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Old Nov 1, 10, 10:02 pm   #1
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How close is the FFM phenom to bribery?

I'm playing devil's advocate here. I for one, am a very frequent flyer, flying on multiple airlines and accumulating many FFMs and I quite often use my FF standing in an airline / alliance as a factor in deciding on which itinerary to purchase.

Having said that, I'm very interested in everyone's views on this:

What, do you believe, is the difference between the following two scenarios:

1. An agent of a government's military has to choose between two equipment providers who are bidding for the same contract from the military. One offers the agent points that could eventually be cashed in for equipment he could use for personal consumption. The other provider does not do this but offers a product that is better and might save on military costs.

The agent nevertheless picks the first as he sees personal gain even though the military loses a better option. Would most people consider this a bribe?

2. A travelling businessman has to choose between two airlines who offer travel between frequent work destinations. The company he works for has to bear the expense. One airline offers the businessman points that could eventually be cashed in for personal travel while the other doesn't. The other airline however provides a lower cost choice and possibly a faster connection.

The businessman nevertheless picks the first as there is personal gain for him even though it is not the best business decision. Would most people consider this a bribe?

Since I am mostly a UA FF, I posted it here. Apologize in advance if there is a more appropriate place.

Very interested to know your thoughts.

Peace!
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Old Nov 1, 10, 10:05 pm   #2
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They're not bribes, as they are offered to the general public as a whole. The ethical question lies with the person deciding, not the company. In either scenario, does the buyer choose what is best for himself or the company/government? That is the dilemma. But clearly it is not any sort of bribe.
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Old Nov 1, 10, 10:07 pm   #3
  
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Yea not really UA related, so expect this to move to travel buzz, or OMNI...

But you are forgetting me:

3. Flyer who sometimes pays more to use one specific airline (where he holds status), but the cost is actually lower because of savings on premium seating, baggage fees, and priority services that are not extended on other airlines (bumping to OA when IRR-OPS), able to work longer when traveling later in the day because of saving of time spent checking in (priority lines), etc.
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Old Nov 1, 10, 10:12 pm   #4
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Let's try the MilesBuzz! Forum instead of UA.

FlyinHawaiian, Co-Moderator
United Mileage Plus Forum
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Old Nov 1, 10, 10:43 pm   #5
  
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The purchasing agent for the government is not in the same position as the businessman choosing his own flight. For example, imagine that the government agent is buying a chair for a receptionist. If he buys a poorly designed chair, the worker who has to sit in it will suffer, or, if the chair is ugly, the worker may be unhappy. The purchaser has a responsibility to consider the needs of the employee who will use the tool or furniture. The taxpayer who ultimately foots the bill is also without the choice of selling his stock in the badly run government agency and cannot choose to boycott its shoddy products or to shop at a government that treats its employees better.

Tools have value for multiple reasons, and hedonistic qualities are not irrelevant. A businessman buying his own air ticket is buying his own tool, and different qualities may be important to different people. One may want the fastest travel time, another may want the softest seat, and another may want miles. The business has a vested interest in keeping its employees happy, so it gives those employees input into their own travel arrangements (a sort of fringe benefit). Within the parameters established by his employer, the business person is free to choose what best meets his own needs.
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Old Nov 1, 10, 11:13 pm   #6
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NW Mourning - this is a good point and speaks a lot to the autonomy that has to be given to a businessman at that level. It is eventually a tool that the acquirer himself / herself is using. If I use work money to buy a mac instead of a PC because it makes 'ME' more productive and therefore a better asset to the company [assuming it runs all the work programs I need it to] - then by all means I should.

I guess the only ethical issue, as flyinbob mentioned, is the fact that I could be accepting personal gain at the net cost of the company. Example - I choose a mileage run that takes me 1 1/2 days to get to my domestic destination just so that I could use the miles for an upcoming family vacation. And for the sake of maintaining this extreme - I also get blitzed at all the lounges and first class cabins I occupy - thus not providing any avenue to work while travelling.

But, I guess companies take this risk when providing any increments of autonomy to their employees. (remembering the 100 USD paper clip at a recently audited government agency )
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Old Nov 2, 10, 1:19 am   #7
  
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If you chose to get blitzed in all the lounges on the way, you would have a serious ethics problem, but it would not be one of bribery... If you took 1 1/2 days to reach your destination, the question would be whether or not you were late... just as it is for the environmentally conscious employee who bikes to meetings & is often late (yes, I'm from PDX). But if a day and a half in 1st (because of your upgrade) meant you were more productive, maybe your choice was the best for your company?
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Old Nov 2, 10, 2:23 pm   #8
  
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Crookworthiness

Not bribery per se, but conceivably a form of kickback. More profitable is the purchase of a very expensive refundable ticket with the expense then being reimbursed but the flight taken on a substitute reward ticket to pocket the reimbursement cash. Yeah, but that nevers happens and when it does the auditors can't go after the execs that do it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by peace_meal View Post
I'm playing devil's advocate here. I for one, am a very frequent flyer, flying on multiple airlines and accumulating many FFMs and I quite often use my FF standing in an airline / alliance as a factor in deciding on which itinerary to purchase.

Having said that, I'm very interested in everyone's views on this:

What, do you believe, is the difference between the following two scenarios:

1. An agent of a government's military has to choose between two equipment providers who are bidding for the same contract from the military. One offers the agent points that could eventually be cashed in for equipment he could use for personal consumption. The other provider does not do this but offers a product that is better and might save on military costs.

The agent nevertheless picks the first as he sees personal gain even though the military loses a better option. Would most people consider this a bribe?

2. A travelling businessman has to choose between two airlines who offer travel between frequent work destinations. The company he works for has to bear the expense. One airline offers the businessman points that could eventually be cashed in for personal travel while the other doesn't. The other airline however provides a lower cost choice and possibly a faster connection.

The businessman nevertheless picks the first as there is personal gain for him even though it is not the best business decision. Would most people consider this a bribe?

Since I am mostly a UA FF, I posted it here. Apologize in advance if there is a more appropriate place.

Very interested to know your thoughts.

Peace!
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Old Nov 2, 10, 2:26 pm   #9
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From the government's perspective, the rebate is basically uniform between all vendors. You would earn miles on any airline you flew, and they are available to any purchaser of tickets for the most part.

You have to also consider the size of the transaction. Was it a $500 single ticket or was it a contract for $100 million in tickets? Not fair to compare the two.
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Old Nov 2, 10, 2:39 pm   #10
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You have defined why some companies don't let you keep your miles, and why many require you to book through a service, be it in house or one of the majors like travelocity business, where the employee does not get to make those decisions without approval.

See also this thread which has a similar discussion about people no longer able to choose who they fly

Does your travel dept pinch pennies?

and this one about the company either keeping the miles or requiring employees use any they obtain on company travel for company travel

New trend in cost-cutting? Company paid travel = company miles?

While both may not be that common, they are way more common than they were not too long ago.
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Old Nov 2, 10, 10:16 pm   #11
  
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Awe - takes all the fun and games out of flying. Used to be forced to buy tickets through a company approved sole source agency using brand X rather than using Southwest (which was far lower). Anytime you have a sole source of supply mandated it is fair game to suspect someone is in bed with someone else. Again, the execs who set this up rarely get caught and the kickbacks are rarely detected. Just another management perk.


Quote:
Originally Posted by cordelli View Post
You have defined why some companies don't let you keep your miles, and why many require you to book through a service, be it in house or one of the majors like travelocity business, where the employee does not get to make those decisions without approval.

See also this thread which has a similar discussion about people no longer able to choose who they fly

Does your travel dept pinch pennies?

and this one about the company either keeping the miles or requiring employees use any they obtain on company travel for company travel

New trend in cost-cutting? Company paid travel = company miles?

While both may not be that common, they are way more common than they were not too long ago.
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Old Nov 2, 10, 11:42 pm   #12
  
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I think the comparison should really be

A. businessman has to choose a supplier for his company and spends 5% more because he got a $1000 cash kickback.

B. Businessman has to travel across the US and chooses nonstop on A over nonstop on B even though b had lower fare by $300. He did this because he collects miles on A.

C. Businessman chooses supplier A over supplier B even though B was equal quality and 5% cheaper because A often wines and dines him at great restaurants.

First company has probably made a mistake if they let anyone who chooses their own benefit over the company's when making this decision. I think all would think A is wrong but B and C might slide with some. B and C are regularily practiced to some degree.

Personally I think that all three would be fireable offenses if I was your boss.
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Old Nov 3, 10, 6:53 am   #13
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Let's change the example a bit. A business purchaser chooses A over B, even though it's 10 percent more expensive, because A has been a reliable supplier for ten years, has consistently provided a high-quality product and met delivery dates, has prioritized the purchaser's company over others when there were product shortages or other problems, and has generally been a good partner. B is a total unknown.

Most U.S. companies would fire someone for passing up a 10% saving just to keep using the same supplier they used before. Most Japanese companies would fire someone for throwing a decade-old relationship away for ten percent.

I'm not saying who's right here, but what if A and B were airlines?
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Old Nov 4, 10, 10:25 pm   #14
  
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This question addressed in a book

This exact question was addressed in a neat little paperback entitled "Seduced By A Mile" by Greg Moore - copyright 1998. Great read!
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Old Nov 5, 10, 12:01 am   #15
  
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I pick up doughnuts for the office about once a week. The nice lady at the doughnut shop knows me and occasionally gives me an extra doughnut for free and since she knows when I usually come in and what I like, often there is a fresh batch just before I happen to show up. Bribery or just good customer relations? Well, I like that doughnut shop allot and am very inclined to give them all of my doughnut business.

In my business? We sell "parts". We have regular customers and irregular customers. When a good regular customer calls and says they absolutely HAVE to have their parts by the 15th of next month, we put people to work overtime, reschedule other jobs ect ect, whatever we have to do, to make sure they get their "parts" by the 15th of next month. We make it happen for them. OTOH, if an irregular customer makes the same request, we may profusely apologize that we just cannot meet that deadline.

Business is business. Businesses of all stripes everywhere in any line of work do well to give preferential treatment to their best customers.
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