I nearly choked on my toothpaste yesterday morning when I heard about Northwest Airlines new 'money-saving tips' offered to laid-off employees. Titled "101 Ways to Save Money," the list crosses so many lines of sensitivity and good taste, it's like a lap dance at a wake – before the flasks appear. As a public relations professional, I have to wonder if the Northwest pr team was unavailable, having all died in a team-building off-site gone awry or if they (now) just wish they were.
Helpful tips (set-ups are mine) include:
-Need a sparkly bobble? Get jewelry from pawn shops!
-Car break down? Snag car parts at junkyards!
-Drowning in bills? Take shorter showers!
The Eagan, Minn.-based carrier gave out 60 of the booklets before it began getting complaints, and it cut the list from remaining copies. Northwest, the fifth-largest U.S. airline, is reducing pay and benefits and shedding jobs as it trims labor spending by $1.4 billion annually to exit bankruptcy protection as soon as 2007. The job cuts include 1,000 machinists as well as members of other unions. The airline also is seeking $195 million in wage and benefit cuts from its flight attendants, who have said they will begin a series of unannounced, random work stoppages as soon as Aug. 25.
Any way you look at it, it's a sad story. Though it is happening all across the industry, I pay particular attention to Northwest because it is the only airline willing to fly me to North Dakota.
More sage advice:
-Generous but broke? Give homemade cards and gifts!
-Sick but broke? Ask Doc for free drug samples!
-Need to get laid? Borrow an employed friend's dress for a big night out!
-Kids have a birthday? Hand-me-downs – they won't know the difference!
This is my favorite tip as it requires no additional exaggerations:
"Don't be shy about pulling something you like out of the trash."
Mind you, I lived by this philosophy during my time in San Francisco, a town of wealthy transients. Hell, I furnished half my apartment with 'trash,' including the chair I currently sit in. However, I never thought I'd live to see the day when my scavenger tendencies would be backed by a major airline.
Clueless, beleaguered and broke, Northwest must take the ultimate blame for this embarrassment. However, there is another player in all this. The 165-page booklet was apparently created for Northwest by NEAS, an employee-assistance company based in Waukesha, Wis. According to them, NEAS is comprised of "...people who truly listen, who genuinely care, who are available at all times, and who know how to enhance the lives of employees and support the productivity and profitability of employers."
I admire their dedication in "being there at all times" – especially since a spokeswoman for NEAS referred all calls back to Northwest regarding this issue.