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Mat Company's Rude Response to US Soldier in Iraq

Summary:
Email forward claims that a discount mat company responded to a soldier's email about its products by rudely suggesting that the soldier and his troops should pull out of Iraq (Full commentary below).



Status:
True

Example:(Submitted, January 2007)
A soldier based in Iraq got this response when inquiring as to whether or not the company ships overseas. He wanted to get the troops better gear to sleep on.

To Whom it may concern:

Do you ship to APO addresses?

I'm in the 1st Cavalry Division stationed in Iraq and we are trying to order some mats but we are looking for who ships to APO first.

SGT Hess

************************************

From: contact@discount-mats.com

Subject: Re: Feedback: from discount-mats.com

SGT Hess,

We do not ship to APO addresses, and even if we did, we would NEVER ship to Iraq.

If you were sensible, you and your troops would pull out of Iraq.

Bargain Suppliers

Discount-Mats.com




Commentary:
The email exchange included in the above email forward actually did take place. When Sgt. Jason Hess of the US Army's 1st Cavalry Division emailed a question to Discount-Mats.com asking if the company shipped to APO (military) addresses, he received a surprisingly rude reply. The staff member who answered the soldier's question bluntly stated that the company "would NEVER ship to Iraq". The reply finished off by suggesting that if Sgt. Hess was "sensible" he and his men should pull out of the Iraq war.

After Hess shared the exchange with friends, it soon began circulating rapidly via email, forums and blogs and was then picked up by talkback radio and news outlets. Not surprisingly, the issue created outrage among military supporters.

However, it seems that the opinions expressed in the reply were those of a particular staff member and certainly did not reflect company policy. In fact, the person responsible has now been fired because of the incident. Discount-Mats.com has been inundated with emails and calls, and has placed the following statement on its website:
Due to the recent actions of a member within our company, we have been experiencing many difficulties. We have been bombarded by emails and phone calls literally within 12 hours of the event occurring, which sent us in a state of complete shock.

Our technical difficulties were experienced due to severe e-mail and phone call overload.

As a company, we would like to say that it is against company policy to treat anyone disrespectfully, and we condemn any such behavior. The member who was responsible for stating their personal opinion in a disrespectful manner is no longer associated and no longer working with Discount-Mats.com

The members within our company strongly disagreed with the views and actions of this member, and once again, his personal opinion does not reflect the opinions of the company.

We, as a company, are sorry for the events that took place and we do not condone un-professional, rude behavior from any members within our company.

The continuing war in Iraq is a contentious issue and is polarizing communities. Emotions run high on both sides of the debate. It seems that this staff member let his strongly held personal beliefs overshadow professional courtesy and common sense. While he certainly has a right to his opinions on the Iraq war, his angst is misdirected. Regardless of their position on Iraq, many would argue that a soldier, even a sergeant, is simply obeying orders from above and is in no position to pull his troops out of Iraq or anywhere else. Opposition to the war is better directed at the politicians who instigated it rather than individual soldiers. Moreover, a reply to a customer's simple enquiry is hardly an appropriate vehicle for airing personal opinions, especially on emotive issues such as the war in Iraq. It is not only very unprofessional, but also liable to cause trouble for the sender, as I'm sure this individual has now realized.

That said, we all make mistakes, and being tactless and unprofessional is not a crime. The staff member responsible has lost his job, a high price to pay for his indiscretion and, possibly, a lesson well learned. And while the company must take responsibility for the conduct of its staff, it has already taken action to address the issue and certainly should not be further vilified over what is after all a comparatively minor incident.

References:
Discount-Mats.com
E-mail to soldier spurs outrage
Web Retailer Apologizes After Employee's Anti-War Comment Stirs Controversy
Wisconsin retailer criticized for anti-war e-mail

Last updated: 1st February 2007
First published: 1st February 2007

Write-up by Brett M. Christensen