Under the Influence

Why Southwest held up an entire flight to change one man's life

Customer service is marketing. And companies that add smart, little touches make all the difference. Like grocery stores that magnify the small type on vitamin bottles, hardware stores that give you maps of their aisles and airlines that delay a plane full of people to get one man to his family.
Southwest Airlines (Valerie Mosley/Associated Press)

Customer service is marketing. And companies that add smart, little touches make all the difference. Like grocery stores that magnify the small type on vitamin bottles, hardware stores that give you maps of their aisles and airlines that delay a plane full of people to get one man to his family.


Not long ago, I was buying winter boots at the Australian Boot Company.

When I asked about weather protector, they said:

"Don't worry, we'll apply it for you right now. It'll only take 20 minutes."

Just as I was wondering how I was going to kill 20 minutes in a small boot store, they handed me a coupon for a muffin and a coffee and pointed to a little bakery across the street.

They told me to go have a treat on the house, and to come back in 20 minutes. So I crossed the street, discovered a lovely little bakery, and realized the boot company had just given me something I rarely get:

The gift of time.

I just sat back, enjoyed my coffee and muffin, and relished 20 relaxing minutes.

That little detail, the fact the boot company was a good host to my time, made me fall in love with them.

And I'll be back again.

Little details like that create loyalty.


Few companies offer the level of customer service as Southwest Airlines does.

A few years ago, a man was en route from a business trip in LA to his daughter's home in Denver to see his three-year old grandson for the last time.

Southwest was ranked #1 in the U.S. Department of Transportation Customer Satisfaction Ranking for 2017. (LM Otero/Associated Press)
The boy, beaten into a coma by his mother's live-in boyfriend, was being taken off life-support at 9 p.m. that evening so his organs could be used to save other lives.

The man's wife called Southwest to arrange the last minute flight and explained the emergency situation to the airline.

But he got held up by relentless LA traffic, and when he finally made it to the airport, he encountered long line-ups and didn't make it to the gate on time.

When he finally did get there, 12 full minutes after the plane was scheduled to leave, he was shocked to find the plane still there.

The pilot met him at the gate, and said, "They can't go anywhere without me, and I wasn't going anywhere without you."

Southwest was voted the top customer service airline in 2012.

No need to wonder why.


There's a pizzeria in New York City called "Pizza by Certe."

Their pizza boxes are 100% recyclable, which is great.

A brilliant and eco-friendly idea. (Amazon)
But they are unique, too.

The lids on the boxes are designed to easily detach and separate into four squares, each serving as an individual plate.

Once the lid is gone to create those four serving plates, the bottom half of the box folds into a smaller, more convenient box to store leftover pizza, so it can easily fit into a refrigerator.

Handy, smart and inventive.

There's an opportunity hiding inside everything.


I saw something interesting in the grocery store a little while ago.

In the vitamin aisle, there was a large display for Jamieson Vitamins.

The type on the back of small vitamin bottles, or any medication for that matter, is very, very small.

As a new owner of glasses, I can tell you reading small type is almost impossible – even with glasses - and the available printing space on a small label doesn't leave the manufacturer much room for big type.

That's when I noticed there were big magnifying glasses hanging on cords from the shelf.

They were provided by Jamieson, and they were a handy solution to the small-type problem. And I'm sure one of their biggest markets is seniors, who must appreciate those magnifying glasses more than anyone.

It was a smart touch.


Like finding a needle in a...hardware store. (CBC)
I was shopping in Home Hardware a while ago, and when I grabbed a shopping cart, I noticed it had a map of the aisles on the handle.

At a glance, I could see where every product category was, in what aisle, there on a colour-coded directory of the store.

A surprising and appreciated detail. And it eliminated the frustration of roaming the aisles looking for small items.


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