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Sunday, February 17, 2013

Shit happens. You better be ready to do something about it.

 On Saturday I went grocery shopping. Nothing terribly interesting about that. I do it every week, either on Friday night or Saturday afternoon. We go to the same place each week, Longos, because my wife likes shopping there for certain types of items. It isn't my favorite place, but it is okay enough. Mostly, I hate the parking lot the store is located in and the crappy old and poorly skilled drivers in it. But, I manage.
I will admit that there are certain items they have that I like to get there. One of those is Sour Jubes in a bulk pack. Theirs is very good and the price is reasonable enough. We always get 2 or 3 packs to last the week. It is a habit. 
Because it is a habit I notice things when they aren't as they should be. For a couple of weeks, the packaging was wrong. Some packages said the price was $2.99 while others said $5.99. The actual price is always $3.99 and when they were scanned they always were no matter what it said on the package. I assumed it was just an error that would be corrected eventually. I made sure to take the $2.99 ones after the first week just in case. After a few weeks, when this wasn't corrected I mentioned it to one of the stockers. He looked at me like I was crazy,  until he realized that I was right. He quickly took all the $5.99 ones off the shelf. The next week, they were there again. An equal number of both and again, I chose the ones I wanted that were correct. But I took note of the lack of effort to do the right thing on their own. Two week later, some of the product in the package was not sour. Half were sour, the other half were the regular ones, which are also a lot cheaper. I said nothing because I figured they just don't care than much about quality control. I bought some anyway, but I checked the package and if you look closely enough, you can tell the difference. Many are a different colour. A few weeks later, they didn't have any sour ones at all and that lasted a couple of weeks. 
This week, when we got the groceries home, the sour jubes were not fresh and in fact were stale and hard. Longos prides themselves on freshness and has made their names on it and justifies the higher prices we pay there based on that. 
This was not an isolated incident. There have been other issues lately with the store, and for whatever reason it seems to be a trend. And for me, I don't really care. I now am looking for somewhere  else to go. If you want me to pay for quality product and service you better provide it. I am willing to let the odd thing go, because shit happens, but if it becomes a trend and seems to be the norm then I will just go elsewhere.
 Why am I telling you all this when that isn't the topic of my blog?
 When you have a prestigious standing for the quality of something you provide, you must work to maintain that. When you don't and you fail because of it,  people notice and they remember. Once you lose your image as a leader, people never completely view you that way again. You can't get off the pedestal and then attempt to get back on again without some lasting damage being done.
I have been on 3 sea cruises now. All three on Carnival. The first one was great.  The second one was pretty good but the quality had dropped a bit in the one year since the first one. Then while I had returned from the second one, about 3 weeks later, a cruise ship in Italy, The Costa Cruise lines Concordia hit a rock and turned over. That cruise line is a division of Carnival Cruise lines for a few years now. That raised a few red flags.

More than a year later, if you go to the scene, this is what you will see. The ship is still in the water, lying on its side and rusting away.

I remember while I was on the first cruise, there were advertisements on the in-house TV station on the boat for Costa. It seemed like a pretty high class operation and that it would cost big time bucks to take one of those cruises. At that time,  I didn't know they were part of the Carnival stable of companies for which they had purchased and amalgamated into their stable. From what I understand they had a great reputation and no significant incidents before Carnival bought them, but have had a few since. Not anything like the crash into the rocks, but some very close calls and some smaller incidents where they got lucky and avoided trouble, due to no effort either way on their part. You can google and look those up if you wish.
Since it was my first cruise, it was all new to me and the Cruise ship seemed to be very high class and everything topnotch. And it probably was. The last two have dropped off significantly. On the last cruise, there were lots of problems. Nothing major, but enough to already get me thinking that I want to try another cruise company. And if I find in my research that the others aren't any better (and research I will now be doing) then I will find a different kind of vacation experience.
A cruise is very good value for the money. If you get the value you should. Carnival has really dropped the ball lately.
When you go on a cruise, you expect certain things. Basic things. 
You want good food. You want pretty good service. You want value for your money and most of all, you just assume and expect that they take safety and customer service seriously and place a high priority on it. The fact of the matter is that Carnival does not. 
I will state why I think that.  
Shit happens in life. We all get that. Cruising the high seas in a vessel that is just really a floating hotel that can accommodate 10,000 people is bound to run into problems every now and then. Bad weather, engine breakdowns or any sort of thing can happen. And will. You would just have to expect that sort of thing and budget for it. Or better still, make a thorough plan of what to do if and when it happens. And not really if. When. Because it will. And it has. And it will continue to. When it happens, you should have an exact strategy that does two things. 
First, make sure the passengers are safe and you will do whatever it takes to make sure of that. To some extent the cruise lines do this. Not completely, but for the most part they do. They dropped the ball on that one in the Costa tragedy, in which 32 lives were lost and the boat is still laying on its side in Italy more than a year later. A lot of that was the error of the Captain, but much of it was negligence on the part of the cruise company, Carnival. To date, I have not seen one word to say that they have corrected anything or have a plan in the event it happens again. Which it will. According to most reports,  there was more than enough time to safely get all the passengers off the boat and into the lifeboats they have on every boat and to safety. If it was handled correctly, the crew was fully trained and the passengers advised of all the safety procedures before they sailed. None of that happened. Carnival has never apologized for any of that. They blame the Captain. Good for them. I am sure that is of great comfort to the families that lost loved ones and those on the ship that had to swim for their lives.
But secondly, and even more importantly,  when something happens like happened on the Carnival Triumph a week ago, I expect you to have a plan to take care of the safety and basic needs of the passengers. Basic needs being shelter, food and daily hygiene of the passengers. And if whatever your plan is is not working then you better take immediate action to fix it, at any cost. If you don't-and others see that-they know what to expect from you the next time it happens.
For me, Carnival has lost a customer. And I talk to people. So, I would recommend that they stay off the cruise line, and am actively doing so. Over time, that is going to mean the death of the company. And for what?
Simple procedures to take care of the customer in the event of turbulence which is inevitable. When you run hundreds, maybe even thousands of cruises each year, you know something like this is going to happen. You have to be prepared to make sure that the images and statements coming from the Carnival Triumph simply don't happen. Once they do, you cannot undue them. With the internet, it is not so easy to think they will just fade away. A simple google search is now going to always bring this back up. 

Would it cost a bit more to make sure that they are prepared? Yes, it certainly would. But it has cost them a lot more in the short term with lost bookings and the long term with damage to their reputation and perceived ability to manage a simple engine failure. 
Shit happens. Shit will always happen. It is not that it happens that determines your image, it is how you respond to it and handle it that does.
Carnival has horribly failed in this matter, as has Longos. Over time,  both will pay the price for that.  


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