Ode to Bolt
As mm/c’s New York Director, I spend a fair amount of time traveling between Boston and the Big Apple. My preferred mode of transportation? These days, it’s the bus. Bolt Bus, to be exact: After a lifetime of bus avoidance thanks to unchecked motion sickness, I’ve recently discovered the joys of Dramamine and onboard Internet access while cruising up I-95. It’s like being on a plane, minus mini-pretzels, security checks and screaming babies: I work sans interruptions, eat my carry-on snacks when I want and even indulge in a trashy movie if the mood strikes. For those three to four hours, I hardly notice traffic conditions—and sure as hell won’t risk using my cell phone, for fear of other passengers’ wrath. It’s pure, interrupted laptop time.
In this economic climate, it’s nice to know I can rely on Bolt Bus for frequent trips, clean vehicles, and a no-hassle journey. Not nearly as dodgy as Fung Wah but way less pretentious than LimoLiner, Bolt Bus is transportation for our times. In a time when wealthy shoppers hide designer purchases in plain brown bags for fear of looking ostentatious, it’s easy to appreciate the sunny, low-frills, what-you-see-is-what-you-get companies of the world: think JetBlue, Target or even Apple. And, the fact that a round-trip costs about a fifth as much as tickets on a certain, less reliable rail company (cough, Scamtrak, cough) doesn’t hurt either.
Though, to tell the truth, it’s not about the money. It’s about the attitude. It’s about wanting something uncomplicated, predictable and pleasant—and not needing a constant reminder that the customer is always right in order to feel like I’m getting my money’s worth. Bolt Bus drivers are friendly and helpful, but in a “I’m a cool guy and would totally be your friend” way, not a “May I shine your shoes, sir?” way.
In a past life, I worked as a travel writer, reviewing swanky hotels and transport for high-end pubs. And, while I never complained about the five-star meals and Olympic-sized bathtubs, something about the service felt all wrong. Anyone who’s stayed at a stuffy old hotel knows what I’m talking about: the white gloves, the intricate folds on every napkin and towel, the old-school way of addressing me (a twenty-something in ripped jeans) as “ma’am” or “Mrs.” The message was clear: I’d entered an exclusive club, and a privilege of membership was feeling superior to the staff.
Smart companies are moving away from this type of formality, and not only because of the economy. It’s just not modern or practical to treat people this way. In a time when our President made his own way up from a working-class childhood and opera-goers wear jeans as often as gowns, it’s understood that white-glove service isn’t necessary. Consumers no longer need to be reminded that they’re important—they know what they’re worth, and what they want. And, sometimes, they’d rather have free WiFi than a hot towel. They want to plug in their earbuds, eat what tastes good, work according to their own schedule and pump up the volume on Twilight. Or so I’ve heard.
Posted by Gina