April 25, 2020

Let’s Socially Distance ourselves from Selfish Brands (& Get a Glimpse of the Good Ones).

Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

Governments around the world have enacted lockdowns, and companies are learning how best to respond to this new normal.

Some companies have risen to the challenge and are demonstrating an admirable level of compassion.

Fashion houses such as Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and others have found themselves facing a painful downturn in demand until restrictions are lifted. Despite this, they have taken steps to repurpose their factories and supply chains to make hospital gowns and face masks free of charge with the sole purpose of helping society and contributing to this global fight.

Immediately after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Airbnb worked swiftly to allow reservations to be canceled outside of their standard terms. This quick decision protected their community and provided immediate peace of mind. The company didn’t stop there—Airbnb has been working with local hosts to offer over 100,000 frontline workers with safe and convenient places to stay.

The instances of groups and corporations “doing their part” hasn’t been limited to big business, either. Across the globe, we see communities coming together and stepping up to support each other.

Instagram yogi Jessica Olie is supporting 800,000 people by streaming free yoga and fitness sessions five days a week to the benefit of their mental and physical well-being. In the UK, 3.6 million people want Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach) to be their PE teacher after he began fitness classes for children stuck at home. Kino MacGregor (@kinoyoga) is raising money for Frontline Foods, which buys meals from local restaurants and gives them to healthcare workers in the US.

We’re seeing local communities forming working groups. Many have been stepping up and giving their time to sew scrubs and gowns for hospital workers, and masks for the public.

With many getting it so right, how have some got it so wrong?

Carriers including United Airlines, JetBlue, British Airways, EasyJet, Air France, and KLM all knew that when they were canceling flights and holidays, their passengers were (and still are) due full refunds. Disappointingly, they hid the truth from customers and duped people into accepting vouchers for rebooking, instead of handing back the cash legally owed. While the companies have lobbied the government for a change in consumer protections, this has not been approved. Every customer continues to be entitled to a refund.

Even in the yoga market, we see guests who booked a trip with BookYogaRetreats not being treated compassionately (read all about it here). With no refunds being offered, these customers are also being duped into accepting vouchers for rebooking. They are being penalized for doing the responsible thing and following #stayhome guidelines.

Do we have a chance to keep these companies honest? Well, the good news is that the court of public opinion is bearing down on them. Following intense pressure from customers, both EasyJet and Ryanair plus many more have recently performed a U-turn and are now saying they will provide refunds.

As the fight against COVID-19 continues, the sense of social conscience and community spirit across the regions continues to grow at an exponential rate.

People have voted firmly in favor of the selfless rather than the selfish act. Frontline healthcare workers, traditionally overlooked for the essential services they provide, are now praised every day in doorstep applause.

That coming together is destined to continue over the next 18 months as we wait for a safe and effective vaccine. 

The wait will give us even more time to become increasingly mindful of neighbors, communities, and companies we engage with—subconsciously separating the selfless from the selfish as we go.

The brands that are most likely to survive will be the ones who have treated their customers fairly and looked after the best interests of others in this time of crisis.

Stay Safe.


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