Thursday, 9 March 2006

Outsourcing Family Obligations

Outsourcing has been a buzzword in the business arena for the past decade. Firms have been looking into various ways of maximising profits and optimising performance by cutting costs wherever possible. Back office operations and non-core business units have been shrugged off and dumped on third-party companies that specialise in that particular area. And this is what outsourcing is all about.

Interestingly, there seems to be a trend that people in this part of the world are outsourcing their family obligations to third parties, although many of them don't even bother to understand whether those third parties are experts or even qualified to take over their jobs. Parents outsource their responsibility of teaching their children to behave to teachers. Investors outsource their responsibility bearing their investment decisions to the Government and demand compensation with public funds. The Government outsources the causes of Hong Kong's poor economic performance since the handover to geopolitics and external environmental factors, as if it has nothing to do with it...

Two latest television advertisements of Cathay Pacific yet provide some more evidence to illustrate my point.

One of the advertisements features a talkative girl who couldn't resist the temptation of asking questions to her parents in a non-stop mode. She always spoke at the top of her voice, understandably to attract the attention of her mom and dad, but they never uttered a word. After the noise bombardment, a pretty and pleasant flight attendant offered the little girl a cup of ice cream, successfully putting a halt to the noise pollution.

What interests me is the last shot of the advertisement – while the little girl was enjoying her unexpected gift, her parents sitting next to her were asleep with a satisfying smile. To me, their facial expressions delivered a message like this, "Gosh, that little thing finally stops talking. What a relief!"

Don't you think that it is YOUR responsibility to teach your daughter to behave herself, sir and ma'am?

Honestly, I feel so sad for the little girl and the flight attendant. The little girl's parents have outsourced their baby-sitting duties to a flight attendant without giving prior notice to their child, let alone seeking her consent in advance; and the flight attendant's company takes pride in this type of ridiculous outsourcing services – and that's why it spends millions of dollars to make a commercial to promote those services!

In another advertisement, an old lady who doesn't like speaking in words but food held up a piece of garlic bread. Knowing her, the son noticed that she has something to say, but couldn't figure it out what she meant. Then a smiling flight attendant stepped in front of the camera and spoke up with warm confidence, as if she has known the old lady for decades, "She would like to have another piece of garlic bread." The mother then smiled to the camera, leaving her son sitting there with an embarrassing grin.

If I were the mother, I would not have smiled. Why should I when my son has outsourced his ability to understand my private language I have been using for decades without letting me know in advance? Does it mean that he is no longer patient to listen to me and take me seriously?

By the way – No wonder Cathay Pacific was elected Airline of the Year 2005. Their flight attendants have taken over the trivial job of understanding passengers' father and mother, son and daughter at no extra costs. Cathay Pacific passengers no longer require any quality time with their family, originally advised to enhance communication but has sadly proven to be futile and ineffective.

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