Just ask Arthur

You may have heard about this story in the news last week. It’s a shocker, and has been reported around the world.

The story is an interesting lesson in crisis management, I’ll get to that shortly. However if you missed the story, here is the background.

A florist in Melbourne has horrified a grieving family by delivering a funeral bouquet with a card that read, “rast in peas.”

The spelling errors were only noticed when the great-niece of the deceased woman arrived at the cemetery for the service. 

Monique Bellew said “It said ‘rast in peas unty Josie.’ I couldn’t believe it. How could a florist get such a common phrase so wrong?”

“Even ‘and family’ was ‘dud familys’. My sister Carol, who was very close to my great aunt, burst into tears, she was devastated because these were the family flowers.”

There is an old saying in crisis management that goes something like this. The greater damage is generally not caused by a specific incident, but by poor management of it. And that’s where this story gets worse.

Arthur, the owner of ‘Bunch after Bunch’ in the Melbourne suburb of Ormond, was unapologetic about the mistake, which he said was made by a Russian employee who spoke English as a second language. 

“My employees are not Australian speaking so we can’t expect them all to spell properly. Even some Australians can’t spell properly, we supply flowers – good flowers. We are not card writers. 

If someone gives a message over the phone instead of coming in or sending a fax or email, I can’t take responsibility. We are not a law firm. I don’t employ people based on their education or spelling skills. I employ them if they are good florists.”

The original mistake by the employee was inexcusable. The handling of it by the owner was worse. If ever there was a textbook case of how not to crisis manage, then ‘Arthur’ has provided it. By blaming the customer and not accepting complete responsibility he has done far more damage to his business than his employee who made the error.

Crises, problems, complaints, are all opportunities for businesses, and radio stations, to develop a stronger bond with clients, or listeners. 

When a listener or a client has a problem or an issue to discuss with your radio station, it is not something to sweep away and try to ignore, it is an opportunity to super-serve that client or listener and turn them into a raving fan.

Because how you handle an issue is often far more memorable than the issue itself.

Just ask Arthur.


Dan Bradley is Executive Director of Kaizen Media; an international media, management and marketing company.

You can contact Dan here.


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