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The Chief Executive Officer of the Napa Valley Wine Train did the right thing Tuesday and apologized to 11 black women who were unceremoniously ushered off the Wine Train last weekend for allegedly talking too loud.

The incident has gone viral on social media and has sparked discussions on Black radio and mainstream media with some people claiming the women were treated shabbily because they were Black while others thought they were playing the ‘race card’ until witnesses on the same train supported them and stories of other groups being shushed but not thrown off the Wine Train in other trips were revealed.

There’s no doubt that Wine Train officials moved quickly to suppress a public relations disaster caused by a barrage of criticism, but now it’s clear that the women – which included an 83-year-old grandmother — were unfairly targeted by Wine Train staff.

“We were 100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue,” Wine Train CEO Anthony “Tony” Giaccio said in a statement Tuesday. “We accept full responsibility for our failures and for the chain of events that led to this regrettable treatment of our guests.”

Giaccio said in his statement that he had spoken to one of the women involved, Lisa Johnson, who shared the incident as it happened via her Facebook page, and apologized for the incident saying his company made “many mistakes and failures.”

“We pride ourselves our hospitality and our desire to please our guests on the Napa Valley Wine Train,” Giaccio said. “In this instance, we failed in every measure of the meaning of good service, respect and hospitality.”

But Johnson told reporters that she is still traumatized by the incident and told that she does not accept the apology.

“It was humiliating. I’m really offended to be quite honest,” said Johnson, 47, who was among the 11 black women who were herded off the train and promptly met by railroad police. “I felt like it was a racist attack on us. I feel like we were being singled out.”

Johnson said members of her group, “Sistahs on the Reading Edge Book Club,” were targeted because they were simply “laughing while Black.”

There were so many ways Wine Train officials could have handled this situation, but forcing the women off the train, a group that included an 83-year-old grandmother, is deplorable and just bad business.

Wine train officials said the women were laughing too loud and were told three times to keep the noise down. Officials said the women were not drunk but ordered them off the train anyway, citing a standing policy about excessive noise. Train officials then posted this message on the Wine Train Facebook page.

“Following verbal and physical abuse toward other guests and staff, it was necessary to get our police involved. Many groups come on board and celebrate. When those celebrations impact our guests, we do intervene.”

Giaccio disputed the account in the company’s Facebook post, saying a junior member of the staff wrote an inaccurate description of the events. Giaccio’s apology read, in part:

Clearly, we knew in advance when we booked your party that you would be loud, fun-loving and boisterous—because you told us during the booking process that you wanted a place where your Club could enjoy each other’s company. Somehow that vital information never made it to the appropriate channels and we failed to seat your group where you could enjoy yourself properly and alert our train’s staff that they should expect a particularly vibrant group.

He added:

We were insensitive when we asked you to depart our train by marching you down the aisle past all the other passengers,” Giaccio wrote on his apology letter. “While that was the safest route for disembarking, it showed a lack of sensitivity on our part that I did not fully conceive of until you explained the humiliation of the experience and how it impacted you and your fellow Book Club members.

Giaccio apology falls short given that other ‘loud,’ ‘boisterous’ groups in previous rides were not asked to leave the train, but he said he would make sure employees received more diversity and sensitivity training – and he invited Johnson, the entire book club, and 39 of their chosen guests who would have an entire train car to themselves, back aboard the Wine Train, this time as his personal guests.

We can’t change what happened on the train: The women were treated horribly because they were Black and the staff should be reprimanded. But Giaccio has apologized and wants to move forward. Perhaps Johnson and the book club should accept Giaccio’s complimentary offer and enjoy the luxurious Wine Train experience they were seeking all along.

All aboard.

What do you think?

(Photo: Lisa Renee Johnson Facebook)

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63 thoughts on “Wine Train CEO Apologizes: ‘We Were 100 Percent Wrong’ [VIDEO]

  1. I wouldn’t accept that apology. I’d be out to redress my humiliation and anger at being pushed around that way. Police?Police backing up, unquestionably, some waitress because another patron complained to the waitress, they thought the black ladies book club laughed to loud? POLICE??? I’d have their asses in court till they were bankrupt! ….Aaaand, if I had been there, we, my wife and I, would have gotten off with the Ladies, and gone with them to court, every time ‘we’ went!

  2. RahRah on said:

    Remember Denny’s, they hired a racist manager that changed the company policy to suit his own personal beliefs that is what these employees did, they took control of someone else’s company as if it were their own. But they are mere employees working as servants on this train, my point is that they don’t own jack-crap, lol, and the only Blacks patronizing this company in future will not select this company’s experience. And to add insult to injury I bet all these women are over-educated and you have some servant who probably can’t afford to ride the train having law enforcement take them off the train. If you are a business owner trying to make a profit and you are competing for someone’s money you need better training or hang up a shingle saying “no Blacks allowed.”

  3. specialt757 on said:

    Damn Mr. CEO your staff really got that wrong huh? These nice respectful, quiet women were doing absolutely nothing wrong for them to be asked to quiet down, not once but three times or escorted off. Yeah the police thing was a bit much, but wow how could this have happened? Well whether you apologized because of the “climate” we’re living in or y’all completely F-up, kudos to you for shutting it down. On to the next more important issues…pick-one, any one.

  4. I am sorry that happened to all of you. I wish I had that many friends to go wine tasting with me. Please allow me to be on your train next time. Why would you be told to be quiet on a wine tasting train. I love it noisy everyone talking about what wine you like and about life. Do you tell people to be quiet if it was a beer train or beer garten. What fools. I hope it hurts there business. The person who told on you should have been escorted off the train first. Find a another place to have fun together.

  5. folks don’t be so naive. regardless of where you stand on this, clearly there is training that was in place that would empower the “junior staff” to conduct themselves as they did. if you say it isn’t about race, you might want to read where caucasian folks say that they were rowdier than the ladies that were escorted yet were not even asked to turn down the volume on the noise. they also admitted that the ladies weren’t loud enough to be a disruption to anyone. so before you insult folks based on the fact that you haven’t had the experience, maybe hearing the witness of your very own counterparts may cause you to rethink your insulting positions. doubt it, but just maybe…

  6. Sylvia on said:

    Did anyone read that the CEO said the women had requested a location where they could talk and have fun. However, that requests was not passed on to the staff. It looks like they had an empty car. Why not move the group there and keep moving. I wouldn’t accept the free ride because staff would probably do something disgusting to their food and drinks.

  7. The CEO shouldn’t have apologized to them heifers but instead the cops should have kicked each one of them in the ass ( notice I didn’t say THEY ass ) when they exited the train.

    • clearly your ignorant comment makes you feel better, but since you find yourself to be superior to others, why lower yourself by insulting other people? you may want to expose yourself a little more than biased media and you may find that there are plenty of extremely intelligent people of other races other than your own. i for one don’t use such language as it is classless and shows a level that is sub par at best. surely you are more educated than to lower yourself in such a tasteless fashion…

    • Stan, you’re a shitty head, moron! Probably some backwoods, inbred, hillbilly! These ladies did not deserve what happened to them! Thanks to the “other race” of people that did the right thing and spoke up!!

  8. johnny Richardson on said:

    Here’s what I don’t understand why is it wen something happens to us ( black people) everyone who is not black is real quick to say this didn’t happen BC ur black. What world ru living in? What u don’t think we know r selves? If other passengers hadn’t spoke up would those ladies even got an apology? Imagine this was ur daughter, wife or mother would you sing a diff tune then? If yes why?

  9. Vet Mom on said:

    My mom always told me apologies come with REFUNDS!!! hahahahaha I’ve always wanted to go on one of these scenic trains (travel channel has a special on them) and after I just got a call from a law firm telling me they tracked me down, I’ve been retired two years, because my former DC federal agency lost a case and I get a SETTLEMENT check I’m headed to Mt Rushmore for our next family trip!!! We travel a lot and have a ton of fun so I know these ladies were loud in a touristy FUN way!

    • If you haven’t seen the “Big Bang Theory” Valentines Date episode you should. LMAO I learned so much about trains and now I want to go on one of these trips for my next vacation. Jim Parsons is brilliant!

  10. Calvin Wilson on said:

    Forgiveness always in order. Except apology. Give feedback. Follow up to ensure the CEO and company is keeping their word.

  11. Deede Huff on said:

    Did the ladies consider that this may not have been the best venue for their event? My experience on the Wine Train has been a fairly quiet, subdued environment where people spoke among themselves and enjoyed the food, wine, and company appropriately. For once I would love to see the hashtag ‘accepting responsibility for my behavior while being black’, rather than playing the victim and crying ‘bias’, ‘racist’, etc. It’s getting old. And, to the CEO, grow a backbone and stop apologizing.

  12. If you had to be forced to apologize due to the publicity, then I don’t consider the apology sincere. Ladies, take your business elsewhere; and how about starting a Wine Train business of your own? This humiliation could be your blessing in disguise to act on this suggestion. 🙂

  13. Money is your only power stop giving it away to pople or situation. Which disenpower your blackness black dollars is black POWER

  14. debbied on said:

    I appreciate his apology and ownership of the mess up. HOWEVER, unless you live in the skin we’re in day in and day out, you can’t possibly understand how these ladies feel. I get it. The fact that they gave notice that they may be rather loud, enjoying themselves, gave the crew an opportunity to seat them away from other train guests and the whole situation could have been avoided, but they chose to deal with it in as humiliating a manner as possible, parading them through other guests escorting them off the train, no apology can make up for that treatment. Don’t know how expensive it was, but I wouldn’t want to ride on that train again and most of you wouldn’t either!

  15. powegirl on said:

    Yeah, accept the apology but he should fire the junior staff member. Maybe next time she /or he will think twice before acting with bias tendencies.

  16. Yvonne on said:

    Accept the apology and the free ride. Yes they were wrong, but the CEO did a stand up on righting that wrong. Kudos to him. I bet he will ensure this doesn’t reach social media again.

  17. The apology was a good gesture (and possibly for the sake of good public relations), but they WERE 100% wrong. The staff knew exactly what (and why) they were doing what they did when they had these women “escorted” off of the train. There were a number of ways they could have handled the situation, such as moving them to another car, or even having a member of management speak personally to them, if they were being that boisterous, instead of kicking them off of the train and into the hands of the police. The police? For laughing too loudly? It’s all too easy for others to say that these women should just “move on”, and while I do agree that forgiveness is in order, people need to wake up and realize what many, if not most, African-Americans experience on nearly a daily basis, and stop the assumptions that the race card is being played. It IS being played, but not by us! It was very convenient for the staff to remove these ladies so easily only because of the color of their skin.

    • They weren’t removed because of the color of their skin. They removed because they were being loud and inconsiderate of the other passengers. And if it were just because they were black, how come the white hood rat got tossed right along with them? This “we is free” shit is getting so old. I think I’ll go into a library and blast rap on ITunes loud enough to wake the dead. And I’ll bet my forty acres and mule, that when I get on the web and whine about being thrown out of the library just for playing music, some silly negroes will swear up and down that they only did it because I was black. This mess is just getting ridiculous.

      • The grammatically correct statement would be we “are” free. it is sad that you think we are incapable of articulating the english language properly but that’s another stereotype derived from a lack of exposure and education. it’s ok to state your opinion but to insult a race by the assumption that we cannot communicate intelligently is archaic and lacks originality. your crass words do nothing to resolve the issues at hand. in fact, they validate the claims that are made by folks that feel the insensitive injustices based upon ignorance.

      • RahRah on said:

        tell what business you own and we can stay the hell out–that is all it takes but you sound like the servants who called the police, you are just another racist as these women have been described as more dignified than the other guest it was the wine train not gospel train, you are too ignorant for words mississippi.

  18. CEO would try to appease them given the country’s current climate. To h#ll with her if she doesn’t accept the apology. He did more than just say ‘sorry’ to this rat, he listened and is trying to make amends. Notice she didn’t admit her role. GTFOHWTBS

  19. Ruby Parks on said:

    Respectfully , decline the offer for future train ride for yourselves..instead have the cost for train of your party and guest donated to favorite charity or school/college. ..

  20. Byrdie on said:

    Accept the apology, enjoy the free trip offered with your family and friends and move on. The owner and CEO seems to have made a heartfelt apology for the actions of his staff.

  21. Beeg1966 on said:

    They have no other choice but to accept the apology, if they want to stay in good with God. I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow, but just forgive them and keep moving. I would never get back on that Wine Train again. Pride will take you to hell quicker than anything, you know get did nothing wrong. Praying for healing for these ladies..

  22. Michele on said:

    The other thing that is being missed here is that this is NOT an isolated situation. There have been many out right unacceptable instances that have occurred on this train. It just so happened that this one got news media and social media attention. As I said before, that staff needs to be fired if the CEO truly apologizes like he’s leading everyone to believe.

  23. Michele on said:

    They can keep the apology and the future train ride. Unacceptable. If the CEO was really sorry he would’ve fired the staff that handled it inappropriately to show their real intolerance for that type of behavior instead of sending them to a doggone sensitivity class!!
    Then to top it off, the ladies hadn’t even started drinking???!!!! COME ON!!!!

  24. still torn here……. on one hand i say fuck the apology on the other hand i think, he came out and handled the sitution with another ride…….but after what happened prior do you really want to take that chance or that ride again? not really sure about that, and being that he stepped up so fast is this to silence what seems to be a nice settlement? or to appease these women?or is he really sincere? SMDH WHITE FOLKS.

  25. Well, yesterday, many comments condemned these ladies even by many so called blacks. I said we were not there and I wanted to see a tape; however, the train admitted they were 100% wrong. I hope the ladies do accept their apology and move on especially if it was sincere.

    • Lorraine on said:

      yeah, i hope they accept the apology as well. A lot of CEO’s wouldn’t have come out and apologized like that and so quickly.

  26. RENO2AC on said:

    Like a said in a post from the original article, “There is always a different standard when it comes to us.” And, again, for those that ASSUMED they were just being loud, black women…IN YOUR FACES!

  27. No apology will help until the Wine Train takes care of two things:
    As Yelp user M. C. from Redwood City CA astutely observes, large boisterous parties need to be on separate cars from romantic couples / small groups. This would help their business with ALL peoples.
    A concerted, direct marketing effort towards the offended demographics. Look how Denny’s turned themselves around.

  28. Timothy Green on said:

    Damn i must say if nothing else i RESPECT his apology, he didn’t beat around the bush, point figures or play the blame game, he simply said WE FUCKED UP… i can respect anyone who can step up, cut through the bullshit & admit their mess up

    • katren moss on said:

      Yes, I agree. He saw the mistake, apologized for it and recommended a solution. He didn’t sugar coat it…his team messed up-dang we’ve all been in that position. Take him up on his offer ladies. Maybe this will be the start for some much needed dialogue. Don’t play into the enemy hands and become unforgivable–forgive others as God has forgiven you. Be the bigger people and rise above the humiliation you felt.

      • Timothy Green on said:

        Thank you! … all these folks obsessed with lawsuits, once he shows a CLEAR COMMITTMENT to fixing this problem & making sure it never happens again i see absolutely no reason to involve lawyers & CHEAPEN their cause

  29. F that apology!!!!
    These women need to hire a good attorney and sue the Wine Train for racial profiling and harassment!
    In addition–Black folks need to boycott the Wine Train tours and never patronize them again!!!!

    • Oh yeah there it is the black man’s lottery “you’ve damaged my sensitive deeply oppressed emotions and sense of self-respect steeped in 400 no 900 years of
      tyranny “ I will never be the same again,,,I deserve a paycheck

      • Michele on said:

        THE LADIES WERENT ASKING FOR A PAYCHECK! Just respect and the guarantee that no one else would go through that humiliation! Come on! How turned up is an 83 year old woman going to be? And for Petes sake! It’s a wine train! Not a library and the wine never got poured!!

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