Case Rip Cord Hits the EC

Welcome to the first edition of the Case Rip Cord for this academic year. In this column, we look at the lighter side of the cases we see in class everyday. Your contributions to this column are welcome, and we’re especially seeking comments from first years on RC cases. Please email
your comments to

First Union Corporation: First Union Bank acquires CoreStates, but the CoreStates customers are leaving in droves because of the difference in customer service concepts between the two banks. How does First Union keep these customers? They make their service so incredibly poor that the requests from customers to close their accounts cannot even be processed.

Frito-Lay: In the mid-80s, Frito-Lay prepared a motivational recruiting video to attract delivery drivers. The video features the Us Navy’sBlue Angels, and intersperses their precision aerial acrobatics with Frito-Lay trucks driving through some beautiful scenery. While the parallel between these dream shots and driving salty snack delivery trucks is questionable, one of the scenery shots featured a glimpse of reality. On a panoramic shot of a two-lane highway in a picturesque valley, a line of ten cars is backed up behind a Frito-Lay rig. One more motivational scene was missing: where are the clips of the Frito-Lay trucks double-parked in South Philly traffic, horns a-blaring?

Jollibee Foods Corporation: “The [Filipino fast food chain’s] name came from [the founder’s] vision of employees working happily and efficiently, like bees in a hive.” Finally, Section B’s role model has been found!

Mary Kay Cosmetics: Mary Kay’s SVP of Global Marketing is named Curran Dandurand. Apparently Simon LeBon, Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, and the rest of pop-group Duran Duran started quite a trend when they named themselves after the villain in Jane Fonda’s cult classic Barbarella. Good to see the marketing mogul could add a stylistic twist to the original name.

Rapid Rewards at Southwest Airlines: Harbus Editor-in-Chief Emeritus Corey Hajim (’01B) has turned to writing cases for Frances Frei’s new course, Managing Service Operations. SPOILER: Our first installment spins the tale of two Southwest passengers, a rare book collector and a frenzied high tech businesswoman. The case concludes with a description of their boarding, “She grimaced as she squeezed into a center seat next to a burrito-eating bookworm. [He] looked none too pleased, either, when [her] elbow hit him in the head and dislodged his glasses, landing them in a blob of guacamole.” An instant classic.

Sport Obermeyer, Ltd.: “Klaus Obermeyer [noticed ski garments in the United States were] both less protective and less stylish than those skiers wore in his native Germany.” So he forms a company in Aspen to produce skiwear. Doesn’t forming an apparel company emulating German fashion sound like a business plan headed straight for disaster?