Let Them Eat Cheese Cake!

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to nickel-and-dime your best customers. Most of them will notice that your product or service ain’t what it usta be. But others will realize what’s really happening and they will resent it. They’ll know they aren’t getting the same level of service, and they’ll resent it. And some of them won’t come back.
I noticed that happening with some Amtrak passengers over the course of my just concluded Boston-Chicago-Seattle-Oakland itinerary. Other passengers have also noticed, mostly from what’a happened to the choice of desserts in the dining cars.
amtrak-raspberry-cheesecakeA year ago, dining car patrons were offered a choice of four or five desserts, one of which was a New York cheese cake with strawberry topping. It was really very good.
During my most recent Amtrak trips, there were only three choices for dessert. Cheesecake is still an option, but today it’s pink and comes in a shallow plastic cup about four inches in diameter. And no strawberries. The ice cream, by the way, is still Häagen-Dazs, but the container has shrunk in size by a third.
It’s being done by Amtrak in an effort–well-intentioned, but impossible–to attain the illusive goal of break-even on their food service … a goal which they have been badgered about in recent years by several members of Congress, with Rep. John Mica (R-Florida) the badgerer-in-chief. But most of the passengers don’t know that. They just think they’re being nickel-and-dimed, and they blame Amtrak.
John_Mica_PigsHere’s the thing: Mica really doesn’t give a damn if Amtrak ever makes money on its food service. Picking on Amtrak scores points with his conservative constituents and it generates media coverage for John Mica. If Amtrak should ever reach break-even on their food service, Mica would just find something else to complain about.
What Amtrak really needs to do is tell Mica and others of his ilk the truth: “We’ve cut as much as we can; our best customers have noticed and don’t like it; and we’re not going to cut any more.”
They might as well, because the John Mica crowd in Congress will never be satisfied.