Service of Facing the Music: It Doesn’t Get Better if You Wait, Yahoo and Target

October 3rd, 2016

Categories: DNA, Doctors, Procrastination, Retail, Technology

When something goes wrong you’re better off taking action quickly—that goes for people and companies: Most have to fight putting off facing the music.

Dr. Alan JasloveUrged by my husband to move quickly I averted a disaster last week by immediately acting on a dental emergency that seemed overwhelming when it happened. My instinct was to hide and hope. My great dentist, Alan Jaslove [Photo, right]—I’ve written about him before—saved my tooth and a whole lot of stuff that depended on it, squeezing me in and staying late to do so. Had I waited, as he was scheduled to be out of the office for four days which I didn’t know, I might have damaged the tooth beyond repair causing a domino effect of horrendous proportions.

I know this yet avoidance is in my DNA.

It must also be in Yahoo’s. It took two years for the company to report and/or discover a humongous customer hack. It doesn’t reflect well in either case: That it knew and didn’t tell or that it didn’t know.

“The Yahoo theft represents the most accounts ever stolen from a single email provider,” I read on from a syndicated AP story, “The Yahoo Email Hack is Bad,” by tech writer Michael Liedtke.

  • According to Liedtke, “Yahoo didn’t explain what took so long to uncover a heist that it blamed on a ‘state-sponsored actor’ — parlance for a hacker working on behalf of a foreign government. The Sunnyvale, California, company declined to explain how it reached its conclusions about the attack for security reasons, but said it is working with the FBI and other law enforcement. Yahoo began investigating a possible breach in July, around the time the tech site Motherboard reported that a hacker who uses the name ‘Peace’ was trying to sell account information belonging to 200 million Yahoo users.
  •  Jeff John Roberts on, in a fact sheet format, answered the question “Why did Yahoo take so long to warn everyone?” as follows: “Good question. It’s currently unclear when Yahoo learned about the attack…….All Yahoo has said so far is that a ‘recent investigation… has confirmed the breach.’”

The breach happened in 2014 well before the public knew that Verizon was planning to buy Yahoo. Did executives at the digital services company really think a hack involving so many customers could be forever hidden from the purchaser and that a sophisticated company like Verizon wouldn’t protect itself from such a bad surprise had the sale gone through before this news leaked? And what about 500 million hacked customers who turn to Yahoo for email, finance or fantasy sports—according to Roberts–who must take steps to change passwords and, in some cases, answers to security questions.

Two years seems to be the magic number for Target too. From August 2014 to July of this year it sold—for as much as $75–what it thought was 100 percent Egyptian cotton sheets and pillow cases according to Bloomberg news, the company bought the products from Welspun India that turned out to be lesser quality cotton.  Target has offered refunds to its customers. But I wonder why it took so long for buyers to discover this. Eons ago, at a party, a friend in the retail business remarked on the quality and thread count of the shirt my husband was wearing without touching it. He was right: It was a pricey shirt in soft, fine Egyptian cotton.

  • Do you drag your feet when you really shouldn’t?
  • It can’t help people sleep well at night to realize that it takes years to discover a giant email hack. Should it take two years to learn something’s amiss?
  • As for Target, did no buyer open a single package over 23 months to check the contents and did he/she even know what Egyptian cotton was supposed to feel like?
  • Do you pay for premium products and sometimes wonder if you are getting your money’s worth?


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6 Responses to “Service of Facing the Music: It Doesn’t Get Better if You Wait, Yahoo and Target”

  1. David Reich Said:

    It’s human nature to put off what might be unpleasant, like dental work. But companies can’t afford to think that way in the face of bad news. It WILL eventually come out, and delays in dealing with it could look like a cover-up, eroding public trust, which is a valuable and fragile commodity.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    There’s a lot more than dental work that I put off but enough true confessions! And it’s nuts for me to hesitate when it comes to the dentist as if you must go, you couldn’t find a more skilled, conservative–he doesn’t start yanking out everything in sight but tries to preserve what he can–dentist.

    I agree that a company digs huge holes for itself by hoping glitches disappear. It’s the same for politicians, husbands and wives, bosses and employees. Trust is fragile, period.

  3. hb Said:

    My concern is that your story might suggest that it is usually a good idea to do something rather than do nothing when faced with a crisis. That is a very dangerous conclusion to reach.

    Just think through the ramifications of where we would be now, if, for example, President Obama had acted on his laying down a “red line in the sand” in Syria by sending ground forces into that country? He’s paid a political price for his decision, but we would have been far worse off if he had blindly backed up his threat.

    You can make a good argument that timing is the critical ingredient in the makeup of a great manager. General George Washington gives powerful support to this conclusion by the timing of his Valley Forge Christmas, 1777 raids on Trenton and Princeton with the bulk of the few remaining barely fit and armed soldiers, probably no more than 2,000 in total, if that. Their immense success changed the course of the war and solidified his role as commanding general. (See Thomas Fleming’s superb, thoughtful “Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge.”)

    And, I’d give you a good argument that if Roosevelt had listened to his generals instead of Churchill, and attempted an invasion of France before June 1944, the world would be a very different place today… and not for the better.

    As for your tooth, you needed to know the extent of the damage, and only a dentist could have told you that.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I didn’t suggest that in 24 hours or less a person or corporation or President can come up with a perfect solution, though in the case of Target, once they discovered or admitted that their customers had been gipped they offered to give back their money and say they will break ties with the textile supplier.

    In the case of Hillary Clinton had on the Friday before September 11 she admitted to being diagnosed with pneumonia and told to rest and take antibiotics, had she shown up at the ceremony and left early people would have said how brave to even try with such a debilitating disease. But no, she let it come out slowly and everyone remembers and her opponent has yet more ammunition against her.

    Should it take two years before a corporation learns of and/or admits to a bad situation? Some Yahoo customers had compromised security information such as the city they were born, their mother’s maiden name, their favorite animal etc. Nice to know ASAP NOT to select these options in future, don’t you think? Yahoo can take as long as it wants to determine what to do but at the least, help its customers protect themselves.

  5. Lucrezia Said:

    Shopping is not my thing, so can’t remember when I last got stuck. Dragging of feet saves money as a rule! Dealing with well known and respected stores on and offline pays off in contrast to constant bargain hunting which may result in getting stiffed.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    As far as I know Target’s customers trust it which is why I was surprised it wasn’t more careful in vetting what it sold as a premium product. The supplier will suffer as Target, its second to biggest customer, will stop buying from them. I still question why it took two years for Target to find out that something was amiss. Clearly the trust they had in their supplier was misplaced.

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