I’m digging the “apology tour” by the likes of Wells Fargo, Uber, Starbucks and Facebook these days. Someone’s been very naughty and, in a refreshing change of pace, they’re owning it. You can’t hardly turn on the TV or open a newspaper without seeing them admit to copious amounts of wrongdoing and screwing over of the public.
It’s surprising, and admirable, when giant corporations own up to their misdeeds. Sure, it’s disappointing to discover your personal data was approximately as secure as a rope made out of Twizzlers and crafted by the nearest toddler, but it’s heartening when the screw-up is acknowledged and attempts to repair the damage seem reasonably thorough.
On my desk right now are apologies from Delta (oops, my credit card swiped during a flight to purchase headphones was compromised) and SunTrust Bank, both of whom are apologizing like they slapped my mama and offering years of fraud protection. They messed up. They’re sooooo sorry. Pretty please give them another chance.
I don’t blame you if you’re skeptical. They’ve all messed up and now they’ve stumbled home with stubble and stale beer smell and they’re begging us to give them another chance before we throw all their clothes out the second-story window and burn their Pantera CDs. (Which, admit it, you’ve been wanting to do for a very long time anyway.)
The toughest to swallow may be from Wells Fargo, which got its Conestogas in a twist and lost a ton of credibility after creating millions of fake accounts to meet sales goals. But I like the apology, which references wanting to go back in time to be the honorable souls they used to be. (Note: Invoking the image of the wagon trains is lovely until you remember the whole smallpox thing.)
Starbucks closed shop early for a day just for sensitivity training after an employee called the cops on two men whose only crime appeared to be breathing in and out while black.
And while a nation mourned its loss of late afternoon lattes, it was The Right Thing to Do.
Uber is super sad about how some of their drivers turned out to be molesters and don’t even get them started about the self-driving model that killed that poor woman.
The new Uber dude apologizes in a perfect distillation of genuine contrition and hopefulness, all the while owning that Mistakes Were Made. I’m hoping that also Heads Have Rolled.
Even if these pledges to do better are as long-lasting as a smiley face in foam, it’s definitely different behavior. We’re still waiting on groveling apologies from Goldman Sachs, AIG and the rest of the greedmongers and Madoffs who scammed the nation and tanked the economy with no remorse whatsoever, giving hefty house loans to people who didn’t have jobs or, in some cases, weren’t even people.
Apologizing and promising not to repeat bad behavior? This is real next-generation stuff. So, sure, come home. Just don’t get too comfortable. Fool me once ...
Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com and @celiarivenbark on Instagram.