Remember Suburban Express? It's been a few years since we've had the pleasure of writing about the company that buses students between the University of Illinois and Chicago, or its lawsuit happy owner, Dennis Toeppen. Toeppen and his company have engaged in some fairly anti-consumer behaviors, most of which have to do with hefty three-figure fines unilaterally assessed to passengers for the most minor of infractions, like showing up for the wrong bus or on the wrong day. But some of the online critics also brought up issues with drivers for the company who treated foreign exchange students like trash in front of other passengers.
Now, one of Toeppen's excuses for filing lawsuits against those specific critics is that this foreign exchange student was apologized to, though the company has never said from who or at what time that apology was issued. One would think such an apology was an indication of regret over those racist comments, had such an apology ever actually been issued. Judging by a recent advertisement Suburban Express sent out for its Christmas bus schedule, it seems like the drivers take their cues from the company at large.
Companies generally don't advertise that students will ride buses with: "passengers like you. You won't feel like you're in China when you're on our buses." Why? Well, because catering to any asshole that can't stand being on a bus with someone who looks a bit different from them isn't the MO for most people with a soul. One does wonder whether any lawsuits over the reviews accusing the company of racism would have survived all this being entered into evidence.
But, as per usual, Suburban Express was quick with an apology. And it's just dripping with remorse.
When called out for a racist advertisement, companies don't generally apologize for that by insisting that a major public university is terribly run because it admits a large number of foreign students, nor does it call that "selling out." For the record, the actual percentage of Chinese-born students at U of I is much lower, not to mention that the claim that higher-paying foreign exchange students somehow are a burden on Illinois residents seems like a self-defeating argument.
Regardless, the Illinois Attorney General has decided to get involved, opening an investigation into the company to determine if Suburban Express violated the Illinois Human Rights Act. And, whaddya know, shortly after Lisa Madigan got involved, the company apologized again.
No need to read the entire apology. It's actually apologetic, both for the initial advertisement and the first apology. Apologizing for an apology isn't generally a good look, but the reputation Suburban Express has built for itself practically begs you to read this supposedly sincere apology in a tone of sarcasm, because nothing in the history of the company suggests that we should take this as anything other than the shivering, whimpering attempt to avoid the scrutiny of a state attorney general known as a bulldog.
Best of luck to Suburban Express in getting itself out of this one, and even more luck to any foreign student finding herself in need of a ride to Champaign-Urbana.
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