“We never imagined this reaction…we would like to apologize.” Those powerful words were posted on the General Mills’ blog site Saturday after a dust up over their Legal Terms last week. The company, which makes popular cereals such as Cheerios, Chex and Cinnamon Toast Crunch as well as brands like Bisquick and Betty Crocker, had quietly posted new legal language on their website earlier this month to alert consumers that they give up the right to sue the company if they download coupons, join its online communities, enter a company-sponsored sweepstakes or contest, or interact with it in a variety of other ways.
When a New York Times article ran on April 16 pointing out the changes and suggesting that consumers would forfeit the right to sue the company if they simply “liked” their Facebook page, criticism flooded in.
General Mills maintains that they never meant to cause such concern and say those terms and their intentions were widely misread and at no time was anyone ever unable to sue the company by purchasing their product or liking one of the brands’ Facebook pages.
Still, the company has reverted back to its original Legal Terms, which make no mention of “arbitration,” the term which had many so upset. In Saturday’s blog post was a link to the current website and this statement: “Our legal terms? You’ll find them right on our website. You’ll also find they’re back to what they always were.”
While I think General Mills handled the “misunderstanding” well by listening to consumers and reacting within a reasonable amount of time, they could suffer for trying to slip one by their customers. Quietly posting changes which are vague and could be misinterpreted will not help brand loyalty in the long run.
If you have a change within your business’ services or policies, be straightforward and honest with your customers. They love you and are loyal for a reason. Treat them with that same respect.
I suspect General Mills will move forward from this, but again it’s because they were honest and apologized for any misunderstanding. The blog post wrapped up with this sincere statement: “We’re sorry we even started down this path. And we do hope you’ll accept our apology. We also hope that you’ll continue to download product coupons, talk to us on social media, or look for recipes on our websites.”
How do you think General Mills handled the situation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.