the TSA agents aren’t all over it by the time you get back. Good luck making your flight then.

Never gonna happen.

And yet, people lose things while traveling all the time. It happens. I’ve done it. I’m sure you have, too. Traveling can be a disorienting experience, especially when you’re waiting in an unfamiliar airport for your flight home. Nothing wrong with a friendly reminder.

And there are other little things. Like no drink cart.

You know the drill. You’re in the front of the plane, not the real front, but the steerage front. And they start wheeling the drink cart down the aisle and you make a run for the bathroom, because if you don’t you’re gonna have to hold it in, despite there being a loo up front. No, even though it’s unoccupied, that’s for FIRST CLASS!

Bob loved elementary school so much, but apparently forgot something everyone hears thousands of times in their childhood: ”Why didn’t you go before we left?”

Well, almost no airline has first class anymore, only business class. For the rich and well-traveled to keep away from the great unwashed.

I like the wider seat when I can get it…

”Paying more for a more comfortable seat is for snobs, except when I do it.”

…but am I really any better than the people in back?

”I’m just an ordinary guy who drives a BMW and has $1,500 headphones.”

Anyway, on Southwest, the attendant takes your drink order and returns with cups on a tray, so the aisle is not blocked. Why no other airline has replicated this is beyond me.

And of course there’s the famous Southwest banter. Hell, almost no one likes to fly, why not make it as pleasant as we can for the few hours we’re up in the air.

The attendants at the other airlines? They’re snarly, certainly the ones in back. It’s like they don’t want to be there and you’re an inconvenience. I don’t know whether they hate the airline or their job or both, but even asking a question, never mind asking for more of anything, always gets their dander up.

Again, these are the reasons why Southwest are successful.

But the seats were uncomfortable and the pitch was godawful.

Pitch is the space between seats, i.e. legroom. If you’re a six-footer, good luck.

This is the nicest thing Bob has ever said to me.

Then again, the seats are all made for six footers, there’s no lumbar support if you’re any shorter.

Sucks to be you, Shorty!

Then again, the seats were new, whereas even in business on American the metal creeps through the padding and your rear end hurts.

Seems like Bob really needs to see Louis C.K.’s awesome “Everything is amazing and nobody’s happy” bit.

By the way, as I was reading this, I was shocked that, despite being a frequent flier, Bob is just discovering Southwest now. I went to his website and searched for ”Southwest” and found the following from 2008 (and yes, he mentions the goddamned peanuts there, too).

I was ensconced in leather, my body was fully gripped, I didn’t have that dreaded space behind my lower back filled solely with air. And, after plopping down I noticed how easy it was… There was LEGROOM!

Once again, there’s nothing Bob writes today that can’t be contradicted by something he wrote years ago.

I don’t know what happened to our country. Class is evident everywhere.

You’ve been living in L.A. for nearly 40 years and just now you’re noticing that rich people get preferential treatment?

Hell, not even the upper middle class send their kids to public school anymore. And the religious zealots don’t want to pay for it. And if you go to the public school you oftentimes get a second-rate education.

Your third sentence answered your first. You second sentence explained the third.

Whereas the privates are all about enrichment and the parents read to their kids and they end up at Ivies and rule the world.

Why are you taking your frustrations about an airline seat on people who want the best for their children?

But even if they don’t go to college, the progeny of the rich never slum with the poor. Because income tax rates are so low, and “death taxes” are so low (because we’re saving the theoretical family farm, even though none have ever been lost to inheritance taxes), we’ve got a whole class of nitwits who live like kings with nothing to back it up but their parents’ money.

As long as we’re on the subject of fancy education, Bob Lefsetz graduated from prestigious Middlebury College, which is currently more expensive than Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, and MIT. So his protestations seem less about siding with the little guy and more about the idea that he had all the advantages of those rich kids but who never got further in the music industry than as a guy capable of being fired by Blackie Lawless.

I know, I know, that’s the American Dream, to get ahead.

But once upon a time, getting ahead meant driving a Cadillac and going on vacation to Florida. Now the rich don’t even fly with the rest of us and the average person has got no idea where they vacation. As for their homes, they’re behind locked gates.

Nobody in American history ever had a big house or fancy clothes or a nice car until Bob got an uncomfortable seat in an airplane.

Whereas on Southwest Airlines we’re all in it together. We line up based on when we checked in and we’re forced to all sit in the same class next to people we don’t know who we might not even speak to if we weren’t in such close proximity.

We all have iPods so that we don’t have to speak to the people sitting next to us on airplanes, whether they’re strangers or family.

Furthermore, unlike the rest of the airline industry, Southwest makes money, it hasn’t gone bankrupt.

Which begs the question… Is this the way to run America? Putting us all together as opposed to keeping us apart?

What works for one company in an oligopoly should be used as an example for the rest of the country. Good idea.

There’s hostility on most flights. You see the holier than thou briefcase crowd, the designer dressers. But on Southwest, there’s no attitude. It’s a true democracy. Very instructional.

At some point in the next few years for Bob to complain about some white trash passengers on a Southwest flight and he’ll be all, ”Remember when airline travel used to be special and people dressed nicely when they got on planes? Now they fly Southwest and act like they’re in their living room! But at least I got my goddamned peanuts.”

This is inevitable.

P.S. It’s the little things that count. Whereas in music we’re always looking to take away what we once gave, kinda like Southwest’s competitors, who charge for bags and would charge to pee if they could. Just because everybody’s doing it the same way, that does not mean you can’t break the rules. But the music business is like the airline business. Lost in the past. Hobbled by legacy. Always asking for mercy. An industry hated by the public, that it endures to get somewhere or hear great music.

Also in my search at his website for ”Southwest” I found the following, from the ”Things I Hate“ rant, my dissection of which is still the high point of this column.

14. Fees

Just tell me the price. Did you see Southwest is fighting all-in pricing on airline tickets? This subterfuge benefits who, other than stockholders? Our whole country is beholden to mythical stockholders who seem to think money can keep you warm at night, suck your dick, make you happy…but it can’t. Why do the rest of us have to suffer?

Typical Bob. They’re greedy bastards who don’t care about real people and HOLY SHIT THEY WERE NICE TO ME AND I GOT EVEN PEANUTS! THIS IS WHY THEY’RE SUCCESSFUL!!!

About the Author

Dave Lifton

The perpetually cranky Dave Lifton produces and co-hosts the Popdose Podcast and contributes an occasional column when he darn well feels like it. But mostly he eats Cheetos and yells at kids to get off his lawn, which is strange because he lives in an apartment. The guiding force behind LifStrong, he can be found on Twitter at @dslifton.

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