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Napa Valley Wine Bus Apology is World-Class Vintage

An unfortunate event on a Napa Valley Wine Train on August 22, 2015 led the CEO to issue an apology.

wine train

Employees of the Wine Train kicked a group of African American women, members of a book club, off the train after other passengers complained of too much noise and laughter.  Given the sensitivity around recent issues of racism, it’s no wonder  that the story was picked up by the media as another example of clueless white people exerting their privilege over people of color.

At first the company tried to defend itself.  Big mistake. Huge.

It’s so easy for an organization to explain itself. Also a big mistake.  It always comes off as rationalization.  Much better to listen to the pain of the victims.

Pitch Perfect Apology

So it’s worthy to note that CEO Anthony “Tony” Giaccio’s apology is pitch-perfect.  It is disarming in its vulnerability.

“The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue,” Napa Valley Wine Train CEO Anthony Giaccio.

“The Napa Valley Wine Train was 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue,” Napa Valley Wine Train CEO Anthony Giaccio.

To the lawyers who probably warned Giaccio that such an apology would just invite litigation, the research is clear. Most victims just want a decent apology and acknowledgment of their pain.  Giaccio’s apology offers the right mix of taking responsibility, acknowledging the humiliation, committing to learn from the mistake and not to repeat it, and offering restitution.

“I want to apologize for your experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train on Saturday, Aug. 22. We accept full responsibility for our failures and the entire chain of unfortunate events you experienced.”

Clearly, we knew in advance when we booked your party that you would be loud, fun-loving and boisterous—because you told us during the booking process that you wanted a place where your Club could enjoy each other’s company. Somehow that vital information never made it to the appropriate channels and we failed to seat your group where you could enjoy yourself properly and alert our train’s staff that they should expect a particularly vibrant group.

We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers. While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity on our part that I did not fully conceive of until you explained the humiliation of the experience and how it impacted you and your fellow Book Club members.

We also erred by placing an inaccurate post on our Facebook site that was not reflective of what actually occurred. In the haste to respond to criticism and news inquires, we made a bad situation worse by rushing to answer questions on social media. We quickly removed the inaccurate post, but the harm was done by our erroneous post.

In summary, we were acutely insensitive to you and the members of the Book Club. Please accept my apologies for our many mistakes and failures. We pride ourselves on our hospitality and our desire to please our guests on the Napa Valley Wine Train. In this instance, we failed in every measure of the meaning of good service, respect and hospitality.

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I appreciate your recommendation that our staff, which I believe to be among the best, could use additional cultural diversity and sensitivity training. I pledge to make sure that occurs and I plan to participate myself.

As I offered in my conversation with you today, please accept my personal apologies for your experience and the experience of the Book Club members. I would like to invite you and other members to return plus 39 other guests (you can fill an entire car of 50) as my personal guests in a reserved car where you can enjoy yourselves as loudly as you desire.

I want to conclude again by offering my apologies for your terrible experience.”


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