Circuit City Sorry For Commanding Employees To Destroy Mad Mag's "Sucker City" Parody

After a thin-skinned Circuit City exec ordered stores carrying Mad Magazine to search and destroy all copies of a recent issue featuring a 4-page parody of “Sucker City,” someone with a brain stopped the madness. Here’s the surprisingly classy message we just got from corporate:

Hi, Ben,

I spotted the article about Circuit City and MAD Magazine on your site.

fyi, I became aware of this “situation” only this morning, and I have sent a note today to the Editors of MAD Magazine.

Speaking as “an embarrassed corporate PR Guy,” I apologized for the fact that some overly-sensitive souls at our corporate headquarters ordered the removal of the August issue of MAD Magazine from our stores. Please keep in mind that only 40 of our 700 stores sell magazines at all.

The parody of our newspaper ad in the August MAD was very clever. Most of us at Circuit City share a rich sense of humor and irony…but there are occasional temporary lapses.

We apologize for the knee-jerk reaction, and have issued a retraction order; the affected stores are being directed to put the magazines back on sale.

As a gesture of our apology and deep respect for the folks at MAD Magazine, we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans.

In addition I have offered to send the MAD Magazine Editor a $20.00 Circuit City Gift Card, toward the purchase of a Nintendo Wii….if he can find one!

All the best,

Jim Babb
Corporate Communications
Circuit City Stores, Inc.
Richmond, VA

Let’s evaluate it on the 3-step system for fixing corporate gaffes:

1. Admitted they were wrong
2. Stopped doing the wrong thing
3. Made a material gesture of apology

Check check and check on all three, plus points for speed. You go, girls.

PREVIOUSLY: Circuit City Orders All Stores To Destroy Issue Of Mad Magazine Parodying “Sucker City”

Comments

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  1. BStu says:

    Leave it to the PR guy to recognize the appropriate response to a situation. Look, I know PR flacks can be annoying, but companies really need to run things by the publicity department so someone can gently point it out when the company is about to do something hopelessly bone-headed.

  2. CountryJustice says:

    *cue “Yakkity Sax”*

  3. Norcross says:

    a “humor” task force? I can only imagine what that would be like. although, good for them to admit that they shouldn’t have lost it over that. I loved Mad Magazine as a kid, but it never influenced my product choices.

  4. Tmoney02 says:

    I agree I thought It was a well drafted letter. Humble, apologetic, and a sense of humor. If only companies could always be so “real” as the youths of today say.

  5. snoop-blog says:

    He won me over.

  6. Farquar says:

    4. Did all three in a self-deprecating way.

    Bingo.

  7. That was actually a very well thought out, and amusing response.

    Best part?

    In addition I have offered to send the MAD Magazine Editor a $20.00 Circuit City Gift Card, toward the purchase of a Nintendo Wii….if he can find one!

  8. snoop-blog says:

    @TakingItSeriously: doesn’t get much better than that. It goes to show, if you can’t make fun of yourself, you have no sense of humor.

  9. Puck says:
  10. Sherryness says:

    That was perfect, really. I’m surprised it came from Circuit City, but maybe they are changing – that’s a good thing. It would have only been better had he mentioned that parodies and things like that, which tend to reflect public opinion, are actually good tools from improving service, marketing techniques, etc., thereby gaining more business for themselves in the long run.

  11. BriandaBrain says:

    That might be the best letter ever written by a company exec. Not only does he apologize and set things straight, he poked fun at his company in a way that actually amde me grin! I’m flabbergasted!!

    Now… why can’t they staff their stores with people this cool?

  12. goodpete says:

    At least they aren’t “taking this very seriously”.

    This is why I shop at Circuit City over Best Buy (that, and the Circuit City is located on MY side of the street, while I’d have to cross the street to get to Best Buy).

  13. snoop-blog says:

    What really sad is this letter is funnier than the sucker city parody.

  14. OmniZero says:

    I really don’t think they would have apologized if it didn’t become such a huge deal. Obviously Consumerist helped spread the word, along with Gizmodo.

    I haven’t shopped at Circuit City since they publicly stated they were laying off a whole bunch of employees merely to hire new ones at lower wages.

  15. Opie says:

    And I hope more people realize that much of the letter was, in fact, a self parody. Task force, indeed…

  16. GMFish says:

    “Made a material gesture of apology”

    A material and quite hilarious gesture of apology! The cross-departmental task force joke was hilarious.

  17. evslin says:

    As a gesture of our apology and deep respect for the folks at MAD Magazine, we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans.

    That’s funny. Kudos to this guy for having a sense of humor.

  18. zigziggityzoo says:

    Response was actually kinda funny. $20 toward a Wii? Comedy Gold.

  19. bbbco says:

    Yup, great response.

  20. HogwartsAlum says:

    Heh, I knew there was a reason I kept shopping at Circuit City rather than Best Barf. They’re just better.

    Go CC!

  21. BuddyGuyMontag says:

    300 slide PPT? I think I just clenched up a bit.

  22. thelushie says:

    As someone who studies workplace issues, I am all for administrators trying to find ways to add humor to the workplace (appropriate humor). A great place to start are management members with a sense of humor.

    I loved this letter and think I might be making my next computer purchase at Circuit City. (Of course, we have a great Circuit City and I need a new computer anyway.)

  23. homerjay says:

    Never in a million years would you get this kind of response from Best Buy. Thats why my two go-to’s for brick-and-mortar electronics are Staples then Circuit City.

  24. stacye says:

    we are creating a cross-departmental task force to study the importance of humor in the corporate workplace and expect the resulting Powerpoint presentation to top out at least 300 pages, chock full of charts, graphs and company action plans.

    Did anyone else think of Arlo Guthrie when reading this?

  25. Nighthawke says:

    OK, if he ever comes into want of work, I can safely say that he will be safely employed. That kind of humor does not go unrewarded without a job as intern at MAD Magazine.

  26. Trai_Dep says:

    Self-depreciating humor in a corporate apology? +5 points.
    A class act, indeed.

  27. Farquar says:

    @Trai_Dep: Self-depreciation sucks at tax time.

  28. axiomatic says:

    Well done circuit city. You deserve a store visit from me.

    Fire the sissy though… he’s not helping you do anything…

  29. clevershark says:

    A PR man with a decent sense of humor? What’s next, cats and dogs living together?

  30. AaronZ says:

    The original instigator has already issued a retraction of this apology for all stores that carry apologies.

    Ps, Personally I’ve had a couple good shopping experiences at CC and do support them, at the times when I can find an employee on the floor to help me.

  31. snoop-blog says:

    Wow one funny letter and people are already planning to get scammed.

    “I know the place is horrible, but the pr guy does have a sense of humor so screw it. Sign me up for firedog/geeksquad while I’m at it.

  32. marsneedsrabbits says:

    It would have been funnier if he wrote that he was “taking the issue seriously”, but bully for him for doing the right thing in a timely manner and doing it with humor.

    I’ve always had pretty good service at CC, so glad to see this.

  33. RabbitDinner says:

    Now MAD needs to apologize to me for all the money and time I’ve wasted reading their trite, uninspired, and formulaic parodies (especially of movies) and shamelessly recycled jokes. It was cute for a time, but having had a friend with the collection on CD, I don’t like much of anything past the 80s, if that.

  34. RabbitDinner says:

    But from a bitter ex-MAD subscriber, I agree, they should keep the issues. The two deserve each other

  35. jetfxr27 says:

    This isn’t PR Genius. Its Marketing Genius. Viral from the start.

    Well maybe not , but If it were I wish I could have been behind it!

  36. @homerjay: That’s because Best Buy isn’t going out of business. It’s easy to be frank when you know full well that you may not have a job tomorrow. (Yes, yes, I exaggerate. But CC is on the ropes.)

  37. oldtaku says:

    Okay, so this guy deserves his salary. Saved it.

  38. B says:

    I laughed more at the apology than I did at the parody. Once Circuit City goes out of business, this guy should get a job at Mad.

  39. RRich says:

    @Norcross: a “humor” task force? I can only imagine what that would be like.

    It’s a joke! Get it?

    Oy…

  40. joellevand says:

    That was perfect. Well done corporate PR hack guy!

  41. joellevand says:

    @Michael Belisle: OMG, I’m going to become the majority shareholder of the company at that price, fire Schoonover, and make Corporate PR Hack Guy CEO! He’d save CC…or go down with a fighting chance, damn it!

    DYK: Phil Schoonever once sent out copies of 300 to every store manager for “inspiration”. Seriously. And he wonders why, like Leonides’ 300, the company is dying.

  42. allstarecho says:

    We apologize for the knee-jerk reaction, and have issued a retraction order; the affected stores are being directed to put the magazines back on sale.

    Umm, after they’ve all been destroyed? Can I get a discount or sumpin?

  43. joellevand says:

    @allstarecho: Dude, it’s CC! They probably haven’t even read their corporate email yet, let alone pulled and destroyed the mags, as they are much too busy trying to sell City Advantage plans when they’re not standing around doing nothing!

  44. privateer says:

    I echo all the kudos to the PR guy who responded. Points for actually responding personally, publicly and thoughtfully. We need more flaks like that.

    Now back to the skepticism.

    All this is only as good as his suggestion that they’ll learn from their mistakes. Have we seen that regularly from CC recently? Corporate PR guy bothering to pay attention to the kids on the intarwebs is a good sign. But it’s just a start.

    I reserve judgment until the next example of unbridled stupidity. They have a lot of reforming to do, IMO. A good response to a dumb mistake is still just that: admission a dumb mistake occurred. Educate the humorless flake who released the original document in better PR before he makes the mistake.

    Secretly, I hope CC reforms. I just hate BB that much.

  45. treesyjo says:

    @clevershark: Mass Hysteria!

  46. parkerjh says:

    Nice job to Circuit City. Funny response. The PR guy does his job well and the company comes off looking good. Love to see the Powerpoint presentation!

  47. the humor in the response is rather self depricating. Not truly hilarious, but enough to warrant a smile. I think that’s actually the only possible thing they could have said that wouldn’t have me rolling my eyes.

  48. Grrrrrrr, now with two buns made of bacon. says:

    Oh sure, Mr. Circuit City PR guy… go ahead and write a fantastic apology letter! Now the entirety of the Internet will have to go back to looking at LOLcats, forwarding e-mail chain letters, pondering the grocery shrink ray and complaining about Comcast. *Sigh*

    Oh well, “Sucker City” was fun while it lasted.

  49. .
    He had me at . . . . “cross-departmental task force.”

    PR job well done ;)

  50. Rider says:

    How about you pay the distributor for the copies you destroyed.

  51. Hmm… the AP talks like they got this email too. There’s no mention of “The Consumerist” and not even a mention of “a consumer news blog“.

    But the quote from MAD is pretty good: “We at MAD were shocked and confused by this entire incident – mainly because we had no idea that Circuit City even sells magazines.”

  52. @Michael Belisle: Guess the AP did get the email too, because newsorama got it too.

    But there’s an interesting aside in the AP article: “[Babb] defended Circuit City’s sense of humor, pointing to a link of a commercial on YouTube produced by the company.” Which is funny, since the Youtube description says “here’s a circuit city commercial we’ll never see!”

    Except, you know, right now. When I’m watching it.

  53. Roclawzi says:

    I wonder what that PR rep thought when he saw the knee jerk reaction to begin with? An overreaction to a parody is like chumming the waters.

  54. Frank_Trapasso says:

    @stacye: “And I swear to you, we’ll FIND the bastard who put that envelope under all that garbage!”

    I know I’m not the first to say this letter was funnier than the actual parody, but it’s still the best comment here.

  55. The_IT_Crone says:

    That was fantastic. Powerpoints, corporate task forces, it had it all! They may have bad things going for them, but their PR department is tops.

  56. ViperBorg says:

    @Farquar: I second that statement.

  57. Now if he’d just mentioned something about firing those overly sensitive souls at corporate and hiring in replacements at a lower wage, I’d really have been impressed.

  58. Specalt says:

    CC just shot a ray of sunshine up my arse and made purple flowers shoot out my eyes and leprechauns come dancing out of my mouth. I hope they have not started to higher people to troll forums and write niceties back. BB take note.

  59. mavrick67 says:

    Mad Magazine parody – C-
    Circuit City apology – A+

  60. jojo319 says:

    I actually don’t shop there primarily due to the fact that in order to get a good deal you have to do a mail in rebate. And to me, those things are the devil incarnate. Say what you want about Best Buy, at least you don’t have to deal with that crap (not much anyway). Loved the letter though.

  61. springboks says:

    I actually went home and cracked open my copy of Mad (yes I’ve been a subscriber for 5 years). The 4 page Mad parody ad is hilarious, and very accurate of your Circuit City and Best Buy stores.

    @mavrick67: um how about

    Mad Magazine parody – A+
    Circuit City apology – F

    Circuit City brought un-necessary attention to themselves. Mad Magazine is a parody mag, if you can’t handle it don’t read it!

  62. The_WB says:

    I’d give the Mad parody a B. “Shiitake” alone made me laugh.

    Hmm. The original memo from CC higher-up Elizabeth Barron (featured in the previous article) says:

    “Destroy all copies and throw them away. They are not inventoried, and your store will not incur shrink.”

    So… nobody keeps track of how well magazines sell at Circuit City? No wonder Mad’s editor was confused, jokingly or not; there’s no sales data to indicate that CC sells magazines at all! Are they giving them out for free? If someone walked off with a stack of them, would they be missed?

  63. MPHinPgh says:

    Jim Babb should be made CEO. NOW!

  64. Foneguy says:

    Great Response, but is it real?

  65. renilyn says:

    @stacye: Actually yes… As Alice’s Restaurant is a Thanksgiving tradition in my household, there isn’t a year that goes by that we don’t hear it. I dont care what anyone says… THAT is comedy perfection