So I fly a lot, and most of it is with Delta. Part of that is because I’ve never had any problem with them, but part of it is because I live in the kind of sprawling megalopolis where the airport offers a choice of…wait for it…two airlines, and the other one is United, and they fly through Chicago, and boy do I hate O’Hare. Fortunately I don’t fly so often that the flights crews recognize me on sight, because that would make me cry. But I do fly often enough that I am occasionally bumped up to first class, which means I sometimes get free alcohol and sweaters and lap dances and all the other things that you’ve always suspected happened behind that tiny shower curtain they sometimes use to separate first class from coach. (Editor’s note: the main perk of first class is indeed free alcohol, and the second perk is an expanded list of snack items which sometimes includes a muffin and/or banana. It is embarrassing and shameful how much I hope they’ll have bananas, and how disappointed I am when they don’t.)
Anyway, last month gave me a bit of a surprise. As I was getting off of one plane and preparing to meander unhurriedly toward my next one, there was a guy waiting for me in the jet bridge with a digital sign and my name on it. For a second I thought I was done for. I assumed the airport police had finally gotten wise to the number of times I’d gone through security with 5- and 7- and even 12-ounce bottles of things, and I was pretty sure I’d be taken in for questioning and maybe some light electric shock. Instead, here’s what I heard:
“Mr. Havens? I’m (name of guy) with Delta. You’ve been selected for our Surprise and Delight program, so if you’ll follow me out this door” – and here he gestured at a door on the jet bridge that led straight out to the tarmac – “we’ve got a Porsche waiting to take you to your next gate.”
And that’s exactly what happened. Apparently Delta occasionally surprises random passengers with concierge service from one plane to the next. I’ve since talked with two other people who’ve had this happen to them. One of them had it happen during a snowstorm, and they said the other passengers looked at them somewhat suspiciously when they walked into their next plane covered in snow.
Now I know you probably don’t have a Porsche laying around that you can use to randomly surprise people. (If you do, though, use it – or at least donate it to me and I’ll do it for you.) But that doesn’t mean you can’t provide some unexpected joy to the people around you. Here are some ideas:
Buy Something Nice For Your Best Customers
I worked for a bank recently where the central office authorizes $1,500 per year per branch specifically for these kinds of purchases. One branch gave a customer a $100 gas card because they knew he had to drive a long way to visit his ailing mother. Those are the kinds of things that would make me cry if I weren’t too tough and manly for tears. (Am I wiping tears away as I write this? You’ll never know.)
Leave Random Notes on People’s Desks
Don’t have $1,500 to throw away? Me either. But I definitely have some scrap paper lying around, and pens are super cheap. The difference between an ‘ordinary’ day and a ‘really good’ one is usually tiny. We don’t need much in order to feel special and important and awesome, and you can give that to people whenever you want to – so long as the notes you’re leaving aren’t of the “By the way I’ve always hated you” variety.
Give Someone Dessert
The problem with baking delicious things is that it’s impossible to do so in moderate quantities. They don’t have cookie recipes that make 6 cookies, and I’m told that it’s not actually healthy to eat an entire cheesecake all by yourself. So bring your leftover deliciousness to work, or swing by a neighbor’s and surprise them with treats. You’ll be the most popular person you know in no time – and you’ll get to eat a lot of dessert. Could life possibly get any better?
So there you go. Being nice doesn’t take any more energy than being a jerk does, and it tends to get you more of what you want – customers, love, cheesecake, whatever. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to call United and see what they’ll do for me if I fly with them a lot. If they’ll promise to pick me up in a tank from time to time, I’m sold. Or a hovercraft, that’d be fine too. I’m flexible.