Home Depot Delivers—But It’s Bad News

Recently the Home Depot experienced a widespread security breach and was required to disclose the news to its customers. Delivering bad news requires deft writing and analytic skills. Read the below e-mail to Home Depot’s customers. Then answer the questions following the e-mail to judge just how well the “world’s largest home improvement retailer” did.



Dear Valued Customer,

As you may have heard, on September 8, 2014, we confirmed that our payment data systems have been breached, which could potentially impact customers using payment cards at our U.S. and Canadian stores. On September 18, 2014, we confirmed that the malware used in the breach has been eliminated from our U.S. and Canadian stores and that we have completed a major payment security project that provides enhanced encryption of payment data at point of sale throughout our U.S. stores, offering significant new protection for customers.

There is no evidence that debit PIN numbers were compromised or that checks were impacted. Additionally, there is no evidence that the breach has impacted stores in Mexico or customers who shopped online at HomeDepot.com.

We are offering customers who used a payment card at a Home Depot store in 2014, from April on, 12 months of free identity protection services, including credit monitoring, beginning on September 19, 2014. We apologize for the frustration and anxiety this may cause you and we thank you for your patience during this time.

For more information, please visit our website where you’ll find frequently asked questions, helpful tips, our Important Customer Notice, and information about how to take advantage of the free identity protection services, including credit monitoring. Should you have questions regarding the authenticity of this email or any additional questions over the coming days and weeks, please call 1-800-HOMEDEPOT.

We hope this information is useful and we appreciate your continued support.

The Home Depot


Critical Thinking Questions and Activities

  1. The message above was sent in an e-mail. Why do you think Home Depot decided to use e-mail as its channel rather than a print letter? Would a print letter have been more effective? Why or why not?
  1. Which organizational strategy does Home Depot’s negative message use? Why was it chosen, and what benefits does it offer?
  1. Why was a comma used after the greeting rather than a colon?
  1. The second sentence contains 53 words. Could the sentence have been revised for easier comprehension? Do you think the long sentence illustrates a careful choice or careless writing? Can you find other phrases or wording that would benefit from a careful revision?
  1. Delivering bad news has five goals: (a) Explaining clearly and completely (b) Projecting a professional image (c) Conveying empathy and sensitivity (d) Being fair (e) Maintaining friendly relations. Using the e-mail, identify where you see evidence of each goal. Then, in groups or as a class, discuss your findings.


Note to instructors: If you’d like to share our revised version with your students, write to Dana at info@bizcombuzz.com. 


1 thought on “Home Depot Delivers—But It’s Bad News

  1. bizcombuzz

    Tisa, thank you for sharing your views on this important subject. If you provide your e-mail address, we will be happy to send you the answers to this classroom exercise, and perhaps then we can discuss particulars.

    The message certainly is sincere and empathetic, but it’s not well written on the surface, which is why we are proposing edits.
    The editing of this message makes for a great in-class activity, during which students can apply the lessons they learned about conciseness and other elements of sound business writing.

    Please send a message to info(at)bizcombuzz.com to receive the answer file.


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