Whole Foods, getting out ahead of the scandal (NOT REALLY)

Whole Foods worker

Whole Foods worker

In general, SorryWatch frowns on the concept of pre-apology. (Also its polar opposite, post-unapology.) Apologizing in advance for something you know is wrong but that you’re going to do anyway is douchey (unless you are Chris Pratt and you are pre-mocking your own idiocy rather than pre-asking for absolution for deliberate assholery) and taking back an apology that you’ve already offered is calculating and weaselly.

Nevertheless, we enjoyed Stephen Colbert’s attempts at crafting pre-apologies for Whole Foods, which has been caught repeatedly violating its own organic-Tibetan-rosewater-scented save-the-earth principles. The company has had to apologize for deliberately mis-labeling the weights of products so that customers were paying more for less, and has just bowed to pressure to stop selling products that are farmed or manufactured with prison labor. (“Everything at Whole Foods is supposed to be cage-free!” protested Colbert.)

As pre-apologies go, “Whole Foods would like to apologize for labeling something organic chicken that was actually stray cats with beaks glued on them”  is pretty good. But for the full effect, Whole Foods should also pre-refund customers’  dead cat purchases, pre-donate to local animal shelters, and pre-explain how cat corpses and Gorilla Glue will never again be part of the consumer experience at Whole Foods. (They might also tell us exactly what steps are being undertaken to ensure that the company does not lie to shoppers or exploit others again…but that’s not funny.)

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Let bygones be bygones? NOT SO FAST.

Image: Public domain.

Eliza, around 1787, painted by Ralph Earl, when Earl was in the NYC jail for nonpayment of debts. The Hamiltons were helping Earl out with this gig. Looks to me like a gigglefest. (Maybe they sat around telling John Adams jokes.)

Eliza Hamilton, widow of Alexander Hamilton, had come to visit her daughter in D.C. She was chilling in the back yard with her teenaged nephew when a maid brought James Monroe’s card. (I am guessing this maid was an employee, as the Hamiltons were strongly anti-slavery.)

This was in the 1820s. Eliza Hamilton, in her 70s, had been a widow since 1804, when her husband was killed in the famous duel with Aaron Burr. She had been working hard to preserve her husband’s legacy and memory. Monroe had just finished his second term as president.

How gracious of the ex-president to call! But that’s not how Hamilton saw it.

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Sorry for my 49% of what went wrong

Photo: Valery Marchive (LeMagIT). Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

Tim Cook, 2009.

Tim Cook, CEO of Apple Inc., went on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert. Lots of iPhone jokes. Asked about the latest Steve Jobs movie, he said he hadn’t seen any of them, but “I think that a lot of people are trying to be opportunistic, and I hate this; it’s not a great part of our world.” (A quote with a semi-colon! How great is that?)

This  remark rankled Aaron Sorkin, the screenwriter of this latest Jobs flick. He’d like people to go see this movie, not dismiss it as opportunistic hatefulness. He responded from a rankled place.

At the movie’s premiere, Sorkin said, “Nobody did this movie to get rich. Secondly, Tim Cook should really see the movie before he decides what it is. Third, if you’ve got a factory full of children in China assembling phones for 17 cents an hour you’ve got a lot of nerve calling someone else opportunistic.”

Photo: Pruneau. Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Aaron Sorkin, 2009.

Then, perhaps in the throes of upwelling remorse, or perhaps seeing a chance for more publicity for the soon-to-be-released movie, Sorkin apologized:

You know what, I think that Tim Cook and I probably both went a little too far. And I apologize to Tim Cook. I hope when he sees the movie, he enjoys it as much as I enjoy his products.

Is that a gracious apology? Why, no. An apology is not a negotiation. It’s not dividing up blame. It’s not the moment for what my grandmother called Who-struck-John?

An apology is not: “I wouldn’t have said ‘Boundaries, much?’ – which I know you find very hurtful, and I’m sorry – if you hadn’t just upset me by bringing up the whole sous-vide turkey fiasco. Which you know still hurts me.”

Photo: Alcinoe. Public domain.

Blame is not a pie.

Discussions about how you both behaved badly can be useful to have, but the apology should be set apart. You certainly shouldn’t wade in to an apology by declaring “We were both wrong!”

Why not? Because “We were both wrong” contains “you were wrong.” And apology is about “I was wrong.” Not “I was a little bit wrong, but you were wrong too” or “We were both equally wrong” or “You started it, but I shouldn’t have taken your bait, creepazoid.”

I feel okay about telling Sorkin this, because words are my business.

Image: Allgemeiner Deutscher Nachrichtendienst - Zentralbild (Bild 183). Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Germany license.

Blame is not a pie chart, either. Though you should know I had nothing to do with the sugar beets.

Posted in Bad Apologies, The Mechanics of Apology | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

this is how you do community policing

Police in the town on North Swindon, in the county of Wiltshire in Southwest England, have apologized for repeatedly turning on their sirens in a residential neighborhood. The officers were trying to settle a debate among four-year-olds about whether police sirens go “woo-woo” or “nee-nah.”


The Facebook apology has gone viral.

The police had been invited to speak to students in their very first week of school. According to The Guardian, the young pupils were unable to come to an onomatopoeic consensus, but voted 60 to 26 in favor of “woo-woo.” The Guardian helpfully points out that in France a siren goes “pin pon,” while in Italy it goes “nino nino,” and in the Philippines it goes “wang wang wang.”

Over the next fortnight the students will be visited by ambulance and fire engine crews, so sorry in advance, Haydonleigh neighborhood!

PS. For more charming examples of how to build relationships with the people you serve, check out the Bangor Maine Police Department Facebook feed, and enjoy this video of an NYPD cop dancing with a marcher at a LGBT Pride event and this other NYPD cop doing the nae nae at a Bed Stuy block party in Brooklyn.

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If you really want to be helpful, don’t let the twins moon the judge

Parnell declining to answer questions in Congress in 2009, on his lawyers' advice.

Parnell declining to answer questions in Congress in 2009, on his lawyers’ advice.

It’s possible to be harmed by peanuts even if you don’t have a peanut allergy. In 2009 a widespread salmonella outbreak was traced back to the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). Hundreds of people got sick when they ate tainted peanut butter or products made from tainted peanuts or peanut butter. Nine people died.

Probably a lot more people got sick without the cause being figured out. Most cases of salmonella aren’t reported. Peanut meal and paste are used in a lot of products where their presence might not be suspected. The infection spread as far as Happy Tails Multi-Flavor Dog Biscuits. Lots of sick dogs and sick people never hit the radar.

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Seasonal meditations on apologies and forgiveness

Over at Tablet Magazine (where snarly is a columnist) there is a delightful comic about all the different apologies the artist owes for long-ago incidents. It’s funny and also sad.

estherwerdiger Continue reading

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SorryWatch Does Art

This is a 2007 piece called Forgiveness, by artist Dan Attoe. I don’t know what it means. And it’s art, so your interpretation’s as good as mine.


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NO underpants were visible, and he’s a FOOL to call them ‘TEAL’ when they were OBVIOUSLY TURQUOISE

Photo: Pete Nelson. GNU Free Documentation license, Version 1.2/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Jensen Lake at Lebanon Hills Regional Park. Frogs exchanging documents under every lily pad.

A county park ranger spotted two people he described as “making out” in a car in the parking lot at Lebanon Hills Regional Park in Dakota County, Minnesota. He went over to fling metaphorical cold water on this overly-public activity. Another car was parked close by in a non-standard orientation.

The ungrateful recipients of his attention readjusted their garments and argued about whether they were double parked.

Thus far, not the most shocking thing SorryWatch has ever heard. Sadly, SorryWatch detects double parking all over the place, all the time.

The ranger, 20-year old Jordan Moses, gave each of them a citation for “causing a public nuisance.”

Then someone tipped off the Pioneer Press. The citations had been issued to state representatives Tim Kelly and Tara Mack. Married, but not to each other. As Mack and Kelly are both Republicans (she of Apple Valley, he of Red Wing), maybe it was a shocked Democrat who was the tipster. Or a peevish Independent.

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Maimo, Maimo, it’s off to apologize we go!

Your pal and mine, Maimonides!

Your pal and mine, Maimonides!

Hey, as we head into Rosh HaShanah, let’s go through the 12th century sage Moses Maimonides’s RULES FOR APOLOGIZING. It won’t be boring, I swear. Get back here.

Maimonides (who had the jaunty nickname Rambam) was a Spanish physician and chicken soup aficionado as well as a philosopher and rabbi. He wrote in a chatty, vernacular style. He talked a lot about teshuvah, repentance.

His four steps of apologizing: Continue reading

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Tila Tequila Eichmann Himmler Goebbels

Tila_Tequila_2008Tila Tequila (née Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen) is a damaged person who should receive no attention. I am angry at myself for addressing this, yet here I go, mostly because as Gawker writer Rich Juzwiak said on Twitter, “A new high bar for apologies has been set.” By which I hope he means a new low bar. And yes, it is.

Yesterday serial reality TV personage Tila Tequila was kicked off a reality show after the producers discovered (excuse me? I who live under a rock knew about this, and they didn’t?) that she’d praised Hitler. This is her response. Continue reading

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