Thanks this website
Thanks this website

Two recent happenings that are attracting the ire of the middle class facebooking collective:

So obviously, these are being used as a launch pad for all the evils of wealth inequality. The worst of which clearly all this rudeness.


The one that is getting the most outrage is the Korean Air story. And to be honest, I’m not convinced that Heather Cho was all that wrong.

In First Class, Macadamias Come In A Ramekin

Heather Cho was the chief of in-flight service for Korean Air (until her well-shameful resignation last week). She is also the daughter of the Korean Air chairman, Yang-ho Cho.

She was flying first class out of New York on flight KE086 last week. The plane had a 12:50am departure. And during the taxi to the runway, Head Steward Park Chang-jin handed her some macadamia nuts.

In a bag.

Without asking her if she wanted some nuts.

My bet is that her thought process went something like this:

  • *groggily rouses self from post-midnight travel fugue*
  • *realises that she just got handed a bag of macadamia nuts in first class*
  • Thinks “These should be in a ramekin. And actually, I should have been asked if I wanted any – not just had them tossed at me. Honestly, my First Class customers pay thousands of dollars to be served macadamia nuts in a ramekin but only if they want them. Is this clown actually being serious? Did the HEAD STEWARD just break the service rules while offering nuts to the CHIEF OF IN-FLIGHT SERVICE who is also THE DAUGHTER OF THE CHAIRMAN?”
  • “I’ll bet it’s because I’m a woman.”
  • “But also: WHAT IN THE HELL KIND OF OPERATION ARE WE RUNNING HERE? And if this is how he treats me, can you imagine how he’s treating the paying travellers?”
  • “F**k me if it’s not too early in the morning for this sh*t. I’m going to have to make a scene.”
  • “Actually, I might just enjoy this.”

So agreed – there was some overreaction. I mean, turning the plane around and making him kneel is a bit extreme.

But the crux is: what are First Class passengers really paying for? Their tickets can be up to ten times the price of economy class. And double that of business class – although they usually have just about the same seat size. Really, First Class passengers pay the extra to be treated like the upstairs of Downton Abbey.

Two things:

  1. First Class and Business Class passengers are the margin on long-haul flights.
  2. Also, they’re the ones who are the most likely to kick up a fuss when things aren’t up to scratch.

Consider this: are you more likely to complain about bad service in a McDonalds, where you just spent R40 on a Big Mac McMeal; or in a fine-dining establishment, where you just spent R1,500 per person for the degustation menu with wine pairings?

If the head waiter in a fine-dining establishment just arrived at the table and placed a small bottle of sparkling water in front of you, without a glass and without asking you if you wanted water, I think you’d be a bit taken aback. Now consider how you would react if you were the owner’s daughter, and you knew that the head waiter knew who you were?

I think that you would be completely justified in throwing a fit.

That kind of behaviour is putting the company at risk: firstly because it sets a tone for the staff lower down in the ranks; and secondly, because it riles your profitable customers.

But contrast this to our Harvard Professor.

Going After The Little Guy

Professor Benjamin Edelmann classes himself as a kind of consumer crusader.

He ordered some Chinese food. The website menu was out of date.

Here is the email exchange:


The question is: really? For $4?

Seems extreme. Seems, in truth, like unnecessary bullying.

And yet, he gets defended. Like in this article from Slate.

I’m all about getting what you pay for. But this, to me, sounds like complaining about customer services in McDonalds.

Fortunately for Ran Duan, the internet agreed, Professor Edelman apologised, and Sichuan Gardens Brookline got a whole lot of publicity.

Happy Monday.

Rolling Alpha posts opinions on finance, economics, and the corporate life in general. Follow me on Twitter @RollingAlpha, and on Facebook at