Monday, September 09, 2002

9-11 won't be business as usual

Expect limited hours, ads, calls, flights

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        The stock markets will open late, as will some retail stores, such as TJ Maxx. Some cable TV networks, such as the Fox News Channel, will limit ads or even go without them.

        Telemarketers and market research companies won't be calling people, worried about being disrespectful - garnering bad PR and getting high numbers of hang-ups.

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The Year America Changed
Sunday: In NY, cries of anguish, hymns of hope
Monday: Is Greater Cincinnati ready for an attack?
Tuesday: The danger of losing foreign students and the benefits they bring.
Wednesday, Sept. 11: A special tribute to Tristate firefighters.
Thursday: How Tristaters honored the anniversary.
        Because so few people want to travel, airlines - including Delta - have cut flights, although they won't say how many.

        And convention and meeting planners apparently avoided scheduling many events on that day.

        From moments of prayer and silence to unplanned personal days, business Wednesday is unlikely to be an average day in offices, factories and other work sites throughout the Tristate and the nation.

        Psychologist Jane Gregory has not heard much from her clients about fears associated with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But she assumes that many are probably not all that anxious to go to work that day.

        “I haven't heard anyone suggest that 9-11 was going to be a day any different from any other day,” said Ms. Gregory, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Blue Ash.

        “But if I were to guess, any time there is anxiety, any time people are anxious, they will want to talk and interact with one another a bit more often than usual. It's speculation on my part, but I suspect people are going to want to reminisce on that day.”

        Jim Mears, owner of Mears Insurance Agency in Franklin and a former mayor, thinks people are going to talk of patriotism and that the day will unite people of many different political philosophies. The agency has more than 2,000 clients in the region.

        “It's going to be a somber mood in the workplace and a lot of reminiscing of what people were doing that day. I think you're only going to get about 75 percent of the work done that day.

        “We've never been in this exact situation before where our territory was attacked,” Mr. Mears said. “Business leaders, owners, companies are going to be a little more lenient with their employees because some people take it a little different than others.”

        Like many companies, the Ohio Casualty Group in Fairfield will hold a formal commemorative ceremony at 9 a.m. Wednesday.

        The ceremony at the company's headquarters at 9450 Seward Road will feature representatives of the Fairfield Police and Fire departments; employees who also work as volunteers or part-time public safety workers in fire, police and rescue squads; and employees' family members who are public safety workers or are in some branch of the military.

        All have been asked to wear their uniforms to the ceremony.

        “We have employees based in New Jersey. Some grew up in Manhattan, have family members there or worked there. We have a lot of employees with personal links to the World Trade Center,” said Cindy L. Denny, assistant vice president at the insurance group. “When you have 3,400 employees across the country, you will have ties.”

        When Ohio Casualty asked its employees for impressions of the day, more than 50 responses were received.

        “Wednesday is going to be a solemn workplace. We wanted to ensure that employees who volunteer in their communities will be recognized,” she said.

        A tree will be planted at the headquarters to provide a living memorial for the lives that were lost.

        At Procter & Gamble's world headquarters downtown, only the American flag will be flying. Normally, the flags of other nations where P&G has major operations also are on display.

        There's also discussion of observing a minute of silence at 8:46 a.m., when the first plane slammed into the World Trade Center, said Jeanie Tharrington, a spokeswoman for P&G. “President Bush has asked the country to go on with business as usual, and that's what we're planning to do,” she said.

        Several corporate heavyweights, including Coca-Cola, have decided to pull ads on the anniversary. One local retailer, Saks Fifth Avenue, has decided to observe the attacks in an understated way. As it did after the attacks, the store has taken everything out of its downtown display windows. An American flag is the sole item on view in the center window on Fifth Street.

        The reason telemarketers and market research firms won't be calling people is simple. They say they “get bashed enough already, so we certainly don't want to be intrusive on that day,” said Stuart Discount, president of Tele-Response Center Inc., which has 400 phone sales representatives. “We figure everyone will be watching anniversary events on TV and we don't want to disturb that.”

        Fewer groups of business executives will be traveling or meeting out-of-town that day, says Michel Sheer, president and chief operating officer of Belvedere Hotels Ltd., and general manager of the Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza.

        “What is clear to me as I look at the numbers is that individually our bookings are about what we'd expect. They are perhaps somewhat down but it's not as though there is a low-point of occupancy on Tuesday and Wednesday, It's pretty much the bell curve that we usually see,” he said.

        “I think the country has moved on. People are doing the business of the country,” he said.

        Yet group sales advance bookings are much smaller than usual.

        The slippage in the group sales is most likely linked to an unwillingness on the part of planners to dictate that employees will be away from their homes and families on Wednesday.

        “It could be conscious effort on the part of group travel planners,” Mr. Scheer said. “I know we are very conscious of it from a customer standpoint and the needs they might have as well as our staff.”

        Workers have turned inward since the attacks a year ago.

        They have become more reverential, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Torrance, Calif.-based ACT-1 Group.

        The group found that spiritual beliefs have a greater role among workers since the attacks and that more people are taking solace in a belief in a higher power.

        The survey, conducted by MarketFacts TeleNation of Chicago for ACT-1 Group, found that more than 55 percent of working Americans consider spirituality to have a “very significant” or “important” role on the job.

        Also, one of three workers surveyed said that the role of spirituality in their workplace has increased in the past year. The survey polled 650 employed Americans.

        If Americans are traveling less, that is not necessarily reflected in the occupancy rate at all local hotels. The Westin Cincinnati downtown, for instance, is booked for Wednesday, said Wayne Bodington, general manager of the Westin and president-elect of the Cincinnati Hotel Association.

        A couple of small groups have made the difference, though they are arriving before Wednesday and staying until after the anniversary, he said.

        Cox News Service contributed to this report.


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