With a response that was shocking in its tone-deafness and insensitive content, Chevron recently found itself in some serious hot water after one of its natural gas fracking wells exploded in Bobtown, Pennsylvania. The explosion occurred on February 11, 2014 and left one worker injured and another worker missing and presumed dead. Thus far the cause of the explosion is unknown.
After the blast rocked the small town, someone in Chevron’s PR department decided it would be a worthwhile idea to send the residents of the town coupons for a free pizza as a heartfelt show of contrition for the loss of life. Yes, you read that correctly. Chevron sent residents a letter apologizing for the deadly blast (saying that it continues to strive for “incident-free operations”), and included with the letter a coupon for a free pizza. No confirmation as of yet on whether the coupon was for Pizza Hut or Domino's.
Residents did not appear to appreciate the gesture as much as Chevron clearly hoped. Many went online and complained, with one resident summing up the town’s feeling as, “Worst apology ever: Sorry our fracking well exploded. Here’s a free pizza.” Others expressed concerns about their safety, noting that there were several more identical wells in the area and that they didn't have confidence that the recent explosion would be the last.
In yet another recent example of corporate heartlessness, BP has taken considerable heat for its actions regarding the multibillion-dollar Gulf Coast oil spill settlement. Public relations with victims in the Gulf started off well, with BP saying that it wanted to do the right thing and ensure that residents were compensated for the harm they suffered following the Deepwater Horizon explosion and spill. However, things have recently taken a turn for the worse as BP is now trying with all its might to scuttle the settlement agreement it signed with Plaintiffs back in 2012 due to rising costs. Recently, BP has dialed up the hostility of its attack, taking out full-page ads in newspapers where it names individuals and businesses that it says received settlement money they did not deserve.
BP has also launched a tip line and has aired advertisements asking members of the public to call in and rat out friends and family who may not deserve settlement money. BP’s attempts to undermine the settlement agreement it worked so long to craft have hurt the company immensely in the eyes of many Gulf Coast residents, prompting some experts to wonder whether BP’s offensive makes good business sense in the long run. Or common sense ever.