SAN FRANCISCO - The Napa Valley Wine train has issued an apology to a mostly black women's book club who say they were booted from the train because of their race.
Wine train chief executive officer Anthony "Tony" Giaccio issued a statement Tuesday saying the company was "100 percent wrong in its handling of this issue."
In the statement, Giaccio pledged to offer additional diversity training for employees. He also asked for the workers to apologize for their "many mistakes and failures."
Giaccio spoke to KTVU Tuesday.
"We had a major customer service blunder," he said. "We just could have done better. We could have set them up to win, set ourselves up to win. We just kind of dropped the ball.”
When asked if race played a role in the women getting kicked off the train, Giaccio responded, "No. This was definitely a customer service issue 100 percent."
"And we totally disagree," book club member Lisa Johnson told KTVU. "I don’t know what to say other than I have been black all my life and I know what it feels like."
Johnson told KTVU Tuesday it was the book members’ goal to make sure a similar incident never happened again.
“They are asking us what we want,” she said. “What we want is for that experience never to have happened to us in the first place…To make our mission that that never happens again to anyone who looks like us.”
Wine train spokesman Sam Singer said train employees had asked the women to either quiet down or get off the wine train and accept a free bus ride back to their starting point.
The 11 members of the book club, all but one of whom is African American, say rude train employees ordered them off Saturday, mid-journey and marched them down the train aisle to their embarrassment.
"We didn't do anything wrong," said Johnson, who chronicled the episode via cell phone videos. On Facebook, Twitter and Yelp on Monday with the hashtag #laughingwhileblack, which garnered the incident national attention.
Defenders of the women posted videos of other, past noisy groups celebrating on the wine train, and they debated the wine train's action with its supporters.
The Napa Valley wine train has invited the women to come on board again.
"We want to have them back here so we can show them the experience they should have had," Giaccio said.
Johnson told KTVU she won’t go.
"The first experience will forever be etched in my mind and I’m not interested in repeating that," she told KTVU. "We still feel this is about race. We were singled out."
Johnson, an author from Antioch, has organized the group's annual Napa day trips for the past 17 years.
She said on Monday that she had not ruled out filing a lawsuit against the train company concerning the episode, which she deemed "racially charged" and "disheartening."