“I can’t do that, I’m afraid”

How do you respond to your customer’s requests?

This is how Qantas dealt with us on Friday.

I was running an all-day meeting at a Qantas meeting room at SYD airport. 12 people. Nice room, looking over the apron. We had the room set up as a large rectangular board table, with me at one end, a credenza right behind me, the monitor above it, flip chart and whiteboard either side. Facing us at the other end of the room was a large (empty) table.

Before morning tea, the lady who served the food came in and bustled around me as I was running the conversation. She was trying to put cups, coffee equipment and plates on the credenza. I asked her to put all of that, and the food, on the big (empty) table at the other end of the room. Her reply, “We can’t do that, sir”.

“Why not?”

“The plates will scratch the table”.


This happened repeatedly through the day . . . every time food was taken away, cups replaced, new food brought, she worked around me standing at the head of the table. We asked repeatedly to change this, and she said, “We can’t do that. I’m sorry”.

Right at the end of the day, the not-to-be-scratched table at the end of the room had not been used. She then proceeded to amaze us further by asking whether we could move the table back into the centre of the room to join the others.

“Why are you asking us to do that?” one of our group queried.

Her response, “Because we’re not allowed to move furniture”.


So, it’s too risky / dangerous / hazardous to move your own furniture, therefore you ask you clients to do it!

Crazy. Does his have anything to do with Qantas’s $2.8b loss?

How does your organisation deal with customer inconvenience? Do you say “we can’t” or do you say, “Leave it with us; thanks for letting us know!”

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