This week I stayed in a hotel. Granted, it was not top-of-the-line, but it was a mid-level brand—you know, the kind that’s a little too run down to be the flagship brand…

So, I checked into my room and noticed the security lock on the door was broken off. As I had already unpacked, I decided to stay with the room, thinking they would fix it. Actually, when you think about it, housekeeping had to be in and out of that room several times before me, but they did not notice. So I did my part to help. At 7 AM, as I left the hotel for the day, I reported it to the front desk, asking for it to be fixed before I got back 12 hours later. You can guess where the story is going. It was not fixed when I returned. (This did affect my stay as that, just last week, my wife walked in on a person sleeping in a hotel room. Her key worked, even though there was already someone else staying in “her” room! So, of course, I was thinking about this all night long.) The next morning I reported it again, this time with my “perturbed” voice. When I returned that night, it was fixed. There was also a lovely card in my room from the engineer that apologized for the inconvenience.

Why has customer service become a big apology? Yes, we should apologize for our mistakes, but this cannot become a substitute for actually doing things right. I feel like we constantly get apologies that are meaningless these days. If they flow like water from the tap, how valuable are they? Each day we come across more and more apologies. “So sorry for the delay,” “please excuse the interruption,” “please pardon our dust.” Have we become a society of excuses that allow us to deliver sub-standard service or products?

I am sorry, but an apology and a smile are just not good enough.

This year, I purchased a fairly expensive German auto. I received five different calls to ask me about my purchasing “experience.” No one called me to ask how I felt when I had to drive the car back the next day after driving it off the lot because it squealed every time I went over a bump on my way home. How does a brand new auto need shocks replaced before the car is even driven? I was told, “There have been some problems with some of these.” They fixed the problem without hassle. No one called to apologize.