Flying for Peanuts

I did a lot of holiday flying. Let me tell you a brief story on flying and expectations.

On one flight, there were no free peanuts. (For this post, I’ll use “peanuts” as representative of any small package of snack food.) Instead, the attendants came by asking if people wanted to buy premade snack boxes for a few dollars. I didn’t buy one – the price was way too much for what they were selling. I was disappointed in not getting the peanuts. Then on another flight on a different airline, they gave me peanuts, which did make me happy. That was after my no-peanut experience, which made me appreciate the small bag of peanuts even more.

Is a lack of free peanuts enough to make me not fly an airline? Not really – if the fare is cheap enough compared to its competitors’ fares, I’m booking. But if the fares are close…then yes. My calculation won’t just entail factoring in the cost of bringing a snack. What will matter is how I felt about my flying experience with that airline. If I expect peanuts, and there are no peanuts, I count that as a bad experience.

If, as time goes on, every airline cuts peanuts, or worse – free soda, my feelings about flying as a whole may go down, until I forget about the “good old days” of free peanuts.

I don’t think the airline withheld peanuts to spite me. Times are tough, and they are trying to save or make money by cutting perks; although from my personal observation, I don’t see the financial benefit of the “cut free snacks” plan, given how few people bought the snacks.  And while I enjoy peanuts, I am reasonably sure no one needs peanuts to fly. With or without flight attendants handing out free peanuts, my plane is going from Point A to Point B, and I will survive. (Though I challenge you, readers, to come up with and share scenarios where a flight does depend on having free peanuts.)

Like the airlines, libraries are facing similar decisions about cutting back on things that their patrons have come to expect, with staffing and collection development budgets being scrutinized. How do we measure and value our users’ goodwill against the financial cost of buying and maintaining two treatises on the same subject? At what point do little cuts to conveniences add up to a patron who no longer wants to engage us? I am not sure, but patron-facing reference librarians can help balance this out by exceeding expectations in the services they provide. I am not sure, but I do not want to find out the hard way. Patron-facing reference librarians can help balance this out by exceeding expectations in the services they provide. How do we exceed expectations? We can maintain a positive attitude. We can reach out to our various constituencies, anticipating “Can you help me?” with “How can I help?” and meeting them on their space (sometimes, but not always, a virtual space). Or we can just give out free snacks – a bowl of candy around Halloween always seems to make people happy. What are some of your best patron-pleasing plans for going beyond the candy bowl?

Postscript: A week later, I found one of the bags of peanuts in a coat pocket.

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