Hotels around the globe leverage the power of the Internet to market themselves—and to great success. But the Internet can be as harsh as it can be kind. This month's abuse is directed at Marriott International, the subject of a massively reported news story and a viral video, each of which shed a negative light on two of its hotels.
First, a front-desk supervisor at the Casa Monica Hotel (an Autograph Collection property) in St. Augustine, Florida, was fired for refusing to remove an American flag pin. Technically, the hotel was completely within its means for firing the obstinate employee. The employee handbook was very specific about its uniform policy, and wearing pins of any type were forbidden. You can think what you want (and I personally think rules are made to be bent—can you imagine if this had happened just after 9/11?), but what Marriott might have overlooked in making this decision was all the negative press it was going to receive as a result.
The employee in question was interviewed multiple times, appeared on television and in most major news outlets, and his story forever lives on the Internet for all to see. Will the Casa Monica lose demand over this incident? Certainly not over the long-term, but I'm sure they are spending some money right now trying to put a positive spin on things.
I'm not saying hotels should change their policies because of fear of bad publicity. What I'm saying is that bad publicity is much easier to come by in the Age of the Internet, and that fact cannot be ignored.
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Quitting with fanfare
The second incident was out of Marriott's control, but they still got a bloody nose. In Providence, Rhode Island, a man identifying himself as "Joey" videoed himself quitting from his job at the Renaissance Providence Hotel. The catch is, he brought along with him an entire marching band that played with great gusto after Joey told his clearly irate boss, “I quit.”
I just checked YouTube, and the video has 1.4 million views. Joey was then interviewed, and USA Today quoted him talking about the “horrendous” working conditions.
Now, I know nothing about Joey. He could have been the worst employee ever. Again, not the point. The point is, that video has over 12,000 “likes,” and a casual glance at the comments clearly seem to be in favor of Joey sticking it to The Man.
Hotels need to be aware negative publicity can come from more than just TripAdvisor. Everything now is magnified by the Internet.
Oh, and along the lines of the power of the Internet? My friend is a stock photographer, and she can search the Internet to see where her images are being used. She has a picture of the bedroom in a fancy house that is currently being used as an example of a guestroom in hotels in Australia, Cannes, and Palm Springs. Same picture. Classy.
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