Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

22 Sep 2003, 17:56 p.m.

Is "I Apologize For the Inconvenience" Better?

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2003 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

I am guilty of (18) "I'm Sorry You're Having Problems".

There it was: "you're having problems". This is the formula for pretending to apologize while insinuating that the person that you are non-apologizing to is a feeble person who is responsible for whatever problems there might be. This is so obnoxious. Now, I do know where it comes from, having worked in a couple of jobs that required me to deal with "the public". It comes from the fact that a certain proportion of "the public" use customer-service people as a captive audience to inflict whatever feeble dramas are going on in their heads. So people who deal with "the public" have evolved a repertoire of defense mechanisms that they apply to everyone whether they deserve it or not. This is one of the downsides of mass society, where institutions arise that constantly bring people into contact in the most superficial, instrumental, rule-bound, disembedded, transient ways.