Commentary

The Sorry CEO

There is nothing more au courant than CEOs issuing blog-like mea culpas from their corporate Web sites. It is all the rage (due, I guess, to an apparently boundless number of ways to screw up -- or over -- customers.) JetBlue, Yum Brands, TBS, Ford, News Corp -- take your pick, everybody is just as sorry as he or she can be about some egregious mistake that pissed off their customers. And why should I be any different?


My dear readers:

I am sorry. Although it wasn't really my fault, but some nameless, faceless underling 16 or 18 reports away from me that caused your problem, I am taking a page out of the Japanese Book of Corporate Culture and committing virtual seppuku in hopes that you will appreciate my utterly meaningless gesture and forgive me my transgressions.

Well, not ME really, but those guys down the line who really deserve the blame. Surely you know that I do not directly control anything around here. If your computer didn't work or your flight sat on the runway for nine hours before going nowhere, I am really the LAST guy you should be pissed at. I was probably playing golf or skiing with my kids on spring break. I have to have a life too, you know. You people think I am sitting in some command bunker monitoring every aspect of my company's performance like some kind of 1960s NORAD commander watching the Big Board for evidence of a preemptive strike, so I can "launch" a solution before you get your feelings hurt. But the fact is, that kind of 24/7 monitoring costs a ton of money -- and thanks to the Internet, our pricing model has been shot to hell and our margins are shrinking like George Costanza in cold water. So, we have to put a limit on just how responsive we can afford to be to your little problem with us. I lost a bag once, so I know that your 10-year-old broken-in-like-butta jeans can't be replaced at any cost, but if I let you decide on a fair compensation price, we'd be paying out more than we're taking in. And that, my little whiny friend, is un-American.

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So, I have authorized our crack customer service department (yeah, those $1.72 a- day Chandigrahians) to issue you some coupons -- that we're pretty certain only a small percentage of you lazy asses will ever redeem -- to placate your wrath and give you the illusion that we want to keep you as a customer.

The fact is, we don't like people who complain. They cost us money. Money we could be using to increase our senior staff bonus pool or buy some cool lawn art by some obscure Norwegian artist recommended by our overpriced corporate art consultant, who is probably getting a piece of the action on the back end. Life is a bitch, ya know. Sometimes shit happens, even to our company. Why don't you just suck it up and rationalize that once in a while you get a crappy product or have a bad service experience. Toughen up, you wuss! Drop and give me 25. You are one little tiny pixel on our 1080 res screen and we are only looking at the big picture -- if you get my high-def allusional drift.

I really miss the days when we could toss the unopened complaint letters right into the dumpster and you'd curse the Post Office for losing your letter. Or when you would lie awake nights wondering if you had complained in the right way to earn one of those meaningless coupons or get back a form letter that offered nothing more than some bullshit corporate consolation. Now, with this Internet thing going on, all the little whiners can find each other and band together like outlaws to try and wrench higher-level concessions out of our beleaguered company.

Well, good luck with that. Now that we have this blog, I can spread goodwill like mustard gas at Verdun. Who won't be impressed that a busy guy like me takes the time to read over an apology written by my PR guys to make sure it sounds like it's coming from me?

There, I said I was sorry. Happy now?



The story you have just read is an attempt to blend fact and fiction in a manner that provokes thought, and on a good day, merriment. It would be ill-advised to take any of it literally. Take it, rather, with the same humor with which it is intended. Cut and paste or link to it at your own peril.

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