Who’s Sorry Now? Everyone, Apparently; Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook shocked the world a couple of weeks ago when he apologized to the entire country of China. Joe Queenan thinks apologies by other corporate and cultural stars are badly needed

April 12, 2013, 8:29 p.m. ET

Who’s Sorry Now? Everyone, Apparently


Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook shocked the world a couple of weeks ago when he apologized to the entire country of China after complaints about Apple’s warranty policies, off-putting customer service and general haughtiness.

“We are aware that a lack of communications…led to the perception that Apple is arrogant and doesn’t care or attach enough importance to consumer feedback,” Mr. Cook wrote in an apology posted in Chinese on Apple’s Chinese website. Back on these shores, Apple has not yet issued any apology to U.S. consumers for being arrogant. Not in English, at least.

Ideally, Apple’s unexpected servility might inspire other putatively arrogant companies to issue apologies to entire societies. Particularly gratifying would be if the U.S. Postal Service posted a similarly worded mea culpa on its website.“We are aware that a lack of communications…led to the perception that some of our desk clerks are inconsiderate, condescending, unhelpful, incompetent and just plain nasty,” the apology might run. “We express our sincere apologies for the perception that we hate it when you losers walk into the building with your big, stupid, poorly wrapped boxes, or when you don’t even know the ZIP Code for Richmond, Maine, or when you show up at 5 on Christmas Eve expecting us to still have Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer stamps in stock. We’re sorry if we have created the impression that we despise you and wish you were all dead. We will try to do better in the future.”

It would also be nice if Amtrak posted an apology for the perception that it runs a fleet of overpriced, unreliable trains staffed with rude conductors and club-car personnel who seem to derive immense pleasure from serving you coffee that tastes like it was recently siphoned out of the fuel tank of a decommissioned B-52.

“We are aware that a lack of communications has created the impression that our personnel think you are all mental defectives, because you consistently forget to take your seat checks with you when you go to the bathroom and keep asking, ‘Does this train stop at Princeton Junction?’ and none of you can ever figure out where the Quiet Car is,” the apology would read. “We particularly apologize for the perception that our clerks get a charge out of suddenly putting up the ‘Window Closed’ sign and going out for lunch just as the blind guy with crippling arthritis and a bad cold and no shoes staggers up to the next window after waiting 40 minutes in line to pay for a ticket back to Waco—all in pennies. We know that must really rankle.”

Teachers could apologize for rigging test scores and not doing much in the way of teaching. Chrysler could apologize for the PT Cruiser. Paul McCartney could apologize for “Ebony and Ivory.” Whoever is responsible for “smooth jazz” or mandatory staff outings to “Jersey Boys” or the leaf-blower could officially don sackcloth and ashes. The San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates could apologize for merely existing. The apologies are long overdue.

Perhaps the most welcome apology would come from the Chinese government itself. Inspired by Mr. Cook’s decision to man up and eat humble pie, the powers-that-be in Beijing might issue an apology for some of their more obvious failings.

“We are aware that a lack of communications led to the perception that China is hacking into the Pentagon’s computers,” the apology would read. “And Google GOOG -0.04% ‘s. And MIT’s. Maybe even Netflix’s. We are equally aware that due to a lack of communication, many American companies feel that they have to pay exorbitant bribes to penetrate our markets.

“We hereby apologize for industrial espionage, copyright infringement, intellectual theft, pirating American movies (not to mention compact discs and videogames), releasing suspicious export numbers, beating Ai Weiwei until his brain hemorrhaged, fomenting the Cultural Revolution, building really dangerous railroads and totally unsafe schools, and, oh yes, Tiananmen Square. We promise to try harder in the future. But we still think Apple is more arrogant.”

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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