A Severe Reprimand and an Open Apology

east coast of trinidad A disturbing incident occurred the other day and I thought I'd share it with you. I was frustrated with one of our vendors. I didn't think he was being very responsive and dealing with him ended up being quite inconvenient for us. Having owned our own small business for many years and having dealt with customers and their demands, I was disappointed in his level of customer service. When I called, the man with whom I'd been dealing was out. I talked instead with his partner and made my displeasure known. I do not think I was especially rude. I didn't raise my voice, but I did get my point across.

Well, she must have given her partner an earful because that evening I received a scathing e-mail from him in which he proceeded to call me all sorts of nasty names which included, but were not limited to, boastful, condescending, snide and a bully. He said I had upset his partner tremendously and then listed all of my transgressions. He demanded (yes, demanded) an immediate apology to his partner.

I picked up the email late at night and didn't sleep a wink after reading it. First, I was livid and once that passed I was left with a hollow feeling in my heart. I'm usually made of tougher stuff than this, but I think he was describing an ugly American, a stereotype we try hard to avoid, and it hurt me to the bone.

He continued by attacking our blog. “Both she and I would like to know if you consider her one of the third world people you mention on your blogs of Trinidad” and “Your schedule clearly has time to tour our lovely third world country, berating anything that is not good enough for you on your blog.”

Ouch! I went back and re-read the blogs. I didn't see anything that denigrated Trinidadian people nor did I ever use the phrase “third world people”. We didn't like one of the hotels we stayed at and were vocal about it. We were disappointed a couple of times in activities we'd chosen. I think we have the right to be disappointed and write about it.

After seething, I decided that responding immediately would be counter-productive and only add fuel to the fire. He'd only heard one side of the story and I think I had some valid complaints of my own to share. No matter, in order to get the job done and in the name of international relations, I called and apologized to his partner. I made no excuses ... just a straight-out, “I was wrong and I'm sincerely sorry if I upset you” apology. There was no graciousness or sincerity in her acceptance of my apology, only a reluctant “OK. Bye.” and a hang-up.

Once the work was completed (which turned out to be a very good job), the man who had sent the e-mail apologized to David and me. He said his response was not directed at me personally and he was sorry. I guess I need to chock it up to frustration on both sides or a bad day or an over-reaction. Whatever … it saddened me. I wish I could have discussed it more so that he saw my side of the story, but I felt it was best forgotten.

I am, however, sincerely apologetic to the woman who felt I bullied her or was condescending (and all those other things of which I was accused). Whether I intended it or not, if she felt it, I regret it. We have tried in the past 16 years, and all through our lives, to be respectful of all the people we meet, their culture and their countries. Sometimes I guess we fail, perhaps due to impatience, cultural differences or misunderstandings.

If you're a Trini and have been offended by our blogs about your beautiful country, we sincerely apologize. It was not our intent to be snide, nor condescending, nor rude, nor haughty. Our goal is to provide an honest picture of what we see, feel and experience in the places we visit.