There have been two examples in the last two days where people could have said sorry, but didn’t. The first I’ll not be naming, as it’s a bit too close to home. Not in the home—just close.
The second example was British Gas. The lady responding to my request for en engineer under my Homecare agreement informed me rather bluntly that I was liable for a £99 call-out charge, and that she couldn’t go ahead with the scheduling of the engineer because it was asking her for a payment. I politely indicated that I wasn’t liable for such a payment, and that my policy did not have an excess, if you will. She started booking the appointment and we settled upon a slot. I asked about the payment, and she said that the system was referring to an old policy (she was right), under which I *was* liable for such a charge.
I probed a little, mainly to draw an apology. But none was forthcoming. I hung up, in the main thankful that I’d managed to secure an appointment, having spent 90 minutes on hold before even speaking to a British Gas employee. But then I reflected. I was angry at my lack of an apology.
I was reminded of my post about Ed Balls’ weakened apology for the failures surrounding the death of Baby P., albeit a rather trite version thereof. The S word is now taboo. It is so bound up in blame and, more importantly, liability that people no longer use it. Even when no claim can possibly be filed, as was the case in today’s British Gas example, it’s avoided. Because that’s the done thing. People are instructed not to say it.
It’s such a shame that such a powerful and important word has become so caught up in a legal context, so much so that it’s fallen out of use, with no equivalent waiting in the wings to fill its place.