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The Official Southwest Airlines Semi-Annual Peanut Transition

pberg
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Brace yourselves everyone...it's that time again..."The Official Southwest Airlines Semi-Annual Peanut-Transition." (Now that I've given it a name, I'm thinking I might make a T-shirt and sell it in the lobby of our Headquarters here in Dallas.  That idea might be especially funny to anyone who works here, as there is a new T-shirt for sale every week...but that's a whole other blog post...now, back to peanuts...) Every six months or so we switch from dry roasted to honey roasted peanuts, giving us all the opportunity to debate the merits of each style of nut and rehash old peanut stories.  Six years ago, I was working in our Customer Relations Department responding to Customer letters.  It was my first job with Southwest Airlines, and a job that many of us internally refer to as "Southwest Boot Camp" - not because it's especially strenuous, but because it's a job that allows you to learn a tremendous amount about the Company in a very short period of time.  Every Customer letter we receive, in turn, receives a researched and personal response from someone like me - no form letters here, folks!  In fact, many Customer Relations "graduates" can recall with great pride the way they were able to reslove a specific Customer's dilemma with a level of compassion and grace that only someone intimately involved in the situation could.  I can recall several situations of my own like that...the woman whose eye glasses fell in the "lav" while she was cleaning red wine off of her brand new, white, Ralph Lauren suit with a can of club soda and a maxi pad (our Flight Attendants know all kinds of tricks).  Or the Customer who, over the phone, turned me into a Hangar One Vodka fan for life (it wasn't until just now that I realized the airline connection).   And, I will never forget one letter in particular regarding our honey roasted peanuts:
August 31, 2001 Dear Sir or Madam: As a constant passenger on your Los Angeles to Oakland run, I have kept a particular question to myself for sometime now.  However, frustration has finally gotten the better of me, and I simply must ask.  What happened to the honey-roasted peanuts? All you serve now are those high in sodium, salted-nuts.  Sure, you give everyone two packets of them, but I'd much rather have one package of honey-roasted peanuts over twelve packages of salted-peanuts.  Hell, I'd rather have one package of honey-roasted peanuts over a small Not-For-Resale package of Oreos.              My physician has told me that I have way too much sodium in my diet as it stands, so that's the reason for my being so adamant about the subject at hand.  Is there a way to (much like the people order kosher meals prior to take-off) for me to order a package of honey-roasted peanuts instead of salted ones? Sincerely, David Paulson P.S.  - I have nothing against Oreos, just in case you guys have anything to do with manufacturing those cookies.  But when you're on a plane and don't have a mirror to look into, Oreos are the worst thing to eat...you end up with black speckles wedged in throughout your smile. 
At the time I received this letter, I had only been a Southwest Employee for about four months and had just made my way through training.  I wrote a nice response explaining where the honey-roasted peanuts had gone, but my Supervisor, sent me back to the drawing board to produce a more thoughtful response. 
November 16, 2001 Dear Mr. Paulson;             Thank you for your letter of August 31.  I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with our onboard peanut selection.  As a frequent flyer myself, I have often wondered, "What happened to the honey roasted peanuts?" I too prefer honey roasted peanuts to just plain old salted nuts and can certainly understand your dilemma.  Typically, we rotate the types of peanuts we serve from honey roasted to salt roasted on a semi-annual basis.  However, in an effort to cut costs following the events of September 11, we will be holding off on honey roasted peanuts until at least the end of the year.  Of course, our Customers are always welcome to carry their "goodies of choice" onboard with them, and I have taken the liberty of enclosing a couple of bags for you to take along on your next trip.              Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with us.  Your business is truly appreciated, and we will look forward to serving you honey roasted peanuts again in the future.                                                                                     Sincerely,                                                                                     Paula Berg Enclosure:  Honey Roasted Peanuts
To my surprise, I received a letter from a Mr. Paul Davidson, aka Mr. Paulson, several months later asking permission to publish my response in a book called Consumer Joe - Harassing corporate America, One Letter at a Time.  I signed, and you can now read my letter (see page 47)...and at least 100 others...in Paul Davidson's Book. Note:  Normally we have a 30-day turn around on Customer letters, but September 11 occurred just days after we received "Mr. Paulson's" letter, so we were, understandably, behind. Also Note:  If you have plans to fly on us and have any sort of peanut allergy, please know that a)  we offer pretzels as an alternative snack, and b) if you call our reservations line at 1-800-I-Fly-SWA and notify us of your allergy, we will make every effort to keep peanuts off of your flight. 
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