The company sent out an e-mail offering a "Five star evening at The Grove" (a golf resort in Hertfordshire), worth about $780. Sounds nice, right?
The mistake: they sent it to their entire customer database. The message, it seems, was actually just a test run, intended for three staff members. Eventually, it was supposed to go out to a small group of top-tier customers as a loyalty bonus.
The solution: Virgin Trains sent out a follow-up e-mail retracting the offer. It was polite: “So sorry, we’ve sent you an email by mistake. The email you have just received about a Virgin Trains event at The Grove was a test email and was not supposed to be sent to any of our customers.
“We realise that we might have got you all excited about the prospect of a day at The Grove, and would like to offer you the chance to win one of three places at this event.”
Is this good enough?
I don't know that there was any clean way for Virgin Trains to get out of this one; it's one of those mistakes that should just never happen in the first place. The good: The apologetic tone was nice, and the fact that they turned the gaff into something "fun" (a contest! wheee!) was a creative touch. The bad: I feel like an e-mail can come off as too breezy, an after-thought, but where do you get the funds and man-power to contact everyone in a more "personal" way? The ugly: I imagine that, whatever anyone does in this situation, they're still going to have to deal with a number of irate, disappointed and possibly litigious customers.
So here's where you, readers, come in:
How would you/ do you prevent something like this from happening in the first place?
And, once the cat's out of the bag, how do you deal with it? Is the contest a good idea? The retraction e-mail?
Send us your wisdom, please, along with a ticket for a free day at the Grove, if you have one.