Oh no she didn’t
NOTE: The original post was a bit different than this at the end. I took the advice of a reader and softened my reaction and tone. On The Bright Side tends to be a positive outlook on even a sometimes challenging life. I’m surprised how on the few occasions I’ve been negative over the last 8 years abroad, that those moments spark the most response and perhaps overshadow all the good. Believe it or not, even life On The Bright Side has a bad day once in awhile!!! I would be lying to you if I portrayed my experiences in foreign countries as 100% sunshine and rainbows. I do recognize, however, that there have been a slew of less than peppy entries in the last few weeks. And that raises some concerns and has inspired me to … look On The Bright Side.
Anywhoo, I still think my shock and horror, my disbelief, frustration and ultimately my disappointment with this particular expereince are more than adequately conveyed, even in this edited version of this story. Need I say that if you read the next post, you will know that July 30, 2010 was a pretty crappy day in Hanoi and one of those “character building” days that I really surely didn’t need nor sign up for!!!
The reader also suggested I pull this post. But I think that would be a disservice to those who follow On The Bright Side. I’ve stated on the home page that, “I’m eager to share with you all the fun, humorous, crazy, embarrassing, heart-warming, heart-breaking, unbelievable and unforgettable stories from my life abroad.” I think qualifies as heart-breaking and unbelievable. Therefore, it stays. Buckle up…
About two weeks ago, my assistant, Ms. Ngoc came to my office to show me that Bhaya Cruises, a direct competitor of Apple Tree’s property, Emeraude Classic Cruises, was nicely featured in the Heritage Magazine. I opened the magazine to read the article and was a wee bit surprised to see a photo of Emeraude Classic Cruises 2009 Wine & Dine Cruise Classic. I know the photo very well, as it is one I used in press releases after the event and also to promote the 2010 gala. I was confused as to why Heritage Magazine would use an Emeraude photo to promote and feature Bhaya Cruises’ programs.
After our first notification of the error, two sales & marketing staff members, came to our offices to apologize. They were very kind and understanding, but working in sales & marketing, they could not offer any solutions to clarify or rectify the situation. My assistant made an appointment with Ms. Pham Thu Hoa, Editor, the person responsible for the article. I was told that she was very reluctant to take the meeting, as Heritage Magazine “never officially apologizes for mistakes.” Great journalism!
My goal for the meeting was to understand why an Emeraude photo was used to promote Bhaya Cruises and also to speak positively about solutions to resolve this issue. There is no question that Heritage Magazine does owe Emeraude Classic Cruises some form of attribution for this error. I was eager to hear the options and hoped to walk away from the meeting with a positive outcome and strengthened relations.
My meeting with Ms. Pham Thu Hoa did not go very smoothly. She wanted to place all of the blame on Bhaya Cruises. “They gave me this photo. How was I supposed to know that it wasn’t theirs? This is not my fault!” I explained to her that I will have a separate conversation with Bhaya to ask them why they have stolen our photo and used it to promote their services. However that is a separate issue from our photo being used within Heritage Magazine.
I reminded her that the publication is responsible for the content that it prints and in this case, the information was incorrect. She offered to provide us with a small space of 200 words in the Heritage Fashion Magazine in the “New Flash” section. I explained that this was not a good solution to the problem. The space is small, it appears in the back of the magazine and while it has more readers, it is not the same magazine in which the error occurred. I requested that she provide other options such as a full article or free advertising space. “The News Flash is free advertising. You should take this.” I was grew more irritated as she wouldn’t look at me when she spoke and then kept having side conversations in Vietnamese with my assistant, Ngoc.
It was clear that Ms. Pham Thu Hoa was not comfortable in this meeting. She expressed several times that Heritage Magazine does not print apologies. I never asked for her to print an apology, but rather a note of attribution. She told me that nobody cared about the mistake, the readers don’t care about corrections and that I shouldn’t be upset. She also told me that I was only thinking about what was good for me, not what was good for the readers. I had to point out to her that it is my duty to protect the interests of my company and the interests of Emeraude Classic Cruises. It was growing evident that she didn’t get the fact that using our photo to promote our competitor’s services is a big no-no.
She continued to insist that she already had a conversation with Ngoc and that she already offered “the solution” and “already told her everything.” I had to remind her that I am the Group Director of Sales & Marketing and that in my role, and given the situation, I have to have a conversation with her directly. It was very clear that she not only did not want to speak to me, but also that she was not interested in resolving the issue. Frankly, she was a royal pain in the ass to deal with!
I explained a second time that I came to her office prepared to have a positive and helpful conversation and that I did not appreciate her negative attitude. I explained that in light of the situation, the best way to handle this would have been for her and Heritage Magazine to be proactive and make a visit to my office to apologize for the error and discuss a variety of solutions. I expressed that I was not pleased with the direction of the conversation and that I hoped to hear more positive discussion from her. “Look, I am trying to have a positive conversation with you and you are being very uncooperative. I don’t understand why you are behaving this way. I am trying to be nice to you.”
You can imagine my surprise when she then said, “You are American. Right?” I replied with a questioning, “Yes…???” I anticipated the direction she was about to take…She looked right at me, squinted her eyes and said, “Your country dropped many bombs on my country and you did not apologize.”
And with that, my friends, I had my first experience of being on the receiving end of the bomb card. I did not remain calm at that point and volleyed with, “Excuse me? What does that have to do with anything we are discussing? I am done being nice to you. That is totally out of line and uncalled for (and the smile on her face at this point, her sign of discomfort, did nothing to keep me calm and collected). How dare you speak to a client that way. Our company advertises with your magazine and you speak to me this way? This conversation is OVER.”
I practically pulled Ngoc out of the office with me as I stormed out in Rachel Berry style. I could not get out of there fast enough. Seriously – WTF?????
As soon as I returned to my desk, I banged out a letter to the Editor-In-Chief, put lots of official company stamps on it and had it hand delivered to him. I am most curious to see if I will receive the courtesy of a response.
I remain angry and appalled and frustrated and disappointed all at the same time….mostly disappointed.
And to think…all that because of a stupid photo???
Has anyone every said anything like this to you?
The photo used here was the photo printed in the magazine. Our event photo used to promote our competitor’s services.