The Critical Points: Impatience could be our next worst problem
Each week in his column “The Critical Points,” TPG Loyalty and Engagement Editor Richard Kerr presents his opinion on a loyalty program, card product or recent news that he believes is overlooked, unsung or the result of groupthink taking mass opinion in a direction with which he doesn’t agree. His goal is not necessarily to convince you to agree with his position but rather to induce critical thought for each of the topics and positions he covers.
Reader emails here at TPG can offer some great entertainment. They contain everything from clever rebukes to heart-warming stories and everything in-between. However, over the last couple of weeks, one common thread I've found in them is an illogical impatience.
These reader requests for information — also ever-present in the TPG Lounge Facebook group — have largely centered around whether airlines and hotels are going to extend elite status. (The answers? Yes and yes.)
What I don't understand is, what's the hurry? The need to know whether status is extended doesn't make sense to me:
- Are we using our elite status benefits right now?
- Do we know when it'll be safe to even book travel?
- Have we decided what travel is going to look like for our own personal situation moving forward?
- Do airlines, hotels, rental car companies, ride-hailing companies and public transportation providers even know what their product is going to look like the rest of 2020?
What tangible benefit does it provide to know whether our status is extended now? What about May or June?
When American Airlines was the last of the legacy carriers to extend its members' statuses (followed shortly afterwards by Southwest), reader comments largely conveyed an "It's about time!" sentiment. Why? How does a carrier extending our status in April 2020 provide any benefit to us — or for that matter, to the airline? I argued it was a foregone conclusion that American would have to follow Delta and United in extending status, but I think the timeline was premature and unnecessary. That applies to announcements from any hotel or airline.
This consumer impatience — and arguably companies bending to it — is worrisome to me, because it could turn into our next worst problem.
What we do need to know right now
There are some very relevant reader requests for timely information that we've gone to our partners to ask:
- If I lost my job, will there be any relief offered from banks and credit issuers?
- My flight has been cancelled for next week, and the airline won't issue a refund. What can I do?
- Are welcome offer timelines going to be extended?
However, there are many others that simply don't matter at this point. Demanding we go to American Express and ask if they're going to allow added flexibility for airline fee credits isn't pertinent information we need to know in April. Millions are struggling with much larger problems, and while travel is important to us, we have to keep the scope of the entire situation in perspective.
Dangers of further impatience
After millions of us have been stuck in our homes for a month (or longer), impatience becomes more difficult to ignore. Impatience permeates our habits, thoughts and actions. Once it grabs a foothold, it is difficult to stop. You may want to break the good practices we know are working to stem the effects of COVID-19. Our illogical demand for what I believe to be useless information worries me.
Does impatience already have a larger presence than we recognize?
We want to book and plan travel. We want to go outside and get back to what we enjoy doing with our friends and family. We want to feel like we're in control. I understand, and with two youngsters at home, I'm empathetic. However, we can't let impatience lead to an abandonment of logic, as the resulting bad behaviors could put you and those around you at risk — and ultimately lead to even more stay-at-home orders and further travel restrictions.
There are a number of scenarios in the COVID-19 era that should make airline and hotel elite status the last of our worries. These possibilities also mean we can't (yet) make any meaningful decisions on travel. If we let impatience get the best of us, we risk poor decisions in other areas of our lives that could have negative consequences on the containment of this virus.
I am one of the most impatient people, but as I discussed last week, being impatient now serves as little a purpose as ever. It's great to know our travel benefits will be there when we return to the road, but we didn't need to know that right now.