Qantas – The Spirit of Sarcasm

As Australians, we are notoriously sarcastic. I have mixed feelings on sarcasm. Obviously, the effect that sarcasm has will always depend on the way in which it’s used. Yet, some people allow sarcasm out in their language whenever they see fit without any such consideration for the context in which it’s being used.  There’s one place that sarcasm simply doesn’t belong… Customer Service. After managing customer service for organisations across the globe for many years, one thing that always bugs me is unnecessary sarcasm.

Sarcasm in customer service is one thing that always stands out when you return to Australia from another country… In Australia, customers are forced to endure unnecessary sarcasm as brattish staff can’t bear to hold in their inner feelings of frustration and job dissatisfaction and allow it to seep out in loaded, sarcastic language. Well, my solution is simple… If you don’t like customer service or your job, leave. If you don’t enjoy dealing with people, then work in another industry.

The classic example of inappropriate sarcasm in customer service can be found in the Australian airline Qantas. I’ve flown with Qantas too many times to count. I’ve had several moments over the years where I’ve found Qantas staff to be bitter, jaded and sarcastic and it really annoys me. Then, I’ve had times where their refreshing honesty has been welcome in an industry where it’s hard for some people to be real.

Waiting to board at Sydney Airport

Waiting to board at Sydney Airport

However, I had yet another unnecessary and sarcastic experience on a Qantas flight from Sydney to Manila over the holiday season. A Qantas staff member decided to let out a catty and unnecessary remark in quintessential Qantas style. It was as simple. I ordered the chicken for me and the beef for my wife. Instead, the male cabin crew gave us both chicken.  I very politely smiled at the steward and said;
“I’m sorry we actually ordered beef for this one”

Not a big deal at all. However, in typical Qantas style where the mindset seems to be that ‘the customer is always wrong’, he rolled his eyes at me and barked;
“well, I said chicken when I handed it to you and you said ‘yes'”.

I have no idea what the hell he said when he threw it down on our tray tables. The point is, it was a simple mistake that he made but, for some reason, he felt the need to blame me.

The 'offending' meal! What a joke... Not a big deal at all so, why be rude about it?

The ‘offending’ meal! What a joke… Not a big deal at all so, why be rude about it?

I then asked another member of the cabin crew to speak to the Customer Service Manager. Now, normally, if someone (politely) asks to speak to the manager, the response should be; “sure, can I ask what the problem is?” But instead the other crew member sternly said;
“well, they’re busy. It’s the food service. You’ll have to wait” in a tone that suggested I was stupid for even asking.

Excited to be heading to Manila!

Excited to be heading to Manila!

Finally, the manager appeared who was very friendly, apologised, admitted that the crew member I complained about had a ‘problem’ with his communication and thanked me for my feedback commenting that Qantas are trying to ‘lift their game’. However, this got me thinking… Why is it we even tolerate such bullshit? I know I was ‘only in economy’ (on this trip), but it’s terrible that I had to experience such unnecessary rudeness. I fly all the time and always feel for the cabin crew who have to deal with dickheads and long hours. But when their attitude becomes a mantra and they assume everyone are dickheads, that’s where it goes too far .

As we left the plane in Manila I heard several of the crew bitching about a couple of ‘difficult’ passengers. Well really? Again if you don’t enjoy your job anymore, then just leave and don’t make us innocent customers pay the  price of your dissatisfaction and frustration.

in my opinion, sarcasm is a great tool in humour, however when it’s turned into everyday language it can be insulting, degrading and says a lot about the person using sarcasm. We all know someone… That one friend, colleague or family member who’s always bitter about life, always complaining and feels the need to drop sarcastic comments in every conversation. Well, the last thing I want to do is be stuck on a flight for hours on end with such personalities.

I did raise this with Qantas and they did reply to me via Twitter asking for the details.

Qantas followed this with a direct message mentioning that my feedback has been ‘noted’ and ‘addressed with the relevant team’. Whilst I appreciate the intentions, I’ve seen this attitude for the last 20 years with Qantas so I won’t be expecting any changes overnight!

It’s not just Qantas, and it’s not just Australia. I’ve experienced the same in the US, Europe, and other cultures. I think that perhaps, living in South East Asia, you become unaccustomed to sarcasm in service as, you don’t regularly experience jaded service staff who hate their job. So, when you do return home it becomes even more obvious how strange and negative this attitude can be. We’ve all worked in jobs we hate, we’ve all had bad days, we all have times where we don’t want to deal with other people. Just don’t make it a mantra as this attitude is contagious and usually affects everyone around you!


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