One of my favorite parts is the author's dissection of the Best Buy's recent press release concerning their inability to fill online orders at Christmas.
An article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the company’s hometown newspaper, reported a few days before Christmas that the company had only just informed some customers that online orders, some placed the day after Thanksgiving, couldn’t be filled and were being cancelled. The out of stock items included the most popular items, including TVs and iPads, “as well as other tablets, cameras, laptops, PS3 games and the Nintendo Wii.”
The company issued a statement that read: “Due to overwhelming demand of hot product offerings on BestBuy.com during the November and December time period, we have encountered a situation that has affected redemption of some of our customers’ online orders.”
Let’s parse that sentence for a moment. The company “encountered a situation”—that is, it was a passive victim of an external problem it couldn’t control, in this case, customers daring to order products it acknowledges were “hot” buys. This happened, inconveniently for Best Buy, during “the November and December period,” that is, the only months that matter to a retailer. For obvious reasons, the statement ties itself in knots trying to avoid mentioning that the “situation” occurred during the holidays.
The situation that Best Buy “encountered” has “affected redemption” of some orders. Best Buy doesn’t fill online orders, it seems. Rather, customers “redeem” them. So it’s the customers, not Best Buy, who have the problem. And those customers haven’t been left hanging; they’ve only been “affected” in efforts to “redeem” their orders. It’s not as if the company did anything wrong, or, indeed, anything at all.
It’s all so passive. It’s also a transparent and truly feeble pack of lies. Here’s what the honest and appropriate release would have said: “Due to poor inventory management and sales forecasting of the most popular products during our key sales season, we can’t fill orders we promised to fill weeks ago in time for Christmas.”
There’s a little more to the Best Buy’s press release: “We are very sorry for the inconvenience this has caused, and we have notified the affected customers.”
Again, note the use of the passive voice—”this” refers to the “situation” that Best Buy “encountered.” The “situation,” not Best Buy’s poor operations, “has caused” inconvenience to customers. It’s not something Best Buy did wrong. It’s like they’re reporting the weather; something utterly out of their control about which the company is a mere observer. They’ve “notified the affected customers” despite, it seems, no sense of obligation to do so, let alone to find a solution to a problem entirely of the company’s own creation. How sorry are they, do you think?
Again, here’s my rewrite: “Three days before Christmas, too late for the customers to make alternative arrangements, we are just now letting our would-be customers know. We have no excuse for such amateur behavior.”
According to the article, the company refused to answer any questions beyond the release. Here are a few: How many customers were affected? What specific products were involved? How has the company failed so badly to perform to even the lowest standards imaginable for a retailer at Christmas? Did the company expect anyone would be fooled by the ridiculously obtuse statement of non-apology?