April 07, 2015
By current m+p intern Paige Arthur
In their April 2015 issue, Bon Appétit magazine featured a Food Lover’s Guide to Weddings that included restaurant recommendations for nuptial meals, supported by punchy statements that read, “The best way to make sure your caterer doesn’t serve bone-dry chicken: Don’t hire one,” and “Lose the caterer.”
Negative feedback prompted the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Adam Rapoport, to issue an apology in their Letter from the Editor column. It failed to resonate with offended subscribers, eliciting even more negative response.
Where did Rapoport go wrong?
The actual apology doesn’t come until the end.
In the middle of his letter, Rapoport states, “I will be the first to admit: We were unnecessarily harsh. In editors’ parlance, we used an exclamation point when we should have used a period.” This is an admission of exaggeration, not fault. It isn’t until the final paragraph that he states offhandedly, “So, apologies to the catering industry…” followed by “and if you’re throwing a wedding this year, have fun, think differently, and eat and drink really, really well.” It minimizes the concerns of subscribers by reading like the end to a champagne toast. Here’s looking at you, you crazy kids.
He tells subscribers what they should have heard, rather than validating what they actually heard.
Instead of directly addressing the perceptions and concerns of BA readers, Rapoport tells them how they should have interpreted the article:
The point of this four-page primer is to get you to think differently about your wedding, to give you options…Mind you, these are all things that a caterer can and will do. You just have to ask.
As the head of a platform that deals with words, Adam, you should know that it’s not what you say that matters, it’s what your audience hears. And like the token slightly-offensive-relative-at-a-reception, you just aren’t picking up on social cues.
The emphasis is on me, not you.
Rapoport positions himself and his fellow staff at BA as experts who have the right to make such generalizations about the food and beverage industry:
The fact is, most of us here at Bon Appetit have been to a gazillion weddings, the majority of which have been serviced by caterers. Some have been great, some have been so so. And that’s no different from restaurants—some are great, some are good, some are really…meh.
He then tacks on a promotional statement for the upcoming release of an extended version of the wedding food guide.
Next week, we’re launching an extended version of what you saw in the issue on Bonappetit.com. It’s a big package full of additional food suggestions, wedding cake ideas, and lots more. We’re excited about it and hope that it inspires deliciousness and most importantly, fun.
There’s no humility, and there’s no mention of reparations. The apology ends up fanning the flames.
We noted the importance of apologizing for your words, not the consequences of those words, when lululemon CEO Chip Wilson went on record to address his claims that customers were at fault for product deficiencies.