On January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport. Shortly after takeoff, the plane struck a large flock of geese and lost power in both engines. Quickly determining he would be unable to reach any airport Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger piloted the plane to a water landing on the Hudson River. All aboard were rescued by nearby boats.
On December 22, 2016, Carlos Galvan Jr. found a long line of unhappy customers when he arrived at work that day. Mr. Galvan owns and runs Amapola Deli and Market, a local grocery chain catering to the Mexican American population around the Los Angeles area. One of their specialties has been the store’s famous masa, the ground corn meal used in making tamales.
Amapola was known for their high-quality masa and enjoyed a loyal following that was growing every year. Their best sales came in the month of December and 2016 was going to be no exception. The problem was that beginning around December 22nd of that year, customers lined up to demand refunds for the poor-quality masa that they were sold.
The tamales that customers were making turned to mush and were ruined from the masa they purchased at Amapola. Some unhappy customers went so far as to replace their traditional tamales with spaghetti and nachos for their family celebrations that year.
Word got out through local TV stations and the Los Angeles Times that the inferior masa purchased from Amapola had ruined Christmas for hundreds of Mexican American families. This was what Carlos Galvan Jr. was facing when he pulled up to work a few days before Christmas 2016.
Immediately, Carlos instructed his staff to issue full refunds to anyone who had purchased the spoiled masa. He went on the air that evening and issued an apology and offered full refunds to anyone who had purchased masa from his store.
The day after Christmas, Carlos posted a statement which said how saddened and he and his 350 employees were that their loyal customers were disappointed in their product and had a bad holiday experience with their masa. The statement went on to say that for 55 years Amapola stood for quality. He admitted that this past weekend they had sold food that did not meet their standards and assured them that the food did not pose a health risk, it just didn’t taste good.
The statement said that the company immediately began investigating the problem and soon found that it came from one of their long-time suppliers who used a corn grown for fuel, not consumption, in making the raw ingredient.
This statement was sent out the day after Christmas as a press release, posted on all their social media outlets, mailed and emailed to customers. It was also written in both English and Spanish and displayed in their 3 stores. Even today, each store has signs with a hashtag in Spanish that reads “#Better than Ever”.
Being prepared for an emergency and acting quickly, whether its losing both engines on your airliner or selling a bad product you’re known for, is the key to success in what could have been a total disaster for both Mr. Galvin and Captain Sully. No matter whether you run a business or pilot a jet, make sure you have plans in place just in case the worst were to happen.