I've been following this story for a couple of days with a very confused look on my face. When I first heard of it, I was almost convinced that it was a mistake. When I realized it wasn't, I was certain that there was some kind of misunderstanding that would be worked out between the involved parties over the "next few days," and everything would get worked out.
Seems like I'm wrong; and that really just ticks me off.
I consider Scott Jordan to be a close, personal friend. He's a small business owner (plus!), he's an entrepreneur (plus!), his products are awesome and his business is really starting to take off (plus-PLUS!!). I really love to see small businesses like that succeed as its people like Scott that make America not only great, but make it work. Without people like Scott, and business like ScotteVest, the country and its economy would be in a WORLD of hurt.
I also LOVE gadgets and anything to do with them. To say that I love gadget enabled clothing is an understatement. In truth, its stuff like this that curls my toes. I see the new products he has planned and I have a difficult time keeping the drool off of my computer keyboard.
So, what's the issue? Very simple:
$768M dollars in baggage fees.
Yes. You read that correctly – $768 million US dollars in baggage fees charged by Delta Airlines. Apparently, that’s the money that is keeping the airline operational at this time. Delta doesn’t want the world to know about SeV products, as they will reduce the amount of fees that the airline can charge. I can understand this concern that the airline has. They are using baggage fees to cover operational costs and help make the airline profitable.
However, I have a huge problem with this – I grew up and began my adult travel life without baggage fees and have a huge problem paying between $35-$50 per bag, ONE WAY, just so I can have a change of underwear and a clean dress shirt. I would suspect that most people feel the same way. They don’t like it, and if they could find away around the problem, they would use it. SeV provides that work around, and Delta doesn’t want to run the ad. I can’t blame them.
I got a very interesting note from Scott over the weekend. He’s summarized the time line of events surrounding this issue, and I invite you to read them and make your own conclusions. I’d love to hear your comments on the issue, so please feel free to comment, below.
- September 26th, 2010 – SCOTTEVEST/SeV Travel Clothing ran this ad in the NY Times Travel Magazine. It received an amazing response. We knew we were onto something with our “Beat the System” message and sought opportunities in other magazines to continue the campaign.
- September 29th, 2010 – A last-minute opportunity to appear in November’s Delta Sky Magazine was presented to us. With the success of our NYT ad, we felt we were on a roll and decided to do it, despite the fact that it cost a significant portion of our ad budget for the remainder of the year. It sounded like a home run, and we decided to use the winning “Beat the System” message.
- Coincidentally, The New York Times broke a story this week about how much money airlines have been raking in from baggage fees, stating, “from January to March, United States airlines collected $769 million in baggage fees.” It sounded like a perfect storm of traveler angst was brewing, and our clothing was the solution.
- October 1, 2010 – We received word that Delta Sky rejected this ad (click here to see it or scroll down to see it on the last page) based on the content. We offered to replace our successful headline, “The Most Stylish Way to Beat the System” with “Travel the World in Style & Leave Your Baggage Behind,” but our compromise was rejected.
- It turns out that they didn’t like the other message on the page, “SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing Has Specialized Pockets to Help You Stay Organized & Avoid Extra Baggage Fees” – particularly the “Avoid Extra Baggage Fees.” As evidenced by the recent New York Times analysis of the airline industry, those baggage fees are what keeps them going.
- When I was told that they rejected our compromise headline as well, I responded as follows in an email, "Frankly, if they object to the ‘avoid the baggage fees’ line, they need to stop charging baggage fees. I don’t think we should change it. We have agreed to remove ‘beat the system,’ but will not change the sub-heading. The fact that airlines charge baggage fees is just that: A fact. We just help make it less painful."
- Being very connected to social media, and thinking that the situation was ludicrous, I immediately posted my disbelief in a video on YouTube and Twitter, but honestly did not expect anything more to come of it.
- This was when the real drama began. Our media agent (who buys ad placements for us) pleaded with me to take the video down. Apparently, Delta Sky didn’t like the truth being exposed for the public to see. It was communicated to us that we would likely be rejected by all other airline magazines as well, and that this was causing major ripples.
- Soon thereafter I was in the middle of a flurry of phone calls – my advisers, reporters and media agent were all trying to get a hold of me. It was clear I had hit a nerve with the video, and my chief adviser Hap Klopp (founder of The North Face) agreed. “Scott, this is classic David vs. Goliath. Their reaction shows how touchy of a subject baggage fees are for them. You’ve found a way for everyday people to get around their crazy policies, and you just put a fork in their cash cow.” Hap’s comments solidified it for me: this was a big story, and the cat was out of the bag.
- The bottom line: it became abundantly clear that the airlines would never allow me to advertise a product that costs them money and makes me money. I believe it wasn’t my headline, it was the core concept behind my product that they were rejecting. With that, I decided to embrace the controversy.
- October 2nd, 2010 – within 24 hours, the story blew up. AOL’s WalletPop and Gear Diary covered it, many reporters expressed interest in it, over 1 million people saw it on Twitter, as it was retweeted by some social media heavy hitters like @scobleizer, and there are over 230K Google results for delta scottevest ad. I may not be able to go on a plane ever again. 😉 What’s next… will they start weighing people or counting their pockets to avoid SeV cutting into their profits?
To summarize, yes my SCOTTEVEST Travel Clothing helps people avoid extra baggage fees, and look great while doing it. The New York Times, Peter Greenberg, the UK’s ITV and tons of other media outlets agree about that. We even proved this by sending travel writer Rolf Potts around the world for six weeks without any bags whatsoever, just what he could carry in his SCOTTEVEST. Check out the Fox Business News interview about the No Baggage Challenge. Does that give Delta Sky and other airline magazines the right to censor us at the expense of taking money out of the pockets of everyday travelers? No way! This fight isn’t over… we’re going to place more ads telling people how they can “Beat the System” using our products. This is the beginning of the story, not the end, and we intend to keep you informed how the airlines respond.