Well, now it's official: The corporate Bailout Club is adding some new members. As the maître d' here, allow me to be the first one to say, welcome aboard. (Oh, too soon, cruise industry?)
On behalf of the club's charter members, Chrysler Group/FCA and General Motors, perhaps we should go over some of what you newbies can expect in the coming years from your customers, your investors and the pundit class.
There were a lot of bankers hanging around here when this place opened, which is why the Bailout Club has so much room. But, after just a few months, they all renounced their memberships and returned to what they were doing before.
Anyway, take it from us: Life may stink right now, but the road ahead can get better.
First off, we all realize that this wasn't your fault: You were mostly doing fine on your own until outside forces conspired to devastate your business overnight. The same thing happened to us. In your case, it was a global pandemic; for us, a burst housing bubble imploded the global financial markets and made it impossible for people to buy our expensive products.
What are you gonna do? At least in your case, there's probably some anonymity in numbers; we had to go through the spotlight pretty much by ourselves, and it was not fun.
Let's talk first about what you can expect from your customers. For us, we faced a lot of resentment from consumers who referred to us derisively with names such as "Government Motors" — it still stings, by the way — or who thought we should have just been cut up for scraps and fed to others. It was demoralizing at first, and in hindsight, it might have had something to do with how we had treated some of our customers prior to the crisis.
Excuse me. Hello? Airlines? Boeing? Are you listening to this? You need to pay attention to this part.
It wasn't unanimous, of course. There were some who realized how much worse things would have gotten had governments in the U.S. and Canada not stepped in to bridge us to better days, but they didn't get much attention in the immediate aftermath. And the good news is that the sentiment eventually faded, especially because we used the opportunity given to us to improve our products and the way we interact with our customers. There's nothing so humbling as turning to the government hat in hand, right?
Some of you may be bristling at the notion that the government would dare interfere in the operations of your business, just because it gave or loaned you some money. This notion, frankly, is greatly amusing to our charter members, one of whom made the mistake of referring to the helping hand he received as a "shyster loan" and complaining about the terms of the bailout.
Some more advice: Don't do that. It has a tendency to rile people up, and it's just not worth it.
You can, in fact, probably thank our club's charter members for what looks to be an overall lack of government intervention in your case. Corporate payroll grants? Really? We're maybe three weeks into what could be an 18-month ordeal and Congress is already "making it rain" like a big shot ordering bottle service in an all-night strip club. The size of this package makes the 2009 auto industry bailout feel like a rounding error.
What's really interesting is that it appears that your stakeholders, your investors, your bondholders, etc., will emerge with something, and maybe everything, intact. Maybe that's a lesson somebody learned 11 years ago, too. Our stakeholders got wiped out. Of course, it could be because in the middle of a global pandemic, someone in Congress realized that "haircuts" of all kinds should be avoided in the name of social distancing.
Look, these are scary days for everybody, us included. But here's the important thing you new members of the Bailout Club need to remember: Anger or resentment will mostly fade, especially if you use this opportunity to fix yourselves and get right with the world. Most of all, don't be stupid — or worse, arrogant — because people are watching, and every time you mess up from here on out, someone's going to hold this day over your head and remind you that you wouldn't be here if it weren't for taxpayers.
So take the money, be humble and find some way later on to sincerely say thank you.
Oh, and by the way, welcome to the club.