Bad behavior has hospitality industry reeling from bad news

images1.jpgI’m sitting in a hotel room in St. Louis, watching a story produced by Fox News Atlanta that has me wishing I could go back home to Akron, Ohio — and right now.

The story also generates some very bad publicity for Holiday Inns, Embassy Suites and Sheraton Suites. It’s Fox News, so the investigative team uses a sensational tone and the obligatory hidden cameras, this time planting them in bathrooms of rented hotel rooms.

The cameras capture housekeepers rinsing your drinking glasses with cleaners and disinfectants, drying them with dirty towels and placing them on the counter for you to use. The reporter went to three different hotels and recorded similar behaviors in all. Heath department officials shook their heads in disapproval at what appears to be a common practice — at least in Atlanta.

It’s a 4-minute video, but you’ll get the gist of it in less than 2. If you travel a lot, don’t watch it. You’re better off not thinking about this! It’s yet another illustration of how vulnerable companies can be at their weakest link — the customer interface. My most loyal readers will recall I talked about this problem last week in a post that drew a paltry 73 views and just 2 comments.

By the way, I don’t want this post to reflect on my gracious hosts from Fleishman-Hillard and the beautiful downtown Hilton where I’m staying in the shadow of the Gateway Arch and just down the street from the International Bowling Museum. Still can’t figure how they wrestled that one from Cleveland.

I’m here with a whole gang of PR academics for a one-day conference dubbed, “A Dialog with the Higher Education Community.” More on that after the conference. And I promise, no live blogging. Tacky. Very tacky.

Hope you enjoy the clip. Eeew! (Note: The original video posted here is no longer available on YouTube, but this is the same story. )


10 Responses to Bad behavior has hospitality industry reeling from bad news

  1. Seriously, let’s talk about the myriad PR blunders here — No comment, too controversial, won’t talk with us… — and let’s talk about how the low-paid housekeepers will likely get canned over the imbroglio… Yoinks! I knew there was a reason to buy bottled drinks.

  2. Blair Boone says:

    1. It’s Atlanta. What do you expect? This is the city that’s two months from running out of water because they can’t be bothered to conserve.
    2. It’s Fox News. What do you expect? Any proof this video is genuine? These are the people whose “reports” have convinced most of their viewers that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11.
    3. If I were in housekeeping and knew someone from Fox was staying in that room, I’d do worse than that. Think about it — would you want to clean up after Bill O’Reilly?
    4. Perhaps the Fox crew trashed the room every night and didn’t leave a tip for a week before they got this video.
    Even if it’s a local Fox affiliate, you just gotta consider the source. You’ve implied as much in your “sensationalism” comments. We distort, you decide.

  3. Bill Sledzik says:

    You’re right, Sean. Multiple blunders in that story that I didn’t discuss. But it was a midnight post on one of the three days this year I was up that late! But it does make you wonder how much training goes on at local and regional levels.

    And Blair, I thought twice before posting this story at all, as I had to admit that I was watching Fox. In St. Louis, like here in Cleveland, Fox offers the early-bird special for tired old fools like me.

  4. Judy Gombita says:

    Bill, for years I’ve made it a practice to thoroughly rinse glasses and mugs in hotel rooms before using them. That’s because I’ve read in newspaper travel sections *and* meeting planners’ publications that housekeeping *sometimes* just gives the glasses a cursory wipe with a damp cloth, rather than replacing them with clean inventory. (Not out of malice; more likely it’s a time issue or possibly laziness.) I’m confident the vast majority of housekeeping staff are diligent in their duties and that this is mainly an urban legend, but why take a chance? (The other piece of advice has always been that bed covers are a cesspool of germs from previous tenants, so to roll them back at the end of the bed, and only use the sheets and blankets provided, as they are laundered much more frequently.)

    I hope you had a profitable meeting in St. Louis. Funny how things are “in the air.” Last night at dinner with my long-time LERN colleague/pal, Susan Bakewell (education program professional for the Association of PeriOperative Registered Nurses, based in Denver, Colorado), I learned that she is originally from St. Louis…and is scheduled to visit her mother for Thanksgiving. We were asking what St. Louis was famous for (as this was over dinner, ribs made the list) and the arch came up, of course. I didn’t realize that the arch included a trolley ride, too! Susan described how it is a great experience, particularly the view, but rather nerve-racking on a windy day when the trolley shakes from side to side.) Anyhow, I hope you had the opportunity to see some of the city, above and beyond the FH offices and your dangerous-glasses-and-TV hotel room.

    Wishing you a “magical day” from Orlando (where I made sure to rinse my glasses and mugs, even though my room appeared impeccably sanitized), which is the farewell phrase every staff member says accompanied by a wide and warm smile. The Disney folks have the hospitality schtick down to a science and an art, although sometimes the net effect is a wee bit cloying.


  5. Roy Costa says:

    In the several blogs I looked at since I made the investigation with Fox news very few mention the fact that the hotels we looked at had a rule they were supposed to be following. Perhaps your bloggers should consider the bad PR result of not following a law designed to protect public health. Why were these companies thinking they would not be caught? Moreover, why were they willing to take the chance? I guess jeopardizing the public health, breaking the laws in this regard and getting caught is just not a big deal in the hotel business. You will now see plastic cups for a while until they get the glassware equipment installed, under health department mandates.

    Roy E costa RS MS/MBA
    Public Health Sanitarian Consultant

  6. Bill Sledzik says:

    Thanks, Roy. Not sure what you mean by “your bloggers should consider the bad PR result of not following a law designed to protect public health.” This blogger considered exactly that when he wrote the post. This is a PR disaster triggered by companies that didn’t follow procedures. Then management compounded the problem by not speaking about it or discussing how they would fix it.

    I think you’ll find this is a very big deal to the hotel business, and it will trigger change. I’m betting hotel chains around the country are scrambling to cover their collective, ah, glasses!

  7. Greg Smith says:

    Damn, the video’s down. I survived two weeks in LA, though.

  8. Bill Sledzik says:

    Indeed it is, Greg. Yet one more reason Fox News deserves our criticism — pulling clips from YouTube. The story is still making the rounds, though. It hit Cleveland last Thursday. God forbid a local station actually develop its own stories, eh?

    I don’t fare well for two DAYS in LA. You da man!

  9. janna swank says:

    Can you please send me a link to the video. When I click on it it says not available anymore. THank you

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