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#CarryonShame is awful

#CarryonShame, a hashtag in search of morning TV appearances, purports to embarrass airlines that don’t enforce their own rules regarding the size and number of carry-on bags a passenger is allowed to bring on a flight.

The campaign’s creator, Spud Hilton, travel editor at the San Francisco Chronicleasks travelers “to take pictures or videos of the obviously oversized ‘carry-on’ luggage and post them on Instagram, Twitter and Vine with the hashtag #CarryonShame.” Hilton then publishes the “best photos (and the most ridiculous examples)” on his newspaper’s travel blog, Bad Latitude.

Hilton’s Jan. 10, 2015 Carry-on Hall of Shame installment included a photo I originally posted on my Instagram feed (I’d blurred out the traveler’s head) with the caption, “I was a #carryonshame detractor, but this scene at MCO was egregious. #travel.” To my picture, Hilton added, “Even if the Hello Kitty roller is for a child not in the picture — maybe, maybe not — she still has an extra bag or two. Airline: U.S. Airways.”

#carryonshame?

Two problems with Hilton’s description:

  • I’m actually the person pictured with the luggage—so “he,” not “she” (I’ve been identifying as a male since birth). And, yes, I choreographed this alleged offense and wrote a caption with incomplete truthiness, which leads to…
  • The carry-ons are definitely not just for one traveler.  I was holding them for my 4- and 2-year-old daughters. And my wife. All flying with paid tickets (that is, no lap babies). So no, I still didn’t have an extra bag or two—in fact, we were well under U.S. Airways’s carry-on limit. But Hilton, a 14-year veteran of the Chronicle and a 10-time Lowell Thomas Award winner, had no qualms with just taking what some jackass on the Internet posted (that’d be me) as the truth and publicly shaming this poor woman man who was actually following the airline’s rules.

The circumstance shown in the photo, of course, can be quite real—my family has numerous unstaged pictures of my wife or me saddled like a mule with everyone’s carry-on bags. Overloaded travelers also could be watching bags for someone in the restroom, helping a fellow passenger with a disability, or waiting to gate-check luggage they just purchased in the terminal. And Consumer Reports, um, reports that some airlines exempt some items from carry-on limits, like medical equipment, diaper bags, and food.

Also sometimes there’s a good reason for passengers to ignore carry-on rules, and other travelers should be cool with them doing so: like an airline delay making it doubtful a person’s checked bags would make a tight connecting flight. Or if a flyer scraped together his or her last few bucks to fly home for a funeral and doesn’t have the funds to check a bag.

Maybe travelers aren’t actually ignoring the limits. Maybe they are. Maybe they have a good reason for doing so. Maybe they don’t. But for Hilton and his #CarryonShamers, it’s just snap, tag, share, and publish regardless.

Please note though: while it’s totally cool for Hilton and his readers to document people’s behavior without asking for their perspectives, the same doesn’t hold true for publications writing about #CarryonShame:

Lest his campaign be accused of targeting people, Hilton repeats a disclaimer similar to this one from his Jan. 10, 2015 article:

Just so it’s clear: It is the responsibility of the airlines to enforce [bold Hilton’s] the rules they already have, and the #CarryonShame campaign is aimed at shaming them over their inability or unwillingness to do so(Despite the coverage, it was never about shaming passengers.)

That disavowal, however, appears between him calling these flyers “inconsiderate bin hogs” and writing that, “If you bring that much crap on board with you — taking the space away from others — you have no shame, so there’s no point in trying to shame you.” And it’s passengers who end up in most photos on the Chronicle’s website—not acquiescent gate agents or their airlines’ logos.

Update: Jan. 21, 2015, 3:07 p.m. And then there’s this tweet (a reader just informed me about it) from the Hilton-managed Carryon Shame Twitter account:

But, remember, #CarryonShame targets the airlines, not the asses, er, passengers.

Just so it’s clear: This article is just about shaming the #CarryonShame campaign, not the people behind it. If you have no problem criticizing travelers without knowing their full stories, you have no shame, so there’s no point in trying to shame you. Har!

Flashback to when Stuart Scott’s catchphrase almost got me fired

A story that I had posted to an earlier iteration of this website, more than a decade ago:

One day at First Union [where I worked as a client services supervisor in a call center from 1998 to 2000] the phones were jammed with calls regarding a new fee the bank was charging. I had explained it for two straight days and was getting tired of doing so. I could hear the rep on the other side of my cubicle struggling with a call about said fee, so I dialed her number and used my supervisor powers to listen to her call. As soon as I did so, the customer demanded a supervisor. Before the rep even contacted me, I asked her to transfer the call to me.

For my team’s entertainment, I put my phone on speaker, so it could listen to me put this customer in his place (a move to boost morale). I introduced myself and let the caller voice his complaint. Then, as I had done dozens of times before in the previous two days, I read the small print at the bottom of the account agreement that bascially said First Union could charge any fee of any amount at anytime. The client was silent. I hit the mute button and let out a “Boo-Yah!”

“What was that? Boo-Yah? What’s your boss’s name?!?,” he shot back. Crap. “Uh, uh…” While I had muted my phone, there was a second headset hooked up to it. I yelled boo-yah so loudly that the customer had heard it through that microphone.

Speaker phone off. Feet off the desk. Me sitting straight up in my chair, giving my undivided attention to this kind customer. He asked for my boss’s name and I provided it—something I never did. I explained the fee again and apologized for the manner in which First Union disclosed it. He said, “You can go back to watching Sportscenter, asshole,” and hung up.

Stonehenge continues to make 2014 its bitch—as I predicted

2014’s been a bad year for people, but the prehistoric Stonehenge has owned it—as I predicted.

“In a discovery they claim could ‘rewrite’ British history, archeologists have excavated the remains of an untouched Mesolithic encampment near the famed monument at Stonehenge,” History.com reported yesterday.

This January from me on Twitter:

This week’s discovery comes on the heels of Stonehenge getting protected from noise pollution with a new tunnel. And Stonehenge getting big press from Barack Obama’s visit. And underground mapping near Stonehenge revealing a new “Super Henge.”

2014 was probably Stonehenge’s biggest year since the one in which the aliens constructed it. And while I’m not able to tell you what the monument signifies, I was able to predict that 2014 would be a big year for it. Keep that fact in mind when you’re reading everyone else’s travel predictions for 2015.