Friday, May 3, 2013

How to do an Apology Right

by Jennifer AlLee

No, this isn't a movie review, but we don't have a header for "TV Commercial Review." In fact, I think I may be the first Inky to review a commercial. And why am I reviewing a commercial? Because when I saw it, I was so struck by the oddness and wrongness of it, that I couldn't stop thinking about it. So here we go...

Last year, jcpenney changed the way they did things. To be honest, with the exception of changing the name to jcp, I'm not sure what all the changes were. Apparently, the changes didn't work, because now, they're backpedaling.

Here's the commercial:

What's wrong with it, you ask? For one thing, it's incredibly vague. Basically, it says, "We made mistakes, we heard you, come back." What mistakes? What did you fix? Why should I come back? If I'm to believe the images I see in the commercial, shopping at jcpenney will make me happy, carefree, and beautiful.

So what should they have done? In my opinion, a straightforward approach would have been better. Be specific. Tell me what you changed.

A company that did this right was Domino's Pizza. A few years ago, they knew they had to make some changes. Plain and simple, customers didn't like the way the pizza tasted. So they addressed it in a very open way.

Shorter versions of this ran on television, but you see what they did. They came right out and said, "You told us our pizza crust tastes like cardboard, and the sauce is like ketchup. So we fixed it." And instead of perfectly pretty people walking in slow motion with their hair blowing in the breeze, they had the actually chefs and other employees, including the president, talking about what they were doing to make things better. Now that's the way to do it.

Why does any of it matter? Well, it speaks to being genuine. Take novels. Have you ever read a book that just didn't connect with you? Did it leave you feeling emotionally unfulfilled? It's possible that the author didn't delve deep enough into the specifics. If we lean on generalities, then we don't really let our readers see what makes our characters tick.

The same is true in life. In order to connect with friends, family, coworkers, we need to share who we really are. Generalities can only get us so far.

What do you think? Is living life really all about the details? And does anybody have any idea what's going on with jcpenney?

JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her novels include The Love of His Brother (Five Star, 11/07), The Pastor’s Wife (Abingdon Press, 2/10), The Mother Road (Abingdon Press, 4/12) and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (Abingdon Press, 11/12). She's thrilled to be working on her first historical series with the amazing Lisa Karon Richardson. Diamond in the Rough (Whitaker House) is the first book in the Charm and Deceit series, available now. And... as if that's not enough, her novella Comfort and Joy will appear in the Christmas anthology, Mistletoe Memories (Barbour, 9/13) She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.
Visit Jennifer's website at


  1. Oh so true. JCPenney seemed to think their name was old and boring so they went with JCP.

    now... no name recognition instead?

    I think they changed something with their ads and promotion and how they wanted people to perceive them and it backfired.

    but... like you said. WHO KNOWS?

    seriously! the Dominoes ads worked. It was a true apology. Like people are supposed to do it.

    I did BLANK Wrong and I'm sorry and I intend to improve and not do it again.


    well, I do shop at Penney's about once very couple of years during their after Christmas sale.
    If I had disposable income for anything but food, gas and books for my grandkids, and I lived closer than 45 mins from a JCP, I MIGHT care about JCP's 11th hour plea!

    (and oh yes, I'd want to be young and beautiful by shopping there, too!)

    we may need that TV REVIEW banner, because a 3rd season of SHERLOCK is finally in production.

  2. good to see this post! it is importance to make apology. This is the lesson I should teach my boy!

  3. I'm actually very familiar with the change, so the first commercial worked fine for me, but I definitely get your point too. I think they should have addressed the actual issue.

    Basically, they stopped having sales. You know how places like Kohl's and Macy's have high prices but half the stuff is always on "sale." JCP stopped doing that. Instead, one honest advertised price, and it wasn't changing.

    I had mixed feelings. On one hand, I liked the honesty, and I do think their honest, steady prices were lower than the inflated prices at other stores that offer perpetual sales. But, like everyone else, I like a bargain.

  4. I see this one a lot: "I'm sorry if I offended you." Not genuine, and it's skirting responsibility. It's not really saying I did anything wrong.

    "I'm sorry I offended you." Taking out that one little word "if" makes all the difference in the world.

    I prefer to be around people who can admit their mistakes and make a genuine apology. I like sincerity.

  5. Deb, you're right. They killed their name recognition. Radio Shack did something similar a few years back when they tried to change to "The Shack". I don't think that worked, either.

  6. Hi, cheap jersey! Just goes to show God can use anything to teach us...even a TV commercial!

    And like Suzie said, being direct makes a big difference. In my own life, there have been times when I truly didn't intend to offend someone, but the offense was still there. In a situation like that, it's so important to address the issue, apologize for the offense, and move on.

  7. Thank you for pinning that down, Dina. I agree that the idea of fixed, reasonable prices is theory. But there's a psychological benefit to having sales. If I walk out of a store feeling like I made smart purchasing decisions, that's a win!

  8. The JCP strategy ended up worked both ways for me. In one case I needed jeans and found a great-fitting pair there. I knew they weren't going to go on sale, so I bought them in two colors on the spot.

    In another case, I liked a dress but didn't need it. My first thought was, I'll buy this when it goes on sale. Then when I remembered it wouldn't, I said "Never mind" and didn't go back for it.

  9. Good post and one I needed today for my WIP. Thank you!

  10. Well, I don't think the jcp thing is just about forgoing sales. Their ads featured same-sex couples. I remember my mom sharing how her jcp had a huge billboard in store of a lady in her undies. No way could anyone NOT see it.

    And jcp does have clearance sales. If you have a store card you can earn reward points. I got a $10 one. Took it in and found a pair of jeans for child #3 clearance at $10. Got them free with reward points.

    I will say I don't find any apology genuine if the person/company says "I'm sorry if I offended you." That says to me the person doesn't believe s/he has offended you, so it trying to look like the good person by apologizing.

    Anyhoo, with jcp, things don't go on sale. They do eventually go on clearance. I got last season's tank tops for $4 each.

    My feelings are their apology is more about the homosexual thing. Not that they want to go on the record for saying they're sorry for supporting homosexual equality. So they put out this ambiguous ad, and leave it up to the viewer to decide what the apology means to that viewer.

    One person will say they're apologying for the homosexual thing.

    Another will say no more sales.

    Another will say using Ellen Degeneres in ads.

    Another will say store arrangement.

    In the end, those offended will be mulled without jcp having to clarify exactly for what they're apologizing, which actually means they're not really apologizing for anything.

    And, IMHO, that's jcp's goal.

    Doesn't mean I don't shop there. I have more respect for a store that is open about their views than ones who pretend to be "conservative" yet really operate differently.

  11. oooh, so much drama behind Penney's... I had no idea.


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