Mangled Message: Dumb and Dumber?


Our latest Mangled Message for your enjoyment, edification, and comments comes from American Airlines.

American lost track of the luggage of a hearing-impaired couple (James Moehle and Angela Huckaby) who were returning from a vacation in Hawaii. Once the bags were found and delivered to the couple’s Texas home, this note was included. The couple was offended by the “dumb” reference and has let their feelings be known to ABC and other media outlets. 

To review, I find an organization’s message to be mangled when it is one or more of the following:

  • Not authentic or believable

  • Detached from reality

  • Focused on the organization or sender, rather than the customer or receiver

  • Inconsistent, sending mixed signals across communication channels

  • Not conveyed skillfully, and perhaps by the wrong people for the situation

In this case, American violated the fifth mark of a mangled message. The “dumb” terminology is at best clumsy and antiquated. The employee who used it likely intended no harm…but American received a big public black eye nevertheless. 

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