I should start by apologising for the inclusion of football in this post, but I won’t because this post is not about football, it’s about apologies. Institutional apologies. But quoting Valencia football club (which some would say is still not about football) leads me to my conclusions on when things go wrong and someone needs to apologise.
Non-footballing statistic: Valencia have gone eleven games in the league without a win. Two more and they equal the club’s all-time record. Over the past few weeks of unmitigated misery and underachievement the following ‘apologies’, explanations, and random justifications have appeared on their website.
“We have to all pull together…” “We have to be patient and work hard…” “We have to believe more in what we’re working on…” “We have to correct this immediately…” And if all that sounds familiar they were probably stock phrases from Meatloaf songs in the 1980s. Strong, pull together, shoulders to the wheel etc etc. What the fans really want to hear is: “We’re overpaid and useless. We lose because we’re not good enough.”
At the same time as Valencia’s slide to the bottom another outrage has been brewing in the world of retailing. Women’s products are more expensive than the male equivalent. In Boots, a pack of ten mens razors cost £1.49, but a pack of eight women’s razors costs £2.29 The reason: women’s razors are pink. And the issue of gender pricing goes beyond razors. However, that’s not my beef in the blog.
No, the response by Boots to this pricing disparity was to level out the costs of razors and bizarrely, eye creams so that men and women paid the same price. All well and good, you cry, but have a look at the explanation and ‘apology’ issued by Boots.
“We immediately conducted a review on all Boots own-brand and proprietary ranges to better understand the cited examples. This review has reassured us that for Boots own brands the two reported examples, Boots disposable razors and Botanics eye roll-on, are indeed exceptional cases which do not completely meet our principles and we are taking action to correct these prices.”
What they should have said was, “It’s a fair cop, guv. We was caught red-handed fleecing the ladies. We won’t do it again. (Not on those two products anyway…”
Arguably, the most insidious apologies follow the conclusions of enquiries. Tragic cases of victims of police wrongdoing, social services neglect, or some other institutional calamity always seems to produce an earnest looking official who says with deadpan sincerity, “Lessons have been learned.”
With one tragedy after another, year after year, it makes you wonder how many lessons there are before the course is completed. The pathetic ‘lessons have been learned’ statement is debilitating not only in its lack of meaning, but the way it is used as a sort of default statement, a token gesture of redemption rather than a full on apology.
I once read somewhere that blog posts should be happy and uplifting, so I’m sorry if this post has made you miserable. In my defence I’m working hard to bring it up to the standards you expect and in hindsight, reading it back, lessons will be learned. The next blog post scheduled is about Kindle hypocrites and is really good, and the post after that is an absolute rotter.