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David Lee King

Stickers or Cushions?



No seat or unintended consequences?Take a look at this pic – it’s at the Chicago O’Hare International Airport Denver airport. I really don’t know the why’s behind this sticker, but I can guess. And I’d guess it goes something like this:

When the moving walkway was installed, they made these little metal ledges. Maybe the ledge houses a belt, or gears … maybe it’s just for looks. Who knows?

Either way, as the airport got busier, and delays started happening more often, customers looked around for a seat and couldn’t find one. Then they eyed that handy, seat-sized ledge … and sat.

When airport staff noticed that lots of people needed seats, and were using those handy little seat-sized ledges, what did they do? Did they install more seats? An overflow room? Restaurants with more seating? Nope. They chose to put a big fat sticker on the seat-sized ledge that reads “no seat.”

So – a question. Who do you think airport administrators were thinking of when they created that sticker and stuck it to the makeshift overflow seating area? Were they thinking of their customers, who didn’t have a place to sit? Or were they thinking of their staff? I’d guess the airport’s decision had more to do with themselves than with their paying customers with tired legs.

Moral of the story? Always put your customers first. In the airport’s case – instead of a “no seat” sticker, how about putting out cushions? Work hard to always improve your customers’ experience while using your services, even with the seemingly innocuous things (like little seat-sized metal ledges).

Your customers will remember it and you will be a hero.

Update – Chuck Cannon, Director of Public Affairs at Denver International Airport pointed out that I had the wrong airport. Sorry! Just updated the post.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com/ Andy Woodworth

    It’s the terrible irony of libraries that, for a representative of reading, people don’t read our signs. And when we have issues, we want to put up MORE signs as if it would solve the issue. I’ve been pushing for more empathic signs (“Please do not use your cell phone” versus “Please take cell phone conversations outside or to the lobby, it may disturb other people here in the library”) and, well, less signs over all.

    My dream would be a single sign “Use common courtesy. Staff will provide reminders as needed.”

  • http://agnosticmaybe.wordpress.com Andy Woodworth

    It’s the terrible irony of libraries that, for a representative of reading, people don’t read our signs. And when we have issues, we want to put up MORE signs as if it would solve the issue. I’ve been pushing for more empathic signs (“Please do not use your cell phone” versus “Please take cell phone conversations outside or to the lobby, it may disturb other people here in the library”) and, well, less signs over all.

    My dream would be a single sign “Use common courtesy. Staff will provide reminders as needed.”

  • marcbl

    sit here or don’t sit here signs, are the equivalent of drink bleach or don’t drink bleach? in the grand scheme of things, the people who face bleach/non are more important that those who can afford to fly.

    meh, it’s hard to get worked up about literate people being stupid when only 60% of the world’s population has access to potable water.

    meh, and meh.

  • marcbl

    sit here or don’t sit here signs, are the equivalent of drink bleach or don’t drink bleach? in the grand scheme of things, the people who face bleach/non are more important that those who can afford to fly.

    meh, it’s hard to get worked up about literate people being stupid when only 60% of the world’s population has access to potable water.

    meh, and meh.

  • http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net/ Brian Herzog

    My guess is the airport admins were thinking: “hey, those people are leaning against the glass wall of the movable walkways. If that breaks, we’ll not only have a huge lawsuit on our hands, we’ll have the cost of replacing it. We need to avoid that, or at least make ourselves legally defensible.” And stickers cost less than safe seating.

    Since an airport is a business, I think their decisions are always made with the bottom line in mind. They don’t want passengers to be comfortable, they want them in and out and paying. This is why I disagree with the “library as business” analogy, and, by extension, referring to patrons as customers.

    I see it as a totally different mindset, with different goals and decision-making criteria. So in this case, maybe the airport’s decision to use the stickers meant that they saved money and the fees to their customers – the airlines and stores – didn’t increase (and who cares if the passengers sit on the floor?).

    But in a library, if we can afford it, the decision should always be geared towards customer service – even in a predictive way.

  • http://www.swissarmylibrarian.net Brian Herzog

    My guess is the airport admins were thinking: “hey, those people are leaning against the glass wall of the movable walkways. If that breaks, we’ll not only have a huge lawsuit on our hands, we’ll have the cost of replacing it. We need to avoid that, or at least make ourselves legally defensible.” And stickers cost less than safe seating.

    Since an airport is a business, I think their decisions are always made with the bottom line in mind. They don’t want passengers to be comfortable, they want them in and out and paying. This is why I disagree with the “library as business” analogy, and, by extension, referring to patrons as customers.

    I see it as a totally different mindset, with different goals and decision-making criteria. So in this case, maybe the airport’s decision to use the stickers meant that they saved money and the fees to their customers – the airlines and stores – didn’t increase (and who cares if the passengers sit on the floor?).

    But in a library, if we can afford it, the decision should always be geared towards customer service – even in a predictive way.

  • marcbl

    maybe we should add “do not drink” warning labels to our liquid soap dispensers? “do not insert” warnings to our barcode readers? “down the road and not across the street” for all patrons who want to commit suicide via papercuts? where does common sense start, and it isn’t about language or signs at all.

  • marcbl

    maybe we should add “do not drink” warning labels to our liquid soap dispensers? “do not insert” warnings to our barcode readers? “down the road and not across the street” for all patrons who want to commit suicide via papercuts? where does common sense start, and it isn’t about language or signs at all.

  • David Lee King

    Brian and Andy – good points!

    marcbl – I’m thinking you missed the point of the post. I’m talking about being customer-facing rather than staff-facing with rules and policies. Not warning labels or people drinking bleach??

  • David Lee King

    Brian and Andy – good points!

    marcbl – I’m thinking you missed the point of the post. I’m talking about being customer-facing rather than staff-facing with rules and policies. Not warning labels or people drinking bleach??

  • Brian

    Wadaya bet that seat-looking thingy wasn't designed to support the weight of an actual sitting person and bends and messes up the day of whatever poor schmoe is in charge of maintaining said seat-looking thingy. Poor planning.

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  • http://andyburkhardt.com Andy Burkhardt

    I'm not sure though that customers will always remember it and you will be lauded as a hero. Customers or patrons will likely take things like cushioned seats for granted once they are installed. They likely wouldn't even realize that it should be different than what it currently is. I agree that something like seeing a need (such as people wanting to sit somewhere) and then addressing it in a customer friendly way is important, but I think customers often have a short memory. It's necessary to keep improving things to stay fresh in a customer's mind.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Good point – I sometimes call that “soundman syndrome” (because I used to do that)… concert/church/etc goers tend to mention the sound quality only when it's bad. When it's good, you don't notice it – you move past the mechanics to actually enjoying the show.

  • chuckcannon

    This is an interesting article. Unfortunately, it's wrong. The photo was NOT taken at Denver International Airport. None of the moving walkways in our three concourses have “No Seat” signs. And people do sit on the ledges, although we don't encourage it because, as another person has pointed out, the plexiglas can occasionally break. It's expensive to fix, and the walkway must be taken out of service while repairs are made. In the busiest gate areas, extra chairs have been installed along the walkways. There are several ways to know this photo was not taken at Denver: all the areas surrounding our moving walkways are carpeted, not tiled; and we have no ceilings that look like the one in your photo. In preparing your article, you could have asked DIA's Public Affairs Office and we could have told you it's not our airport. In any event, since you took so much time and space to disparage DIA, it would be nice to see some sort of correction. Thanks.

    Chuck Cannon
    Director of Public Affairs
    Denver International Airport

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yikes! Thanks for pointing that out – just corrected the article. I've been flying too much lately.

  • chuckcannon

    Appreciate it. Thanks.

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Good point – I sometimes call that “soundman syndrome” (because I used to do that)… concert/church/etc goers tend to mention the sound quality only when it's bad. When it's good, you don't notice it – you move past the mechanics to actually enjoying the show.

  • chuckcannon

    This is an interesting article. Unfortunately, it's wrong. The photo was NOT taken at Denver International Airport. None of the moving walkways in our three concourses have “No Seat” signs. And people do sit on the ledges, although we don't encourage it because, as another person has pointed out, the plexiglas can occasionally break. It's expensive to fix, and the walkway must be taken out of service while repairs are made. In the busiest gate areas, extra chairs have been installed along the walkways. There are several ways to know this photo was not taken at Denver: all the areas surrounding our moving walkways are carpeted, not tiled; and we have no ceilings that look like the one in your photo. In preparing your article, you could have asked DIA's Public Affairs Office and we could have told you it's not our airport. In any event, since you took so much time and space to disparage DIA, it would be nice to see some sort of correction. Thanks.

    Chuck Cannon
    Director of Public Affairs
    Denver International Airport

  • http://www.davidleeking.com davidleeking

    Yikes! Thanks for pointing that out – just corrected the article. I've been flying too much lately.

  • chuckcannon

    Appreciate it. Thanks.

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