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Away Luggage...definitely off my list.

While I have not been attracted to goods that were 'in style' nor hard sided luggage, the ads for Away luggage have been ubiquitous and drawn me in to consider. I did think it was just PR, but wasn't sure. As it turns out it is a company that treats its employees like they are non-human, IMO, so this brand is definitely on my ever expanding avoid list. This is an incredible article on how not to run a company if you care about humans.

Kind of proud now that I have a quite a few Rick Steves bags. And yes, I'm sure the factory end of a many, many products would turn me off as well, and I try to evaluate that, but when incorrect behavior, IMO, is known, I avoid. I just hope Eagle Creek doesn't get exposed like this because I love Jessica. LOL.

Besides size and weight, what makes you pick a brand of luggage/carryon/personal item? Does a horribly run company affect your decision?

Posted by
7597 posts

Wray — I read that article a few weeks ago and was absolutely shocked. I had been thinking that the Away bags were attractive, but I am like you — I can not support a company that I KNOW treats its employees like that (alas how many other companies do I already purchase from that do the same or worse).

Posted by
8767 posts

My opinion doesn't account for much in this world, but I do determine where and where not to spend my hard earned dollars in part by the business practices and philosophies of companies and stores.

Posted by
7696 posts

Haven’t seen this article. Link? Please share!
I stopped in their Chicago store and was impressed with the product.

Posted by
2913 posts

Hi Suki, The link is connected to the blue "This" in my original post.

Posted by
1889 posts

You wrote above that the ads for Away luggage have become ubiquitous and that caught my eye because I have never been fed an ad for Away luggage and hadn't heard of the company at all until a friend of mine told me he was ordering a spinner from them. I read and contribute to a lot of travel-related sites and I get a lot of ads in my feed from e-bags and camping suppliers but I still have never gotten an Away ad.

This reminds me of a friend who was complaining of how tired we all are of getting ads for bridal and baby shower organizers - I had to blink and explain that I have never gotten an ad for those services. We all realize that modern advertising is micro-targeting consumers but somehow we still assume that the WWW that we see is largely the same as the WWW that others see. It isn't. Even when you search for a relatively neutral thing on google at the same time that someone in a different place and of a different socio-economic status searches for the same thing, you get different results. And the ads surrounding those results put things in a different context.

Posted by
13490 posts

Well, all is not lost, if you like the bags. On 12/9 it was announced that CEO would be replaced with a new one who will assume the role on Jan. 13th. According to any number of related articles, a search for new leadership had been underway since last spring. The replacement, Stuart Haselden, was most recently COO, CFO and Executive Vice President at lululemon.

https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/away-appoints-new-ceo-stuart-haselden/

Posted by
2913 posts

Avirosemail, Oh, how interesting. Yes, I assumed the adds were everywhere! Maybe they think my 65 year old self is a millennial or very stylish. LOL.

Posted by
316 posts

Par for the course for flashy tech-enhanced startups, in my experience. No surprise at all.

I adore my Muji small hardside bag--countless flights and it's still going strong, 7+ years in.

Posted by
2913 posts

Thanks Kathy. That's an interesting follow up article. On the lighter side, from the article "the direct-to-consumer luggage brand beloved by celebrities and influencers" so I'm definitely their market (wink, wink).

Posted by
31471 posts

"I just hope Eagle Creek doesn't get exposed like this"

I'm also a big fan of Eagle Creek products, so also hope they haven't been behaving badly towards their employees. I've been using one of their older (now discontinued) Backpacks for many years, and it's my favourite travel pack.

One thing that occurred to me about the situation with Away luggage...... would they have changed their practices if they hadn't been exposed in that article? Changing the CEO might not make any difference if they don't change their attitudes.

Posted by
13490 posts

Changing the CEO might not make any difference if they don't change
their attitudes.

Read some of the MANY articles out there related to this topic and about the individual who will be taking the reins. I won't guarantee positive change will occur but given recent lousy press, I'd guess chances are greater than not.

Posted by
31471 posts

"Read some of the MANY articles out there related to this topic and about the individual who will be taking the reins. I won't guarantee positive change will occur but given recent lousy press, I'd guess chances are greater than not."

I don't have time to research this individual but hopefully the new CEO will make a positive change in the Away company. A good indicator would be his track record with other corporations he's worked for. Integrity comes from within so lets hope his tenure will produce positive results.

Posted by
11246 posts

As someone who as been using an Away bag for over a year, I was saddened to read that article a couple of weeks ago. However, it looks like the company was aware of the problem and had been seeking a CEO for a few months.

The skills needed to start a company and manage a company are completely different and many entrepreneurs are not good managers. Ultimately, the board of directors of Away--probably made up of the venture capitalists behind the company--realized a change was needed. (A large investment firm pumped $100 million into Away earlier this year and they don't do that without a big say in what is going on.). The company is growing too fast for the founders to manage and they needed to bring in more experienced people. The new CEO isn't the only new senior management hire.

How much the bad press has affected the company is yet to be seen. The main target groups for the Away bag are millenials and younger. And as long as the bag stays "trendy" the audience will buy.

I personally am not writing the company off just yet. They realized there was a problem and are in the process of fixing it. This is true of many companies.

Posted by
27720 posts

It doesn't sound like just "a problem". Much more like abuse, bullying, and forced labour from people without their consent. That doesn't just come from one person.

Psychological manipulation and damage, especially to the family, isn't something that can just be switched off like a tap. The damage goes on for years and years.

I'm sorry that people have been subjected to such mistreatment.

Posted by
2713 posts

This is awful. I have a bag from target that is like a low-end Away bag and love it. So I was considering buying an Away since I know I like the style (I travel with kids so one would use the Target bag and I’d use the Away). No longer doing that. Of course my Target bag is probably made under similarly terrible conditions so I can’t take any high horses here.

Posted by
2913 posts

All very thoughtful responses. Thanks.

Posted by
3789 posts

Lululemon doesn't sell clothing over a size 12 in stores. At one time they were chastised as size 10 was the largest size. Hopefully this wasn't Mr. Haseldon's doing, or there will be more niche marketing going on.
I read a bulk of this article, and to be honest, I didn't't like the public display of company communication and don't think they are alone in brutal employee treatment. Look at the general American practice of limited vacation and having to be accessible to work even then. One thing if you are the boss. Another thing if you are just a wage earner. This is not globally accepted.

Posted by
7597 posts

Emma that is horrible, I am so sorry you experienced that. I appreciate your sharing your insight as to just how damaging a truly craven boss can be.

Posted by
3186 posts

I read the article. Away Company sounds like a religious cult with an insane leader. However, given the usual attitude of US management towards workers(work them to death while paying them as little as possible and then dump their work on another employee rather than hiring a replacement when they leave), it doesn't surprise me that some bosses are even more extreme. And you'd be amazed at the professionals(such as MD's) that are treated this way by administrators.

As the owner of a microscopic business with just a few employees, I think corporate abuses happen when the executive top branch is disconnected from the reality of the work force "in the trenches." That's why I like shows like undercover boss. The best executives are the ones who have worked "the floor" of the business and understand the duties of the worker bees.

Posted by
11246 posts

However, given the usual attitude of US management towards workers(work them to death while paying them as little as possible and then dump their work on another employee rather than hiring a replacement when they leave),

Not just the U.S. At my current hotel in the UK, new management have not replaced workers who have left in the last few months. They expect the current workers to pick up the slack. Some even work through breaks and overtime even though management won't pay for that extra time. Most employees are looking for new jobs.

Posted by
13542 posts

Read this just in time. I was about to buy one of their bags for an upcoming trip to China and Russia. If I had supported people who dont support equity, free speech and fair work standards with my money I would have felt terrible.

Posted by
13490 posts

Wow. I'm surprised that the "Chew 'em up; spit 'em out" U.S. corporate climate is any surprise to anyone with firsthand experience with it. My DH, myself and some of our friends/coworkers count ourselves fortunate to have survived any number of problem managers at our respective companies for as long as we did.

But I wouldn't write this company off until the new CEO has been given time to fix, or not, the reported climate issues. Whatever the sins of the previous management, there are "Worker Bees" who probably need their jobs and are very good at what they do.

Posted by
952 posts

Wray - do you use Uber? There are a few bad companies defined as insane CEO's - Uber was for sure and even changing leadership hasn't really addressed all the issues... Time will tell for Away. I'm sticking with my Briggs & Rileys.

I hear most of the Away ads on XM

Posted by
2913 posts

Donna, No, I don't use Uber. I have a long list that I don't use... However, I'm sure there are many I shouldn't use that I don't know I shouldn't use. LOL. It gets so complicated.

Posted by
952 posts

wray - its the not knowing what I don't know any being able to make a different choice if I knew... or something like that. Every time someone mentions Uber I cringed. Hopefully Away will do the right thing.

Posted by
13542 posts

I want to meet the person that considers paying $245 for a $45 bag. The rest of it is nonsense.

Posted by
5697 posts

James E. -- $45 ?? I buy bags at a charity thrift store ($5 for my recent Travelpro two-wheeler) and NONE of the money goes to the original manufacturer.

Posted by
13542 posts

Laura, we don't often agree, but we do this time. The thrift shops are full of real nice, one time very expensive luggage at bargain prices.
When I buy a used bag I toss a hair dryer in it, close it up and let it run for about 45 min. 110F for 10 minutes kills bed bugs. Otherwise no worries. And it's a sustainable practice as opposed to the carbon footprint of new luggage; or new anything for that matter. Some people just don't get it. Now if we can get people to quit flying.

Laura,
I live in a semi-rural area. My thrift shop doesn't have such a good selection. My town is so small that one time I donated an item to the shop. A friend saw it; bought it; and gifted it to me not knowing I was the original donor. I had coworkers buy things that I donated. So, now I ask around first and just give items away and donate what's left.
Thrift stores are little treasure hunts. Cheap and fun - like me!

Posted by
154 posts

This is somewhat like the "boycott" lists produced occasionally by various left- and right-wing political activist groups to alert their adherents as to which companies are offensive to their particular viewpoints. The lists can be exhaustively long.

In Away's case, it's hard to imagine a more toxic corporate culture, but I'm certain, given the (IMO) out of control nature of current American capitalism, they aren't alone. And I can certainly understand not purchasing one of their products. That said, it's an individual choice. Personally, I look for a quality product at a fair price, and unless I'm already aware of some egregious offense by a company, I neither have the time nor inclination to research the ethics and corporate culture of every business whose product I'm planning on buying.

I'm glad to see that Away is taking steps to correct this mess, whether it's the result of being "outed" or not. From nearly everything I read about their products, they're quality goods and it would be a shame to lose a decent product such as their bags. It would be nice to see a followup article covering what progress, if any, is made. I'm pretty "luggage heavy" right now, and have no plans to buy an Away bag, but it would be nice to do so knowing I'm dealing with an ethical firm.

Posted by
2 posts

I’ve been eyeing AWAY carryon luggage for about two years now. I finally purchased the smallest one (21”) before Christmas and I love it. I’m about to use it for a three week trip to Israel and Jordan.

I read the articles surrounding the controversy AFTER I made my purchase and I think it’s pretty sad! However I still like the company and I’m glad they’ve taken steps to rectify the issue. I’ll keep an eye on them to see their progress and if possible make the switch in the future but for now I’m a fan.

Posted by
27720 posts

So no changes, then. Apparently the article was all inaccurate despite having apologised.

Morally bankrupt and back in charge.... hmmm....

Posted by
13490 posts

Looks like they'll have co-CEOs but yep, weird to admit to the objectionable behavior, issue an apology, and then backpedal? Will be interesting to see exactly which parts of the reports they think are "inaccurate."

Posted by
8402 posts

We’re between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand we have articulate American employees who expose a corporate culture, or, on the other we have underpaid, overworked voiceless third-world workers making our luggage (and shoes, clothing, appliances...).

Why are we in a huff about the one but not the other? Is it because we can identify with these middle-class employees but not with the third-world workers although we know full well they barely survive?

Posted by
11246 posts

On the one hand we have articulate American employees who expose a corporate culture,

Is that really what's going on or is it just a few disgruntled ex-employees who exaggerated what was happening. Perhaps they didn't realize working for a "trendy" growing company wasn't just going to be fun. They actually had to work.

In the old days of journalism, the reporter would do her best to get both sides of the story. Today, the media takes a side and overplays it to get a sensationalistic story. The companies involved often overreact to the negative publicity. Their PR people probably told them to apologize. ( I spent years in PR and I would have suggested the same.) Plans had already been in the works to get a new CEO in place with more experience running a fast growing company.

Now that the dust has settled, the board probably realized there were inaccuracies in the story and will shortly come out and prove it.

I'm not saying there weren't problems due to the lack of experienced management and the unexpected growth. But if it was so bad, why did the story only appear in one, not very big, online publication. As a former journalist I have learned to not only read the story but look at who is printing it. I also look for other media outlets for similar stories before I believe the propoganda from one.

Remember, online media outlets aren't there to tell you the truth. They are there to get you to keep coming back to their website. They do that by publishing these types of stories. And when you come back for more, they make money.

Perhaps Away should have just handed out stickers for good work..... :)

Posted by
6634 posts

So. . . .what's so great about their products anyway? Is it just marketing hype-fashion-status-internet buzz? Or are their products actually worth the cost? I've looked at a friend's, and don't see any great leaps in design or value.

What inspires the desire to work for a "dream company" despite mistreatment and misery? Disgruntled management employees should find someplace better to work if they're that unhappy. Thats how it works. Yes, the third world folks actually making the stuff need to be heard from.

Posted by
2913 posts

Bets, I get in a huff about all of it, do what I can to avoid many businesses. We should have fewer things because things cost more so all workers have a living wage. When something is so extremely inexpensive, someone suffered. Specifically, when I learn about poor business operations they go on my list...although they all should be on my list, likely. It's frustrating. Just look at Amazon and Bezos. But this is off my topic a bit as I was just talking about travel stuff, I guess...

Posted by
13542 posts

FrankII that CEO was properly exposed, charged, tried and convicted on the internet. Reality has been established. She had no right to return.

Posted by
1179 posts

Now that the dust has settled, the board probably realized there were inaccuracies in the story and will shortly come out and prove it.

I just want to point out that Uber continued to support Travis Kalanick in spite of repeated unethical behavior. This occurred after provable offenses and public outcry.

Susan Foster’s article came out in 2017. Travis Kalanick was only separated from the company in December 2019. So he was allowed to continue 2 years after his exposure. (And he had done questionable things prior to the 2017 blog post).

Men are usually given more chances to straiten up than women are. That said, illegal and unethical behavior at this level shouldn’t be tolerated.

The fish rots from the head down.

Posted by
11246 posts

FrankII that CEO was properly exposed, charged, tried and convicted on the internet. Reality has been established. She had no right to return.

True. I forgot how things are done today. You can get charged, tried and convicted as long as people believe what is written.

Sadly, the truth today is not what it really is but what you want to it to be.

Posted by
13542 posts

Frank II, while no one is forced to buy their product, no one is required to work there either. A place that would not exist without the CEO as cofounder. I guess better if the jobs did not exist. But for the company to reinstate her in the face of all the internet slur says a lot about where the truth may lay. Either incredible ethics, or incredible stupidity. I am hoping ethics.

Posted by
1179 posts

I have to agree with Emma on this one too. A toxic environment can eventually convince someone they aren’t worthy of tying anothers shoelaces.
There’s lots of reasons people are forced to stay in jobs. If you have a sick family member you may need the FMLA. But that only kicks in after a year of service so you’re stuck in the old job. Or perhaps it’s your first job in a tight job market. You don’t know all the norms of a good workplace and are terrified you haven’t built value. You won’t leave under those circumstances because you don’t realize you can.

Posted by
193 posts

I strongly agree with Emma and Cindy H. Until one has been in this type of situation, it’s difficult to realize how devastating this type of dysfunctional/bullying environment can be.

Posted by
8402 posts

This Slate article sums up the situation and our feelings of deception very well.

Posted by
1179 posts

Thanks Bets, for providing a second source for the Away controversy.

Posted by
13542 posts

bogiesan, I saw the twitters, she is guilty. No need to know more. She should be stripped of her assets. Its a shame that we let such people who have no idea how to keep all of their employees happy all the time actually invest their time and money and own their business. Allowing people to vote by keeping their jobs or walking away is insufficient. Like I said before social media knows better and those employees are better off unemployed. The place should be closed down.

Posted by
11246 posts

James, you may be on to something. Our courts are backed up and expensive. Let's just let the internet rule on everything. What's true vs. what isn't true; who should be allowed to own businesses; deciding whose career should be ruined due to one mistake.

Wait, isn't that happening already?

Posted by
13542 posts

FrankII on the other hand I have no issues with people following their belief system and choosing to shop elsewhere. No matter how wrong they are. Being wrong is a right under our constitution. And I would suggest we all work to ensure that right is never infringed upon.

Posted by
11246 posts

We already have the right to shop elsewhere.....life, liberty and the pursuit of a bargain.

However, the right to be wrong is a right that some people think is wrong and they want to remove the right to be wrong. Right?

Yes, people, I can see you rolling your eyes.

Posted by
2913 posts

I love this interesting conversation. Thanks to all.

Posted by
19 posts

Thanks everyone for the discussion -- we'll be locking this thread.