Loose Lips Make Your Service Slip

Jim Luff
Posted on August 4, 2010
SHHHHH, PRIVACY COUNTS: In the world of corporate transportation, celebrity passengers, and uber-rich clientele, confidential matters should remain just that.
I recently read a newspaper article that featured an operator that detailed a lot about the company and its clientele. Maybe too much detail. As providers of luxury transportation service to the rich and famous, we are privy to highly-confidential and sensitive information. This can include cell phone numbers, lodging locations, itinerary details, and other personal information. Our clients trust us to keep this information private and share it with as few people as possible, even within our own operations. It is a code of ethics the industry abides by.
Some operators fail to realize the power or reach of local media. Comments to the media often can be reported out of context or even misquoted. This recently happened to an operator who was deceived by a reporter visiting her office to reserve a vehicle for personal reasons. Not mentioning he worked as a reporter for the local newspaper, the man engaged her in social chit-chat about celebrity clients and then included the “off-the-record” small talk in an unauthorized feature story.
The media tends to take words and angles that help sell their stories and make people want to read them. That’s why so many reporters are just plain suckers for celebrity name-drops. In the process, sometimes innocent people get hurt. There are many conversations that happen inside our vehicles that are assumed to be confidential in nature. A chauffeur with loose lips can easily sink a multimillion dollar deal if the information is passed on to the wrong people.
We frequently receive special requests from our clients that may seem bizarre in nature. It could be a certain type of facial tissue or a specific beverage or even a request to make arrangements within our community to patronize a restaurant or nightclub. This week, I had a client that requested us to get her into the famed Joe’s Stone Crab restaurant in Miami while she booked her Miami transportation arrangements with us. They don’t take reservations at Joe’s and my client doesn’t wait in line. One call to our affiliate in Florida took care of that situation and the client now has reservations and a ride. I was happy to do this for her but will never reveal her name or any information about her that would publicly identify her. 
In the unauthorized article, I was horrified to read the nature of requests by celebrities that were shared with the world and whom they were from. The article also described the operator’s personal thoughts on the personalities of celebrities served — information she had shared during the “small talk” with the reporter as customer.
I would hope that a talent agent or celebrity manager doesn’t read this and make sure the operator is forever black-balled for revealing personal and intimate details of celebrities. The article also mentioned particular flaws of the company that were off-the-cuff remarks. No one likes to air their dirty laundry in public, but once it hits the paper, it becomes very public.
There is a general industry rule: “What goes on in the car, stays in the car.” With that in mind, the only way the operator could possibly know intimate details of the celebrity is that the chauffer had loose lips and discussed details with the office staff. I would be foolish to think this same thing doesn’t happen within operations across the country.
Remember, it is one thing to share this information with your peers or a spouse, but quite another to share it with the media. And in the case of the Idaho operator, you need to be careful of what you say about your business or its clients to anyone you meet.
There is a saying that all publicity is good publicity, but this kind of publicity is not usually appreciated by passengers. Information like this can spread within your community and even into the farm-out networks that may stop using you because you cannot be trusted with their celebrity passengers.
The moral of the story: Think clearly about what you say to the media and to everyone else, and how it might be repeated or possibly used against you.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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Jim Luff Contributing Editor
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