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Communicator of the Week: Tsukuba Express line for its refusal to issue a non apology apology

17th November 2017


Pick up any newspaper or browse any news website and before long you will come across a non apology apology. They are all the fashion. Usually they will be hedged by using “if” and will read something like “I would like to express my apologies if I caused any offence”. Or perhaps “regret” might be “expressed” often when the guilty party has been caught out. 

Another technique is to offer comment on the situation even if the failure of a business, the extra-marital affair or the bribes accepted were the responsibility of the person doing the commentating. The third-person apology of this type really makes me mad. 

This week then: happiness. A company offering a fulsome apology. No “ifs”, “buts”, “clarifications” or “regrets”. Just a clear, unambiguous statement to “sincerely apologise for the inconvenience” caused. Please note they have assumed that an inconvenience was indeed caused rather than covering their backs by using the woeful “any inconvenience”. That is the sort of assertiveness in apologising that would make the world a little better if everyone did it. 

So who are these virtuous and contrite people? It is the Tsukuba Express line - a commuter railway service running to the north of Tokyo. Good on them. But there is more. Even those who haven’t travelled to Japan will be aware of the legendary punctual service offered by Japan’s railway network.  So why did the Tsukuba Express line apologise? Because one of their trains left too early…by 20 seconds. 

Not only this, but the culprits were publicly shamed (the crew had not checked the timetable) despite the fact that not one customer had complained. All-in-all a lesson in openness and corporate transparency for us all which is why Tsukuba Express is my Communicator of the Week. 

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite.



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