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Please Accept Our Apologies for the Knife in Your Back

Yesterday morning, I saw the following sign at a hotel checkout desk:

We do not accept personal checks as a method of payment at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience.

You know, where I come from you apologize if you’re actually sorry. “I apologize for calling you a moron. I’ll try not to do that in the future.” “Please accept my apologies for staining your shirt.” But this hotel was not sorry; it had established a policy after deliberation, and had no intention of altering the policy to help its guests avoid inconvenience (the “at this time” phrase is a softener). So what is the apology there for? Pre-emptively neutralizing complaints. The sign really says, “We do not accept personal checks. Yeah, yeah, complain, complain, sorry sorry, blah, blah, yadda yadda. Now get out your credit card.”

I didn’t plan on paying by check, so this isn’t a note by a substantively aggrieved party. It’s just interesting to me in a sad kind of way to encounter a sign that uses superficially kind words to move people on like cattle, to prevent any long, drawn out, real apology, and to keep actual pesky remediation from taking place.

One thought on “Please Accept Our Apologies for the Knife in Your Back”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Maybe the sign takes the desk clerk minions off the hook as far as the social awkwardness of refusing the customer face to face. It also lets people know the policy when they are checking in so if they need to do a little banking before checkout, they have plenty of warning and do not get surprised during a tight departure schedule.

    How do you know they did not have a staff meeting and were not genuinely distressed about it? The sign is the social lubricant that affirms the hotel’s end of the implied contract to make the traveler’s stay more convenient.

    It always amazes me when people who are otherwise intelligent and questioning think they can read other people’s minds. And that the person whose mind being read is always assumed to be thinking something negative. Probably says more about how the mindreaders think.

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