Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Let's get the sad part out of the way first.
United Airlines will cheerily survive and most of the people who claim they will boycott it actually won't.
They'll have no choice but to fly United. There simply isn't enough competition when a large country like America has only four large airlines.
Still, after getting some goons to drag a bloody-faced passenger along the floor of a plane -- even though the passenger had paid and the flight, we now discover, wasn't overbooked -- the brand is tarnished.
So up stepped CEO Oscar Muñoz to try and set things right.
He'd already offered three explanations in writing -- only the last of which was a real apology, even if entirely insincere.
But then he went on ABC's Good Morning America.
It didn't go well.
See if you can make sense of this exchange. He was asked why, if he now felt ashamed of how Dr. David Dao had been treated, he'd first described him as "disruptive and belligerent" in an internal memo.
He replied: "My first reaction in these issues is to get the facts and circumstances. And my initial words fell short of truly expressing what we were feeling."
This literally makes no sense.
Did he get the facts and circumstances? Or did he watch the video and feel disgusted? Or did the facts and circumstances suggest that Dao was somehow at fault? Or did he watch the video and somehow manage to feel disgusted at Dao?
Muñoz initially described Dao as the cause of the incident. He couldn't possibly have been feeling anything other than that his staff had behaved correctly. Which is exactly what he told them.
Initially, he'd only apologized for having to "re-accommodate" the passengers, not for the disgraceful way in which Dao was treated.
There was more. Or, depending on your perspective, less.
After Muñoz rightly admitted that this was a failure of the whole United system, of failing to allow its staff to make common sense decisions, he was asked a very simple question: "Do you believe he [Dao] was at fault in any way?"
Muñoz paused and seemed not to know what to say. It took him far too long to give the obvious answer: "No."
The whole interview revealed the essential problem with the way United reacted.
I have a feeling that the first reactions may have been dictated to Muñoz by lawyers. Theirs was the "blame the victim" strategy. It's a strategy that lawyers adore. It works for them.
But the evidence so clearly pointed to it being an asinine strategy. The internet soon decided that United was Beelzebub's airline -- and with good reason.
And when the share price began to drop, as the video spread all over the world -- especially to China -- only then did Muñoz's supposedly true feelings emerge.
Perhaps he was encouraged to change key by his PR advisers, who were enjoying an unbearable time representing what had suddenly become the most hated company in the world.
In this interview, I suspect that Muñoz was hearing both legal and PR voices and desperately trying to somehow appease both.
Now, United is just picking up the pieces, reimbursing every passenger on the plane and waiting to see just how much Dao's lawyers will be asking for.
Some businesses -- and far too many lawyers -- forget that business is still personal. It's still about human feelings and human touches. Especially where customer service is involved.
This could have been solved with a few hundred dollars.
Instead, United managed to behave in an inhuman manner and then followed it up with inhuman communication.
Now, even United's competitors are ridiculing the airline.
Now, it's very hard for anyone to believe a word United says.