I remember someone scrawled this on our schoolyard wall many years ago: “Eric shagged Betty behind the bicycle sheds last night.”
It was almost certainly a lie, but that was Betty’s reputation ruined (or improved if you consider she was invited to all the cool parties after that).
Slander and libel like this have been going on forever. An old mate of mine, Peter Amis, once had a small restaurant and he’d sometimes get bookings for 12 or more people. This meant he had to turn 12 other customers away. These were fake bookings made by one of his competitors (nearby restaurants) to do him harm. What could he do?
This kind of thing has been going on for centuries – so why do we think the new phenomenon of Facebook or Twitter will be any different? Anyone can say, more or less, anything they like – it’s their opinion.
I’m sure that hotel has bed bugs. They seem to use a lot of cockroach spray in their kitchen. The sheets had traces of pubic hair in them when I stayed there. The manageress had an AIDS test recently – will be surprised if it’s negative. Etc. (You get the idea I’m sure).
So when an organisation like Woolworths is attacked why should we all be horrified? I mean, come on now, who gives a rat’s ass whether they’re hiring certain race groups in order to keep their Employment Equity ratios stable or not?
The point is that Woolworths sets the standard for quality in this country, their staff are invariably polite and well trained, and their stores are always clean. But their detractors can’t attack them on those levels you see, so they start slinging barbs about “racism” (Oh God please help us all – can’t we UN-invent the word?) And there’s not a lot Woolies can do about it either – the moment you start denying it (as Betty did) then you end up confirming it.
If a company goes public on Facebook or any other social medium then it’s going to (a) attract the loonies and (b) give the competition something to chuck mud at.
And once the ball’s rolling all the sad bastards jump on to the bandwagon because, in the Social Media world, everyone’s an expert.
Date for the privatisation of SAA
The bookies are getting out their calculators – because there is little doubt that the airline cannot carry on with its current management and devastating losses.
Tourism (prior to Marikana, granted) between the UK and SA is at an all-time high. And the Brits’ favourite city? Cape Town. The British like us and numbers are growing at just under 10%.
Given those facts, the incredibly insightful management at SAA made two major decisions. The first was to cancel direct flights between Cape Town and London. The second was to sell one of its landing spots at Heathrow. The mind really does boggle.
Unlike SAA’s management, you see, the smart money knows that when you lose customers (which this decision is certain to mean) it’s almost impossible to get them back. Customers are like that.
I’m guessing that a lot of Capetonians are doing what I’ve decided to do – which is to cash in all my Voyager miles and switch to another airline for all local and international travel. Kulula is quite good and I’m hearing great things about Emirates too. Plus, of course, there’s always British Airways who deliver consistently good service.
So I phoned SAA and tried to get some Voyager flights and was told “since the announcement we’ve had a flood of requests like yours and I’m sorry to say there is no availability” (this was for eight month’s time).
This is interesting because I’ve never had any problems with booking Voyager tickets out of Johannesburg before (Cape Town has always been a problem because, ironically, the planes are always full). Clearly a lot of previously-loyal SAA fliers have the same idea.
One day they’ll be teaching SAA’s last 15-year history in Marketing 101 – how NOT to run an airline.
So when will the government stop bailing them out and force privatisation? In the last few years the taxpayer has given them about R18 billion (handed it over just like that). When will this insanity stop?
I’m going to try and get a bet laid for this to happen in 24 month’s time. Because, within a year, SAA will wake up and realise they’ve lost a massive chunk of loyal supporters and they’ll need more cash to keep them going. It shouldn’t take much longer than 12 months for someone like Richard Branson to close the deal.
Here’s a thought: supposing Branson was to take over SAA, how long do you think it would be before it started making serious profits?
Recently SAA sold one of its landing spots at Heathrow Airport. Duh?
I was confused at first but then I realised what they’re doing. Now that the flights from Cape Town have been cancelled they don’t need all three spots – so they sold one and I’m guessing that will go straight to the bottom line and make it look prettier (those landing spots are incredibly valuable – worth about R300 million, but SAA’s not telling anyone how much they pocketed from that).
It’s an ingenious plan – sell off your assets and try to make your balance sheet look good. But when they’ve sold all their best landing sites and SAA flyers have to arrive in Norwich or Carlisle, I wonder what that’ll do to their ticket sales?
If they continue this highly dubious tactic then they’ll eventually drive its value into the ground.
Meanwhile SA Express, another taxpayer-funded airline, is under investigation for irregularities in its 2011 audit – and they’ve now found errors in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All the previous chief executives, of course, received healthy bonuses. The board was replaced recently – can we hope for a better one? I doubt it.
The court case against Khanya Ngqula (spearheaded by Cheryl Carolus back in 2009) has so far cost R20 million and soon there will be a new Board so expect more delays and more costs. SAA is involved in four claims against the ex-CEO totalling around R252 million.
But wait! It seems they may have originally gone to the wrong High Court!
If the Supreme Court of Appeal decides that such a mistake has been made then it could easily mean that all SAA’s claims might have to be abandoned, which is yet another prime example of superb SAA management.
I mean, for pity’s sake, how can you lodge a claim so high and then take it to the wrong court? Could this be deliberate corporate suicide? Anyway, let’s hope the Appeal Court decides there was no mistake.
Nobody seems to know (or care that much) why the government wants to fire some SAA directors. I have little doubt that it’s a great idea but can only guess at why they’re being sacked now. They did apply for another bailout earlier this year (only R6 billion) which hasn’t been confirmed yet, so perhaps that’s the reason?
Why doesn’t the government just accept that it’s impossible for it to (a) make a profit from an airline or (b) make an airline efficient?
Give it up chaps. Sell it as soon as you can.
Or I’ll run it if you like. I reckon I could fix it within three years.
I had an amazing number of responses to the last Droop – especially about Russell Hobbs appliances and the two water coolers that broke. The number of people who refuse to buy this brand surprised me.
Then I got to thinking about other products of theirs that are in my house. There’s the kettle which boiled quite quietly for the first three months of its life but now sounds like a jumbo jet warming up. No conversation is possible when the “angry kettle” is switched on.
Then the toaster. I don’t think it’s possible to build a more erratic piece of equipment. It changes its mind more often than Malema. One day the toast is charcoal and the next it’s anemic and tepid.
Of course, they’re both coming up for their 18 month anniversary and that’s when they’ll break so it doesn’t really matter anyway.
Saw a lovely quote by GB Shaw the other day: “If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman’s pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog.”
Isn’t Spring magnificent this year?
This post is published with the kind permission of Chris Brewer.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com