Sizing up the sincerity of corporate apologies

Jason Landman’s stateroom on the Carnival Miracle vibrated from the moment his ship cast off in Long Beach, Calif., until it docked seven days later. “It shook and rattled literally from start to finish of the cruise,” he says.
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3 keys to a successful consumer apology

Docstocmedia/Shutterstock
Docstocmedia/Shutterstock
It’s almost impossible to turn on the TV news or click on your favorite news site without seeing another company apologizing to its customers. There’s Target, saying it’s sorry for the latest data breach. There’s OfficeMax, regretting a flier it sent.

But what about the other way? Do you ever see customers apologizing to a company?

Well, we should, and when it happens, it ought to make the news. In my line of work, I see a lot of consumers behaving badly or publicly accusing a business of something it didn’t do.

I’m no corporate apologist, but it seems to me that in the interest of fairness, those companies — if not their employees — deserve the same courtesy that we ask of them.
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Why you shouldn’t accept your airline’s apology

Potowizard/Shutterstock
Potowizard/Shutterstock
If you’ve experienced a recent flight delay or service disruption, then you probably know that for better or worse, no one says “I’m sorry” like an airline.

A well-crafted apology is often just the beginning. Gift cards, credits and loyalty points — lots of loyalty points — frequently follow. And the mea culpas appear to work. Most passengers accept them and move on.

Well, maybe they shouldn’t.

A closer look at the airline industry’s “sorries” suggests they sometimes lack sincerity and show a remarkable unwillingness to fix the problem that caused the complaint in the first place. In other words, it’s more like hush money than an apology.
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10,780 apologies

mtkang/Shutterstock
mtkang/Shutterstock
10,780.

That’s how many emails you’ve sent me since Jan. 1. It’s 2.4 GB worth of feedback, problems, story tips and criticisms I didn’t see — until today.

Thanks to a mail server glitch, any messages sent to chris@elliott.org were deposited into a queue, where they remained, unread and unanswered. (I use another address, elliottc@gmail.com, which experienced no outages.)

How did it happen? It’s really hard to say. My webmaster has assured me that all the emails were being forwarded to my primary address, and had received a verification from his Google Apps account. Apparently “verified” doesn’t actually mean verified to Google.

(For those of you who are wondering if anyone warned me my email wasn’t working, they did. Repeatedly. But for some reason, Google always forwarded my own test emails to me without a problem, leading me to believe the problem was on the other end. Thanks, Google!)

Over the next few days, I’ll be responding to each email, offering my personal apology and asking if there’s anything I can do to help. I’ll assure them that I wasn’t ignoring them.

Not to belabor the point, but I read every email I receive. I respond to all of them.

For future reference, I have a form on my site that always gets to me. If for some reason I don’t respond to an email, use the form or call me directly at (202) 370-7934.

I’m sorry for the breakdown. It won’t happen again.

If you love the TSA, read this story

It happened again.

At a time when the federal agency assigned to protect America’s transportation systems can least afford it, there was another dust-up involving a young passenger — this time to Lucy Forck, a three-year-old with spina bifida flying to Disney World with her family.

When the little girl in a wheelchair is pulled over for a pat-down, her mother starts taping the procedure on her phone, which is permitted.
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