Offensive Use Of The Word Offensive

The Phoenix Business Journal reported that Wells Fargo has gone “on the offensive with at-risk credit cardholders.” According to the article:

Wells Fargo & Co. is sending letters to credit card customers it believes may be in the danger zone, offering to set up automatic payments, design a repayment plan or connect them to a consumer credit counseling service. At least one customer receiving the letter took offense…[b]ut Wells may be willing to offend a few customers if it can head off problems long before they trigger losses.”

My take: With its negative connotation, the use of the word “offensive” in the title of the article is offensive (repulsive) in and of itself. If a credit union or consumer advocacy group were doing what Wells is doing, I seriously doubt they would be characterized as “going on the offensive.”

It’s certainly not surprising that the writer of the article was able to find one customer who was “offended.” Ever hear the saying “you can’t please everyone”?

What Wells is doing is smart and proactive. Identifying at-risk customers is always going to produce some errors. Wells should be lauded for their efforts, and other banks and card issuers should follow suit.

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5 thoughts on “Offensive Use Of The Word Offensive

  1. The word “proactive” is clearly a better choice for Wells activities. But then, how could the reporter fit that into a nicely packaged catch phrase and at the same time twist it into a story that “big bad lenders” are the problem and not focus on personal responsibility.

  2. “Fair and balanced?” Phbbbtt… There’s always an angle, even if unintended. You can give both sides equal airtime, which often makes an issue look like an “either-or,” 50/50 coin flip even though the people on one side outnumber the other 100:1.

  3. I think you might be reading too much into the headline. I would bet that someone just thought that there was a clever double meaning available and couldn’t resist.

    Given that this is a biz publication, I think it’s unlikely that it intended to be overly critical of Wells Fargo’s initiative.

  4. @Martin: Yeah, you’re probably right. Reporter (and his editor) were probably clueless on how it might be interpreted. Is there a “How to write smarmy titles” course in school that journalists take?

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