the sky floor

It’s Too Late to Apologize (Actually, That is Absolutely Wrong!)

September 30, 2022

Here is a little 2009 throwback for a soundtrack to this post.

It may seem like I have a vendetta against the United States Postal Service, but I promise I don’t. However, they keep on delivering stories that inspire telling. Only keep reading if you enjoy slightly frustrating stories – you know the type, not a big deal but also mind-blowing.

Yesterday a new-to-us iPad was to be delivered for my wife. Her old one is getting old, and it is her primary computer, so we found a great deal on a slightly used device and ordered it. The delivery is scheduled for Wednesday – great! But it moves a little slower than the system estimated, and the delivery is moved to Thursday. 

Thursday afternoon rolls around, and I happen to walk into our living room in time to see an unfamiliar car delivering the mail. The mail person isn’t our usual carrier. He gets out, surveys the house, examines our signature required package, puts mail some papers in the mailbox, and drives away. I assume he will be circling back with the box since it requires a trip to the door, but an hour passes, and there is no sign of a delivery attempt. So I went to the mailbox, and there was a notice stating no one was available to get the package! What!

The substitute mail person wouldn’t know we are home nearly every day, but instead of checking, he looks at the house and assumes it is empty. He did not attempt to deliver the iPad. I was none too pleased, so I called the local post office. 

They explained this isn’t our typical mail person and that they can’t do anything besides trying again tomorrow. I kept the conversation alive by expressing my disappointment in watching the mail carrier stay at the end of the driveway and then drive away with the package I could readily sign for and accept. I was hoping for a simple, “I’m sorry that he didn’t try to deliver; it’s not his normal route; we will get it to you tomorrow.” But nothing.

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Here is my point in telling this story: A simple apology wouldn’t have changed the reality, but it would have made me feel seen and heard. Instead, I was more frustrated when I hung up than before the call. 

An apology may not change anything, but it signals empathy and understanding. Our culture fears culpability, and an apology is considered a guilty confession. But it doesn’t have to be. The fellow I talked on the phone with wasn’t the culprit, and he didn’t risk me suing the USPS if he said sorry on the record. 

So, I encourage you to make a simple, sincere apology part of your repertoire of responses to tense situations. You don’t have to declare yourself guilty of crimes or negligence to acknowledge what the other person is experiencing – and you just may set them at enough ease that they don’t even feel like writing a blog post about the whole thing. #sorrynotsorry (oh, the irony) 


  • An apology is worthwhile even if nothing changes because of it.
  • Empathy and understanding are keys to customer service success.
  • Never frustrate someone who blogs every day 😆.