#487: All Apologies

GETTING MORE TALE #487: All Apologies

People screw up!  It’s in our nature as human beings.

The human brain has its own “autocorrect”.   Have you ever seen something like this?

The quick brown fox jumped over the
the lazy dog.

Or this?

I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.

See how you read both sentences easily regardless of the mistakes within?  The brain makes little corrections to our perceptions on a second by second basis.  Think about the human eye, how it darts around, but what you perceive is a clear static picture.

Given that the human brain makes its own “corrections” every second of every day, it’s bound to also make mistakes in doing so, either by missing a correction, or making one where it wasn’t necessary.  Either way – we fuck up!  Add in a fast-paced environment, and mistakes are not a question of if, but when and how many.

In customer service, a screw up can be a critical moment.  Mistakes can make or break the decision for a customer coming back or not.  Whether you ring in something wrong, give the customer the wrong item, mis-charge a credit card, or give the customer incorrect information, sometimes you owe them an apology.  So why not turn lemons into lemonade?

Since money speaks louder than words, the owner at the Record Store had a cool method of keeping the customer, even after a screw up that might have them fuming.  It was actually a genius idea.  We used something we called “apology letters”.

Let’s say we screwed something up, unambiguously.  The best example of this would be forgetting to put the CD in the case, or putting the wrong disc inside.  This was a lot easier to screw up than you might assume.  Maybe the CD was supposed to be in slot #132, but you grabbed the disc in #123.  Sometimes you don’t even notice it’s the wrong CD because after a while, they do all look the same.  I had myself convinced that I was actually dyslexic.  That’s how bad it got on some days.

Sometimes you’d catch the mistake before the customer left, and all would be well.  The rest of the time, there was a chance they’d be pissed off that they had to make a return trip to get the right CD.  Returning something that is defective doesn’t count towards an apology letter; that’s not necessarily down to staff mistakes.  An apology letter was only issued when it was clear that we screwed up and in doing so, inconvenienced the customer.  We didn’t use them to blame staff, or tally up numbers of them, but damn, I sure issued plenty over the years.

When a mistake such as this was discovered, we would prepare an apology letter.  Staff would sign the letter and give it to the customer with their apologies, and the correct CD!  The letter entitled the customer to $3 off their next purchase.  We discovered that this small token often defused situations quickly and easily.  Very few customers refused to return after receiving an apology letter worth $3.  Many in fact were impressed to the point that we started seeing them more often.

It was a smart idea:  one of many that I learned during my years in retail.


  1. Yup, it’s happened where we have bought a game from EB Games and the cashier neglected to put the game in the case. It’s a pisser if you didn’t notice until after the return policy expired…or they put in the wrong game…mistakes happen though especially when you get slammed at the cash. I can understand that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fun read.

    I remember getting home after buying The Scream’s Let It Scream back in 91 to find they had placed their Man In The Moon single in the case by mistake. Was rather pissed as the store had closed and work commitments were such that I wasn’t going to get back there for a couple days. Got an apology but no $3 discount offered but it wasn’t an independant store so perhaps the staff weren’t permitted to, but yes Mike, as a customer, while not the end of the world LOL, it was frustrating.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jeez I hope you ALSO got the Man in the Moon single! I’m sure that had some B-sides…

      It really sucks when you, as a customer, are forced to make a return trip.


      1. Well no I don’t think they offered anything, certainly not the single :(

        Think I was so excited after hearing Man In The Moon (no radio played this stuff at home so I was jumping in blind) I was thankful to have the album). But to be fair think the single version we got only featured album track/s as the b-sides? Always hated when they did that by the way…


  3. People have lost the art of the apology. In fact, it feels like customer service is sort of lost these days too. I was just thinking to myself this weekend how I frequent a gardening centre that’s pricier but actually has helpful staff around rather than the cheaper option at Home Depot where you can’t find anyone to save your life. I like this apology letter and I believe it probably won a lot of people over.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jay, I’m sure you’re right. And you’re also right about losing the art of the apology. It seems today all people do is argue until they’re done.


  4. Man, I never got one of those letters, and I had wrong CDs! Of course, I can’t prove it now since that was the late 90s… I just brought it back and they usually figured it out but still! Haha no love notes for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Occasionally if I order something from my local CD store the jewel case teeth are broken in the posting, but I don’t bother following up on that. It’s not worth creating all that hassle for people when jewel cases are cheap


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