NBC Chicago reported on the letter sent to Mike Seay, whose 17 year old daughter Ashley died in a car crash in April 2013 in Antioch, Illinois, and to whom the office products retailer sent marketing material addressed to Mike Seay and "Daughter Killed in Car Crash" on the address label of the envelope.
The letter was received by Seay last Thursday, and he asked friends how to handle the situation, eventually deciding to contact the company"s call center, who told him "it was impossible" and that "this can't be happening", before NBC contacted OfficeMax, who have "blamed it on a third-party mailing list provider".
Seay stated to NBC: "Why would they have that type of information? Why would they need that? What purpose does it serve anybody to know that? And how many other types of information do they have if they have that on me, or anyone else? And how do they use that, what do they use that for?"
OfficeMax later sent a statement out from its corporate affairs office, saying: "We are deeply sorry that Mr. Seay and his family received this mailing from us, and we are reaching out to Mr. Seay to convey our sincerest apologies on this unfortunate matter. This mailing is a result of a mailing list rented through a third-party provider. We have reached out to the third-party mailing list provider to research what happened. Based on a preliminary investigation today we believe this to be an inadvertent error; and we are continuing the investigation."
Entrepreneur.com in turn discussed how the company had "failed on the PR front … twice" by having "mishandled customer service" by meeting Seay’s queries with "incredulity rather than an apology, let alone sympathy", and by then "immediately blaming a third-party vendor"; in this site’s view, the fact is that "the letter bore OfficeMax’s brand, so the public does not care who erred".
The site went on to note that customer service is the "front line of public relations", and that "by failing to manage and assure quality" in terms of the third-party company, OfficeMax "fumbled its brand protection … blaming the vendor does nothing to absolve OfficeMax of that responsibility". It also dismissed privacy concerns by stating that the error "was more mundane", and that it was "not the existence of this data that was a problem, but rather its use" by the company.
Source: The Recycler, NBC Chicago, Entrepreneur.com
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