United Airlines: “If we cannot beat our competitors, we beat our customers”

For the past week, United Airlines has generated negative publicity regarding its treatment of a customer by forcibly removing him from the plane after the man (Dr. David Dao) has boarded due to “overbooking”. While customers have been booted off from their paid seats before as it is a common occurrence, none has resulted in an incident that has the whole world in shock and anger.

It was reported that the plane was at capacity since the only reason the United wanted to remove four passengers to make room for several of their staff. For a lawyer’s perspective, point one makes it clear that the law permitting the plane to allow passengers to deny boarding in event of oversell isn’t applicable as United  should have deny passengers from boarding beforehand instead of kicking people off the plane after they were seated and that the plane was NOT oversold.

The second point makes it clear that United violated a law since the failed to give priority to people with reserved confirmed seats. Even United employees and other carrier employees could be denied seating if they don’t have confirmed seating.

With the third point, the CEO, Oscar Munoz claimed that the Dao was belligerent and that did gave United the right to remove him from the plane. From the video, it would have been an acceptable reason except for the fact that the police initiated the violence and belligerence.

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To rub salt on the wound, the CEO’s initial apology avoided responsibility and ownership of the problem with words apologizing for “re-accomodating” the passenger even though Dao came out with concussion, a broken nose and lost two front teeth. As a result, United’s reputation plummeted even further. If the CEO apologized about the incident with full ownership of the problem and offer corrective actions, then the uproar would have been mitigated. It wasn’t until the consequences of stock dropping $950 million are dire enough to warrant a serious response from the CEO.

Additionally, a lot of dirt was dug up on Dr. Dao on his past concerning drugs and sex with patients to discredit him and justify their treatment of the man. While his past is less than clean and unsavory, his past is irrelevant to the situation at hand. Even if it was known beforehand about his past on the flight, it should still NOT be acceptable to bash his head and dragged him off like a rag doll. Furthermore, even if the doctor has engaged in some dark actions in the past, it doesn’t mean he is still the same man in the present.

Not only the news caused outrage in the USA, but also the incident made headlines around the world, especially in China. Many social media Chinese users raged upon hearing the news because they perceived racism factoring in the incident. Many claimed that his race was a factor on how he was treated on the plane due to common perceptions of the stereotype that Asians are meek and won’t fight back. While there is no concrete evidence supporting the racism angle, it is a possibility but is a speculative idea due to difficulty in proving subconscious thoughts and bias. Regardless, United will suffer heavy loss of revenues due to relying on Asian routes since many Chinese will boycott the carrier because of this incident.

The whole United fiasco is a lesson on effects of increasingly global world and access of information that can  impact public relations of a company in a significant way. It could be possible that United would be mentioned in future business textbooks.

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Beauty and the Beast (2017) Review

Recently, the anticipated remake of a Disney animated classic Beauty and the Beast has been released in the theaters. Like many others, I jumped for the chance to see how the remake captures the execution of one of most beloved Disney animated film in history. I did enjoy the film and would watch it again. Though I am biased, I did note there were some improvements the film should have addressed.

Positives

  1. Plot holes fixed – The curse time limit of the rose blossoming until the prince’s 21st birthday and references to how they have been under the curse for 10 years were deleted. As this would have implied that the prince was cursed when he was 11 years old, this raises the unfortunate implications of the whole situation considering not many 11 year olds would have the authority nor the maturity to handle that type of situation. In fact, it was confirmed that the prince was an adult when he was cursed in the remake so the problem was alleviated. Another plot hole present in the original film was the question of why none of the townspeople were aware of a giant royal castle in the forest nor wondering why the prince and his staff were suddenly gone. This was explained by the enchantress’s curse causing everyone to forget about the castle and its residents.
  2. Prologue – The prologue explained more of the prince’s character on how he was before the curse. It was said and shown he revels beauty and decadence so much that he taxed the people to host extravagant parties and afford beautiful objects. This shows him to be very concerned with outer appearances and wasteful. His masquerade ball with elegantly clad guests and his garish makeup supports the notion of his superficial vain nature. When the witch arrived at the ball, not only he denies her sacred hospitality but also she was in his eyes ruining his perfect ball by being her ugly self in the castle according to the novelization. In addition, his garish appearance at the beginning contrast his human appearance at the end where he is much more natural and pleasant looking to match his changed character.
  3. Gaston and Lefou – They both stole the show. Luke Evans as Gaston has a great singing voice. Though not as baritone as Richard White’s voice, his voice conveyed emotions and the character of Gaston well, especially during the Mob song. Josh Gad as Lefou adds some one liners that gave me a laugh as well as adding depth and development to the character. The reveal of the sexuality adds another layer of motivation on why Lefou fawns over Gaston so much.
  4. Proactive Belle – Belle is modified to be a more proactive character in the film. She is less soft than her animated counterpart. Instead of sneakily sending Gaston out her door, she directly tells him she won’t marry him. In her assigned bedroom, she constructed a rope to execute her plan of escaping the beast’s castle instead of crying on the bed. Additionally, she takes a more active role in saving the beast when she wrestles Gaston’s gun to prevent him from hurting the beast.
  5. Maurice Character Expansion – The father in the movie is much more competent than his animated counterpart. His ability to judge other people’s characters is more effective than in the animated version in which he suggested Belle socialize with Gaston since he is a “handsome fellow”. In the live action version, he protects Belle by refusing his daughter’s hand of marriage to Gaston once he saw Gaston’s true colors. Furthermore, he was knocked off his trail by a supernatural cause than by his own stupidity in insisting in turning on the dark and foreboding trail instead of the sunny cheery trail that his horse wanted to go.
  6. Enchantress Involvement – Although the enchantress’s morality is still questionable considering she cursed Chip, Cadenza, and Madame Garderobe when they couldn’t have been responsible for the prince’s upbringing as the latter two were visitors invited to the debutante ball, it was nice to see the Enchantress keeping tabs on her curse on the royal subjects. Her action in saving Maurice from being eaten by wolves and lifting the curse after it was too late for Belle to break suggests she wasn’t as malicious in the original and realizes she was wrong.
  7. Lefou Redemption – Lefou in the original was a mindless hero worshipping who thought Gaston could do no wrong. In the live action, he still puts Gaston on a pedestal but with the added angle that he was legitimately attracted to Gaston also. Over the course in the movie, Lefou began to question his friend’s actions, which the process was jumpstarted by Gaston leaving Maurice to die in the woods. He also was given some snarky one liners such as “This is the family you wanted to marry into?” that gave me a laugh. At the end, he realizes Gaston was the real monster all along and does not care about him in the same way he did but instead view him as a disposable pawn. This epiphany causes him to switch sides and led him to save Mrs. Potts.
  8. Visual – The film is gorgeous from a visual standpoint. The Be Our Guest sequence was a sight to see, the town looks so idyllic and cute, and the ballroom scene was stunning. Those scenes alone make me want to see the whole scenes in person if that would be possible, maybe several years later, we would get the virtual reality and sensory stimulation treatment for films.

Negatives

  1. Emma Watson’s Acting and Singing – I wasn’t impressive by her vocal abilities in the film. Considering the original was a musical, it should be logical to require the lead actress to a singing background. There were parts in the film in which her voice was auto-tuned and robotic, which was disappointing. I wished they would have casted a broadway actress who was involved in singing musicals onstage. Emma’s acting in some scenes were lackluster when it was expected to show more emotions and character.
  2. Book Plot Hole – If the book is a portal that transports the person into another location in an instant, why doesn’t Belle uses that book to quickly teleport to the town in order to save Maurice? Of course, if she did that, it might look like she was using magic and might be accused of being witch, which wouldn’t be a good idea in a provincial town in rural 18th century France. Anther instant she could’ve used the book would be to quickly travel to the beast’s castle to warn the beast about the upcoming mob. It would’ve saved a lot of headache and the beast’s heartache and motivation in stopping the mob.
  3. Enchantress’s Amnesia Spell – The amnesia spell that occurs after the curse was set on the beast in order to fix the plot hole that the town doesn’t know anything about the royal castle and its inhabitants despite close proximity raises more questions on how would any girl be able to stumble upon the castle in order to break the spell? It doesn’t look like the town gets a lot of visitors from other places. Does the enchantress intended the savior to be from outside the town since the town is just as superficial as the beast before he was turned?
  4. Beast’s Name – I wished they gave the prince / beast a name since it was jarring to hear Belle calling the beast “Beast!” in the original at the Gaston vs Beast scene. Did the beast ever requested Belle to call him by his name? Or did he requested her to address him as the master or just beast since he felt he was no long human? The jury is still out on the question of the beast’s name. In the live action, it did look like his father appears to be Louis XIV.

In all, I do like this film and appreciate the add ons that attempted to fix on the animated film’s flaws. If one hasn’t seen the animated film, I would say one would very much like it. Without being compared to the animated film, I think the live action version is strong enough to stand on its own.

Brazilian Carnival

The carnival is a major annual festival that marks the celebration prior to fasting season of Lent. We went to the carnival for the first time. The event was held at nighttime and continued past midnight. It was a huge party with performances, alcohol, dancing, and samba music. The atmosphere was very boisterous and flamboyant but very fun.

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Woman in butterfly costume

Consider the fact that this year’s theme was Mardis Gras and usual tradition of activities, the event was marketed towards adults. Abundance of alcoholic and flamboyantly, colorful dressed (or underdressed compared to average attire in day to day life) supports that notion. Some people expressed their creativity via handmade costumes.The presence of a woman in a brightly lit butterfly costume is a testament to that.

We arrived relatively early to avoid hunting for parking spots. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the beat of the drums until the inception of the parade. Unfortunately, standing on platforms didn’t afford us the best view of the performances but at least height is independent of audio quality.

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After the parade, several dancers performed with fast paced live samba music. I’ve noticed several dancers performed more than one dance at difference times, which was impressive  of how much skill and practice from a person was input into this for a night.

After performances by dancers, music was sung mainly by a single lady who led the stage with her powerful voice and energy. Several guests did had the opportunity to get on stage to dance along with the singer. We all danced to the music, especially those who participated in the Congo lines.

Other than alcohol, there were many options for food except for snacks such as pizza, chips, sandwiches, etc since the main point was to drink and dance just like in a wild party held by college students except the majority of the guests were from the older crowd. Overall, I had a great time despite introverted tendencies.

The Power of PR and Marketing

When you think of butterflies, what comes into your mind? Beautiful, elegant, colorful, and, delicate are some of the adjectives when describing its appearance. As for its food source, butterflies sip nectar from equally beautiful flowers, right?

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Wrong! Butterflies do consume nectar but their diet belies their attractive countenance. Equally as commonly as they consume nectar, butterflies can also feast on mud, sweat and tears, decaying flesh, blood, urine, and poop! Nectar is just one food group for butterflies and doesn’t provide all the necessary nutrients. Instead butterflies had to source their nutrients from elsewhere.

Puddling comes from “mud puddling”, which some butterfly species crowd on mud and suck up substance to obtain salt and proteins. When a butterflies lands on you, most likely it’s interested in you for the salt in your sweat. Since a lot of puddlers are males, it is believed that the males need the sodium for reproduction purposes. Waste is another food source for butterflies that we viewed as disgusting. For butterflies, waste provide a lot of nutrients such as salt and minerals. Butterflies are one of the few animals that can recycle their own urine as some do like to drink their own.

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Butterflies eating elephant dung

Meanwhile flies and other animals with similar diets are certainly bashed for the same habits. Their gruesome appearance doesn’t help them win our hearts. In addition, their habits would mean they are likely carrying bacteria that would infect us if we contact anything they have already had landed on. For that reason, the disgust of flies is understandable. Due to butterflies landing on decaying flesh and dung for their diet, it is unlikely they would be as clean as we thought them to be.

If butterflies eat such disgusting things, why do we not know about it? It’s because butterflies have one of the best public relations departments around. That and because we are willing to overlook their habits because of their beauty. Marketing and public relations shape our perceptions of the world regardless whether the message is based on facts or not. Two different subjects can receive different receptions and reactions despite having the same flaws and taking the same actions. Our bias can enable us to overlook flaws in one subject but allows us to bash another subject for the same flaws. This principle is very applicable to the example of mass media influencing political opinions on the world regardless of the reporting is based on facts and truth or not. Exaggerations, omission of crucial facts, and taking concepts out of context can change the reactions. There is so much noise that research more on the subject would help us obtain a clearer picture. Even that requires discerning credible sources.

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How to Search on Taobao by Photo Trick

When shopping on Taobao, there is a range of  items you can possibly purchase. It’s similar to eBay / Amazon in that sellers list their products except it’s not auction based. However, the sheer number of items can mean devoting tons of time and effort to narrow the search down to a product you had in mind. Luckily, there’s an image recognition feature in the search bar in which you can upload a photo and the search will load results that would match the photo or similar to it. This is a trick that I’ve delighted to discover since it saves a lot of time and effort by days.

  1. Navigate to Taobao website, not the world.taobao version. If you are on world.taobao version, change your location to China. If you are in Google Chrome, it will translate the text to English. I use a Google translate extension for Safari. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.13.02 PM.png
  2. There should be a camera icon in the search bar. When you click on it, you will be prompted to upload a picture. For an example, I will be using Ista Mori’s Nameless Poem Op for the photo. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.15.15 PM.png1-nameless-poem-op-ista-mori.jpg
  3. Search results will load based on the photo you uploaded. From there, you can scrutinize the sellers to determine whether they are reselling the original product or the replica version. It’s helpful to look at pictures the buyers provided to get ideas of what the seller would be actually selling. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 12.18.55 PM.png

I do wish Ebay or any other similar sites have a feature like this. Searching by key words can be serious tedious.