#CarryonShame is awful | Zach Everson

#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.”


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.

Update Jan. 26, 2015, 8:15 a.m.: And, of course, even if none of those circumstances apply, we can all understand why many travelers are reluctant to entrust airlines with their personal belongings.

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.

Update Jan. 26, 2015, 8:15 a.m.: When confronted on Twitter yesterday about #CarryonShame targeting travelers, Hilton offers some good advice:

Apparently it needs to be said a million and one times.

#fail indeed.

Of course, not publishing photos that include people on the Chronicle’s website also would encourage the documentarians to follow Hilton’s advice.

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!

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One Response to #CarryonShame is awful

  1. rph January 22, 2015 at 10:13 pm #

    “Also sometimes there’s a good reason for passengers to ignore carry-on rules, and other travelers should be cool with them doing so.”

    Wait, what?

    More like, no. If a person purchases a ticket for an airline, they should be expected to play by the same rules as everyone else. If we were to grant such leniency to violators, what happens when those us who played by the rules cannot find overhead space and are then required to check our carrry on items and then have “a delay making it doubtful a person’s checked bags would make a tight connecting flight”? How about everybody plays by the same rules, m’kay?

    Regardless, the droves of travelers I see in obvious contravention of the rules cannot all be going to funerals.


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