Quit Celebrating the JetBlue Quitter

If JetBlue (Nasdaq: JBLU  ) flight attendant Steven Slater were a stock, I'd sell my shares. Warren Buffett has said that the most important quality for an investor is temperament. The same can be said about flight attendants.

Slater has become a cult hero since his dramatic "I'm not going to take it anymore" exit via inflatable slide. He's racked up hundreds of thousands of fans on Facebook. He's been called a working-class hero for anyone who has suffered the slings and arrows of incivility, an inspiration for anyone who dreams of quitting their job.

There's only one problem: Steven Slater is no hero. He's a guy who didn't want to do one of the more difficult parts of his job: keeping it together even when customers can't. He's the firefighter who doesn't want to deal with fire, the doctor who doesn't want to be around blood, the parent who doesn't want to do that whole "parenting" thing. That's nothing to celebrate.

When my 4-year old son has a tantrum, as he did last night, I don't get to respond in kind, throwing a tantrum and matching my son's emotions mano-a-mano. It's my job to rise to rise above the fray and deal. In the words of Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan, it's my job to be "calmly assertive."

Granted, it's a job I fail at many times. My emotions get the best of me; I engage on my son's level, and I give up the high ground to a 4-year-old. But no one celebrates me in those moments -- and no one should.

So why are we celebrating Steven Slater? Yes, it's a great story. The underappreciated, hard-working Joe who decides that he's had enough, publicly calls out his nemesis, and makes a dramatic exit. And the fact that he grabbed a couple of beers before deploying the emergency slide is a particularly underappreciated part of the story. But heroic? No.

As I was thinking about this story yesterday, I wondered whether other people shared my feelings. I emailed Corporate Library co-founder Nell Minow, a woman whose job includes calling out bad corporate behavior, and told her that I was inclined to sell my shares of Steve Slater because of his rich valuation -- Facebook following, national news, near-universal praise/admiration -- and because he cussed out paying customers, never a good practice.

I asked Nell whether she'd be buying, selling, or holding Steven Slater. She replied:

Hold for now -- until the book deal gets signed. He's about 12 minutes into his 15, unless he can come up with a second act. It's a perennial -- there's always a silly August news story that captivates everyone briefly. But this one does have that "take this job and shove it" wish fulfillment element that will keep it, well, aloft, just a bit longer.

I hope Nell's right, and that Slater's 15 minutes are quickly ticking away. I expect to see him on The Apprentice. And according to his lawyer, Slater now wants his job back. Shouldn't he have thought of that before the profanity-laced tirade and emergency slide deployment?

I'm no fan of Steven Slater. I'm a fan of all the flight attendants who don't take the easy way out. And I'm a fan of the millions of people going about their day-to-day lives with a quiet dignity, working jobs that can be difficult because of people who can be difficult.

That's my two cents. What do you think? If he were a stock, would you buy, sell, or hold JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater?

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Mac Greer doesn't own shares of JetBlue, but likes flying JetBlue. The Fool has a disclosure policy.


Read/Post Comments (11) | Recommend This Article (7)

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  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 6:20 PM, theHedgehog wrote:

    We celebrate Slater because we've all been in the situation where we had to put up with an abusive passenger (or coworker, or boss, or whatever) but were unable to do anything about it due to social or other constraints. Is he actually a hero? Maybe not, but most of us would like to "Go Slater" from time to time. His one rebellious act resonates with many of us because we are tired of being calmly submissive in the presence of the abusive narcissist.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 6:29 PM, lunadolly wrote:

    First of all, Steven Slater is not a stock to be sold nor is any other PERSON who works for anyone. Maybe that is the problem - your kind of mentality that people are things that should just take it. Yes, people have to be patient and try to make the best of their situations. However, what a lot of people in the media surpisingly fail to acknowledge is that we are humans who sometimes get mad - have meltdowns and then go back to normal. No one is consistent - I bet you aren't even that way so for you to judge and say that Steve Slater is a bum is really a reflection on who you are and your lack of compassion - really a disconnect from reality.

    I'm not saying what Steve Slater did should be copied and revered - but he touched on something that a lot of people feel. People feel used and angry - trapped even by their jobs because of the constant bad treatment and sometimes abuse. You have only to look on the overwhelming response of the public to see that there is not so much something wrong with Steve Slater but something wrong in the way people are treated on a daily basis and I expect to see a lot more of these Steve Slater situations until things change the selfish me-me-me attitudes.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 6:47 PM, bernieyeball wrote:

    Fool:

    I have quit jobs in the telephone industry abruptly when I thought conditions were unsafe.

    This was light years before the internet and cable TV news. I guess I should have called Walter Cronkite.

    I have also worked with the public in retail jobs and I always figured unless they pulled a gun on me tomorrow was another day.

    The Fool is right on this one.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 7:12 PM, bermuda999 wrote:

    "You have only to look on the overwhelming response of the public to see that there is not so much something wrong with Steve Slater but something wrong in the way people are treated on a daily basis..."

    No. You only have to look at the overwhelming response to see:

    1. A society that celebrates irresponsibility and instant gratification over maturity and patience. Do risky bets by Lehman Bros', and people taking out 0% down, no income, negative amortization loans sound familiar.

    2. A society that worships celebrities not for ability/character, but simply because they're famous.

    3. A society not interested in the pursuit of knowledge, but rather reality-type entertainment, which, I find about as far from reality or entertainment as you can get.

    "...I expect to see a lot more of these Steve Slater situations until things change the selfish me-me-me attitudes."

    Steve Slater is the prototypical guy that exhibits these "me-me-me attitudes". If he was thinking of anyone but himself, he would have just gone about his "day-to-day lives with a quiet dignity " as the author suggests.

    You think other people should change...not going to happen. The only person you can change is yourself. You can whine, complain, and assign blame, and be part of the problem, or rise above it all, and be part of the solution.

    If Steven Slater were a stock, I would sell SHORT!

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 7:50 PM, circaclown wrote:

    I don't expect to see him on the Apprentice. Trump had something to say about this loser. Here's the quote, "[Slater] could have caused a major catastrophe and who is obviously not very stable," Also, "I think he's a wacko... I don't think he's a hero, and I don't think he's going to be a folk hero for very long. I think we should stop celebrating him pretty quickly."

    I had a job too and there were people that didn't respect me there daily. I dealt with them, and the customers were worse (I was a restaurant waiter)- you gotta deal with disrespect all the time. Be a professional, not a punk.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 7:51 PM, ChannelDunlap wrote:

    I'm left wondering if the author has ever worked customer service as an adult.

    Dignity is the LAST thing I have after a day spent letting unreasonable, irate customers treat me like something sub-human. And doing it with a SMILE. No. Dignity is one of the first things to go, right after pride.

  • Report this Comment On August 13, 2010, at 9:17 PM, KnotMiCabyn wrote:

    If YOU were stock, I wouldnt have purchaed you to begin with.

    You, yourself admit that you "fail at your job many times" with a 4 year old child. Think about this for a minute. Who is in control in that situation? Will there be repercussions if YOU act in defiance towards him? Shouldnt HE in fact RESPECT you because you are the authority figure?

    Flight Attendants, as well as all working class folk, are there to work & get paid. NOT to take abuse. But this "mystery passenger" went FAR beyond her scope as a consumer, and pushed the limits of this working class guy.

    If she had an issue with Mr. Slater, there are ways for her to solve them (ie jetBlue's management). But instead she herself began an argument with ANOTHER passenger (something that Slater had tried to defuse before she slammed the overhead bin onto his head). That in & of itself is assult & is a Federal Air Regulation. Like it or not, Flight Attendants are the authority figures onboard the aircraft. Would you hit a police officer? A teacher in school? Your boss?

    If I were Slater, I wouldve told the woman to get her tennis shoes out of her carry on, because she was WALKING to NY that night. The fact that Slater dealt with that woman for the entire flight with a bloody gash in his head without snapping is a miracle. SHE is the straw that broke that camel's back. I say, GOOD FOR YOU STEVEN SLATER! I hope the next time I fly jetBlue, you're on my flight!

    As for you, someone who sits behind a desk in front of a PC as his job, and ISNT a front line employee, I highly suggest you keep your thoughts regarding people who DO deal with the abusive public, daily, to yourself.

    Writing an article comparing your son's apples to front line employee's oranges was a bad idea. When your father recently dies, & your employer refuses an emergency transfer to Long Beach to care for your mother with cancer, & you, yourself are dealing with a terminal illness, the last thing you need to deal with is crap from people who were NOT prevoked by you!

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2010, at 2:28 AM, BearishKW wrote:

    I'm actually shorting Slater at the moment with a October 31 expiration put spread.

    At that point I will get long on the news that he has joined "The Apprentice season 6".

    See you on Options Action.

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2010, at 2:58 AM, Sovestor wrote:

    No idea why people need to discuss this at length....wake up America....

  • Report this Comment On August 14, 2010, at 11:50 PM, 3percenthero wrote:

    From someone who has a little more insider info. Mr. Slater seemed to be a rude, loose cannon on several other occasions. This comes from my own personal experience as well as others whom I have talked with since this incident. I'm sure the people at jet blue were happy to see him go just not in this manner. I have been on a plane with him and have overheard other rude comments from him in the past. NO I don't work for jet blue but do fly them frequently and know people who do work for them. It appeared he had a piss poor attitude about his job and really did not belong in customer service. His concern for others he may have harmed as a result of his actions did not seem to exist. Not only that, the expense which he inflicted upon his employer due to his tantrum did not even seem to cross his mind. The fact that now he has changed his mind and his lawyer states "wants his job back" has got to be a joke! They shouldn't touch this guy with a ten foot pitchfork. Good luck on finding another job Mr. slater. In case you haven't heard the job market seems to be a bit tight right now. Personally I think you should have thought twice before your little tirade. Welcome to the unemployment line.

  • Report this Comment On August 16, 2010, at 1:33 PM, Acesnyper wrote:

    Were any legal charges brought up against this man?

    I'm with Sovestor, how is this a topic or anything. I found out this morning during a coffee break.

    Forgive my bad mood of the morning, but things like this make me wish we had firing lines like in the old days.

    Crankiness aside, we've all had bad jobs, acting like a angry kid doesn't do anything other then make you look like an idiot, what's scary is how many people are applauding it.

    From cranky to sappy, doesn't he know how good he had it? A job, living in America, I don't see any info about growing up in a war torn nation, or being sold into slavery. I guess I forgot, he's important, more then I could ever understand or be worth.

    I'm just disgusted with this all around. I need more coffee to quell my feelings.

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