I am so embarrassed... (advice please)

Background info:

I am an inside sales rep in Portland OR for a major software firm; my territory includes most of New York State, and a few scattered accounts in the city. I actually used to cover NYC in its entirety, and so have quite a few former customers in the affected area, some in the WTC…former WTC.:frowning:

Needless to say, I am torn up about yesterday’s tragedy. I feel I can’t do anything but donate blood (and will do so as soon as the lines at the blood bank are shorter), so I decided to send my current and former customers and business partners in NY an email of consolation expressing my sympathies. It went like this (personal and company info deleted, italics added):

The bottom few lines of contact info and the ad link are part of my autosignature, this goes out with every email I send. Didn’t even think about it, as normal.

Well, a few minutes later I got an email saying something along the lines of, “Would have been a nice sentiment if it weren’t for the ad at the bottom…shameful.” Needless to say, I was mortified, and promptly sent out the following email:

I wound up getting (so far) a total of 2 negative responses to the first email, 2 requests to remove addresses from list, and 6 positive, thankful responses, including 3 specifically mentioning that the ad in the sig line wwas understandable, and not offensive.

My question is:

Was my apology contrite enough? Was an apology needed at all?(I think so) Is it an understandable oversight, or should I have been more careful in sending out the first email?

It’s real tough for me, becuase I feel that even if most people appreciated the sentiments, if I added to one person’s pain, I’ll feel horrible (I already do).

I’m not looking for approval, or consolation, as there are people with much bigger problems right now. Just asking for an honest opinion, whenever anyone can find the time to give it.

Thank you.

p.s. To all the emergency workers in NYC - you men and women are my heroes. I look at what you do with awe and respect. Hell, I look at all NYC with awe and respect now. Good luck and be careful.

I think your apology was appropriate and well-worded. You said exactly what you felt, and I don’t know what else anyone could expect.

I’m sure that at least some of the people who were offended will be more open to a follow-up letter, should you choose to send it, later on after they have had an opportunity to deal with their more immediate situations. This is the kind of problem that could easily happen to anyone, and being a universal sort of mistake, maybe it will be more easily forgiven after things have settled down a bit.

Good luck.

I don’t think you should have been criticized for your error, especially after you followed up with an explanation that it was accidental. I DO think the apology was called for, and the one you sent was quite sufficient.

Most people are familiar with autosignatures and would completely understand that you don’t see it anymore when you look over a message you’re sending out. I’d be willing to bet that the people who complained are luddites who lick a stamp and stick it to the screen when sending email.

I certainly wouldn’t have been offended had I been in your clients’ place.

That said, now that you’ve been spanked I’m sure you won’t do it again, so it was worth it.

I think it was clear from the text of your original message that you were not using the tragedy as an excuse to advertise your company. Of your own accord, you sent out a caring, personal message to people you were genuinely concerned for … and when you realized that you had left your standard signature on the bottom, you immediately apologised. What more do they want, blood?

Everyone’s temper is a little thin these days. I think the angry responses you got had more to do with anger at the attacks themselves, and at some who are quite obviously taking advantage, than with you.

I would never have assumed that you meant anything by the original message except compassion and best wishes and would have assumed it was an autosig, but some people are not very savvy about such things and will undoubtedly think otherwise. Your apology was appropriate and adequete. Don’t beat yourself up any more about it.


You did fine.


I think without the apology, the first e-mail would have been awful. Truly awful – Something akin to “We’re sorry for your loss . . . And we’re having a sale!”

But the second e-mail frankly explained the mistake and owned up to being embarrassed about it. I think it was an honest error and you adequately conveyed that in your second e-mail. So I wouldn’t sweat it. It sounds like most people understood anyway, and I think it was very kind of you to think to send an e-mail in the first place.

Thank you all for offering your opinions; it is reassuring to know that you all think my original email(and apology) was not inappropriate.

I know all of us are concerned with more critical issues than this, and I appreciate your feedback on such a trivial issue.

I am not what you’d call a religious man, but it somehow feels necessary to say God bless you all, and God bless America.