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Lessons in Obsequiousness

Definition of obsequious


obedient or attentive to an excessive or servile degree. Fawning.

Definition of fawning


displaying exaggerated flattery or affection; obsequious:

fawning adoration

fawning interviews with Hollywood celebs

As you may already have worked out from previous posts I’m fairly attuned to the “golden rule” of treating others like you expect to be treated – more correctly referred to as Matthew 7 v12 (The Message). This also extends to written communication.

Occasionally I may encounter a problem with an item I’ve bought, if it’s within a year of purchase I would take the time to write to the manufacturer to provide them an opportunity to resolve the issue. With a satisfactory result everyone wins – the customer has nothing but praise for the company in light of their positive customer care and product commitment and the company gains one of the most powerful sources of advertising – personal recommendation (aka “word of mouth”).

Now it makes sense that if you wish to get a company’s attention that you present a warm and encouraging letter rather than a rant throwing in comments like “unbelievable rubbish”or “what a piece of junk”. Hence the wording of a recent letter to a bag manufacturer (I’ll anonymise the company and staff names to save embarrassment).



Being a staunch [bag manufacturer company] fan my wife bought a bag from the Gunwharf Quay store, Portsmouth in February (photo attached). All the [bag manufacturer company] products she’s bought have always been an investment and hardwearing items. Unfortunately after less than a year the bag has developed a faulty zip. She has persevered with reviving the zip but sadly it keeps failing. I’m well aware manufacturing faults can occur but to become an issue in under a year is I’m sure you’ll agree not what one would expect of a [bag manufacturer company] branded bag.


Regrettably we no longer have the receipt for the bag and therefore are unable to return it to the shop. We do however have the credit card statement showing the purchase on the 15th February 2012.


We respect the quality values that the [bag manufacturer company] brand attracts and we look forward to hearing your response and solution to this situation.


Best regards,
Mark Tilyard

So not totally sycophantic, just a complaint letter written from a positive perspective. The reply I received however I still, to this day, can’t work out whether it was written with tongue firmly in cheek, dripping in sarcasm or a genuine response. If the latter, then here, ladies and gentlemen, is your lesson in obsequiousness. (I recommend having a sick bag to hand before reading below).

Hi Mark,

Thank you for your email with reference to the [model name] bag attached. I hope yourself and your wife are well?

Firstly I would like to take this opportunity to offer you my sincerest apologies, I cannot convey how sorry I am for the disappointment and subsequent inconvenience this issue has caused. At [bag manufacturer company] we strive to ensure our products are of the highest possible standards and are built to last so I was very disappointed to hear of the problems you have encountered. I would like to assure you that we value all customer feedback positive and negative as this is a vital part of our continued development and growth. All of your comments will be passed on to the relevant department for their future consideration so I would like to thank you for taking the time to contact us.

I would like to add how delighted I was to read how loyal you are to [bag manufacturer company], and how you respect [bag manufacturer company] as a brand. It’s such a shame when faults like this occur but we are very keen to rectify and resolve issues like this as soon as possible.

As you have kindly explained this bag was purchased in the wonderful Gunwharf Quay’s store, and would advise you to refer back to the store if at all possible. I have contacted the store and they are more than happy to do an exchange for you. If you could kindly take the statement as proof of purchase, that would also be greatly appreciated.

Again I would like to highlight how appreciative I am for the feedback you have provided. And can assure you it will be passed onto management.

If in the meantime I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to contact me directly. I will be delighted to help.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your week.

Kind regards and best wishes

[Minnie Moke]

Feeling queasy? Let me know what you think – genuine reply or taking the mickey?

One comment

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  1. Mr T · December 12, 2012

    I have to say though that aside from the gushing response the companies attention to customer care was spot on. The bag was replaced with no fuss whatsoever.