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Online community outcry causes company to apologize

Thursday, February 21, 2008 | 9:25 p.m. CST; updated 8:04 p.m. CDT, Thursday, October 9, 2008

The original version of this story incorrectly stated that the Rock Bridge High School softball team was hosting a fundraiser for the Truman Veterans Hospital. Instead, the team was volunteering to deliver greeting cards to veterans.

COLUMBIA — An angry e-mail sent to a couple of acquaintances about a local party supply store has resulted in an apology from the president of the Illinois-based chain.

On Monday, Columbia resident Nancy Holman sent the e-mail, which recounted an incident over the weekend at Factory Card and Party Outlet at 27 Conley Road. In the note, Holman said she was treated rudely while inquiring about charitable donations for veterans.

According to the e-mail circulating on the Internet, Holman asked that leftover Valentine’s Day decorations be discounted or donated to a Rock Bridge High School softball team. The team was delivering cards to the Truman Veterans Hospital as a community service project.

Instead, she was told the items would only be sold at full price.

Holman sent out the message, and within days, hundreds of local residents had received it. Soon, some who received the e-mail were filing online missives of their own encouraging consumers to boycott the company.

The e-mail eventually made its way to Gary Rada, president of the party supply chain that has nearly 200 locations throughout the country.

Sean Wheatley, spokesman for Factory Card and Party Outlet, said Rada personally contacted Holman to apologize.

Wheatley told the Missourian the company plans to meet with the hospital sometime next week to discuss the possibility of making a donation and issuing discount cards to veterans and hospital personnel.

Wheatley said the company regretted the way the customer was treated at the store level.

“This is not the kind of service that we are built on, and we are trying to address the situation for the store and community,” Wheatley said.

He said that the company has received many phone calls and e-mails from customers regarding the incident, but he was not aware of any formal complaints.

“The only thing that we are aware of is that there’s been an e-mail going around,” he said.

Holman’s husband, Kevin, said that he and his wife had received numerous calls from members of the community voicing their support. Nancy Holman declined to comment.

The e-mail landed in the inbox of Dan Jenkins Wednesday. Jenkins, a veteran and Boonville resident, said when he received the e-mail he immediately forwarded it to everyone he knows. It angered him so much, he said, that within two minutes he had written a scathing review of the store on business directories at Google.com and Yahoo.com. Jenkins posted the entire text of Holman’s e-mail in the review he posted on Yahoo!Local.

He said that he felt the community should know about the stores in Columbia that help out the local community and those that don’t.

“I’m not going to patronize a store that isn’t going to do anything for the community or veterans,” he said.

The company’s formal policy is to donate to the Salvation Army in order to consolidate the large amount of requests it receives, according to the company’s Web site. Many retailers have a similar policy.

Although Wheatley regrets how the situation was communicated to the customer, he said that the manager followed the company’s procedures on charitable donations. However, he said the manager should have referred Holman to the company’s charitable discount program for local businesses and organizations, the “Fun Stuff Club.” The club allows local businesses, individuals and organizations to receive a 15 to 20 percent discount on items to go for charitable causes.


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