Viral > Lesson

The importance of being mindful of our behavior toward others

A lesson that could spare us a world of unexpected trouble

BMW Philippines president Spencer Yu at the launch of the third-generation Z4 roadster. PHOTO BY VERNON B. SARNE

The guy you see above is Adrian Spencer Yu, the president of SMC Asia Car Distributors Corporation (aka BMW Philippines). He is now the subject of a Facebook rant that is slowly but steadily going viral as you read this. The diatribe is courtesy of a model who is accusing him of having been “rude and condescending” toward her at BMW’s SM Megamall display this weekend.

According to the model, Yu was upset that she seemed to just be standing around and that she wasn’t talking to every single person approaching the show car. She also claims that the executive shouted at her and ordered her to just go home.

Full disclosure: The BMW boss has called me and explained his side. (I’ve also reached out to the model via Messenger, but have not received a reply.) To his credit, Yu isn’t denying the complaints being leveled against him. He does point out, however, that the cuss words were not directed at the model and that they were merely his expression when he was talking on the phone with the model’s agent.

Now, I’m not here to take sides. Not here to argue who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t think there’s any need for that: Spencer admits his mistake and wants to sincerely and humbly apologize to the model. And he should.

I’m here to stress the importance of being mindful of our actions—even the smallest ones—when we’re interacting with others. Funnily enough, this is the second time this week that someone has called me to seek counsel over an incident that got out of hand and came back to haunt them. The other individual is now also the subject of a complaint over a deed that, in his eyes, was pretty harmless.

But the lesson in both cases is one and the same: We have to be careful about how our words or actions reach their intended recipient. You might think it’s nothing to you, but it could mean the world to the other party. This is particularly true when we’re dealing with people we consider to be “beneath” us. I always say that our true personality always becomes evident when we speak to a waiter or a security guard, for instance. Or folks who have no “use” to us.

Spencer’s transgression was the result of his strong personality, which occasionally makes him act like a bully

Now, as for Spencer’s transgression, it was the result of his strong personality, which occasionally makes him act like a “bully,” as what the model’s sympathizers are now calling him. A piece of trivia: I was once on the receiving end of his aggressive temperament. More than a decade ago, when I was the editor of a leading car magazine, and Spencer was still with Audi and Porsche, we would constantly lock horns over my publication’s coverage of his company’s activities. He protested, for example, against my refusal to put one of his local events on the front cover. He even went straight to my boss—the owner of the media firm that employed me—and told her I wasn’t doing my job. I swear I entertained the thought of punching him in the face at least a couple of times.

Some two years after our conflict, Spencer wound up at Lexus Manila after being hired by then company president Danny M. Isla. Under the latter’s mentorship, Yu (to my and everyone’s absolute surprise) gradually developed decent people skills. It was, in my opinion, a miracle. Like convincing President Duterte to stop cursing or telling sexist jokes. But it happened. The once-obnoxious douchebag became tolerable over time—to the point where I could already genuinely call him a friend.

So, is Spencer Yu suddenly a saint? Of course not. Far from it. He’d be the first to admit he still slips every now and then. Interview his staff members and you might find a bitter worker or two. But as someone who has been closely observing him for about a dozen years now, I also know he often does things because he wants to accomplish something so badly.

That’s not an excuse to be rude to anyone. And he’s not getting a pass from me for this episode.

But the man is contrite and eager to make things right. Before he gets crucified on social media—and he will be—just be aware that he is not as big of an asshole as many of us would like to believe. He made a mistake and deserves a chance to rectify the situation.

Just like all of us do.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist for 26 years. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.