After taking offense to the wording used by American Apparel in a contest to find plus-sized models, one woman responded by submitting photos of herself posing while eating food, accompanied by the statement: "I just can't stop eating".

While the contestant received the highest number of online votes, she was not selected as one of the winners by the clothing retailer. In a letter sent to the contestant, along with a number of media outlets, a creative director at American Apparel explained that the contestant was not selected due to her "attempts to discredit the positive intentions of our challenge". Many criticized the letter as a public scolding, and shortly after, the creative director apologized.

According to Michael Smith, a partner in the Toronto office of BLG, the American Apparel apology might have been deemed more genuine if it had been circulated as widely as Ms. Alonzo's letter.

"Apologies are effective because they address intangibles in disputes that often are not resolved [legally]," said Michael. "And for the apology to be effective you should consider making it as conspicuously as possible or it might ring a little hollow."

Apologies can help turn around a corporate reputation, Michael said. "It depends on how they present it. It may not hurt them if they acknowledge the errors associated with the first response – then it can be a very good PR story."