On hospitality, abuse, and the policies that allow it to occur
|Oct 15||Public post|
Colin here. I wrote a piece in Skift on Monday about abuse in the hospitality industry. Employees are regularly berated, abused, and mistreated. What I noticed in the course of my reporting is the fact that a lot of companies are very good at sweeping it under the rug. They don’t want to alienate people that spend a lot of money or maybe the operating procedures to handle such events are unclear. But it is a problem that seems to be continuing to grow. And too often the recourse seems to be, oh just send the corporate handle a tweet to lodge your complaint. I wrote:
...Abuse of staff is shrugged off and forgotten about. And in the case of hate, racism, or violence, it needs to be forcefully cracked down on with measurable and tangible consequences. Not just swept away as a new day comes and new guests check in. The fluid nature of hospitality doesn’t mean that this behavior doesn’t have lasting mental effects on either staff or guests who are caught in the crossfire, as in the case of my friend.
Brands, from the corporate level on down, need to stand up for their staff, not to mention their guests, when it comes to a hostile work environment as outlined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. It’s all too easy to teach employees to diffuse a confrontational situation, but in circumstances where there is absolutely no ambiguity that workplace harassment is in play, there needs to be a zero-tolerance policy for racism and abuse, no matter the status of a guest.
In the piece, I shared an anecdote of a friend of mine that was caught in the middle of one of these interactions. In attempting to diffuse a situation while having a quiet drink, she was accosted and attacked with racial slurs, along with the staff behind the bar. As of today, there hasn’t been a sufficient response from the hotel.
Why is this interesting?
The piece caused my inbox to light up with experiences from both hospitality workers as well as leaders in the space talking about how they handle these situations. In a particularly touching conversation, my friend (who studied hospitality) said her mother didn’t want her to go into the business because she herself was in it and didn’t want her daughter to experience what she had. This was only shared after the infraction highlighted above, but I found it heartbreaking.
Another former GM shared an anecdote where a guest who had pre-paid a million dollars to reserve a Presidential suite for a year physically assaulted a member of the engineering staff. He told me that at that time the hotel was ready to cut a refund check if there wasn’t an in-person apology, which ended up happening. Another GM mentioned how he actually has to regularly have stern conversations with well-heeled guests that seem to leave their morals at home. He adopts a zero-tolerance policy for harassment and abuse, stating: “The freedom of one person ends where the freedom of another person begins” within the confines of their London walls.
The point here is it was a hot topic, and one that I think the industry has to take a clear, no-nonsense policy on. Every day, like it or not, we are rated and assessed. Misbehave in an Uber, get booted off the platform. Why should it be any different for interactions within the rest of the hospitality industry? (CJN)
Photo of the Day:
When I was a kid I pored over books with Henry Chalfant’s photos of 1980s New York graffiti-covered walls. The Bronx Museum of the Arts has a show of his work going until March that I’m excited to check out. “Widely regarded as one of the most significant documentarians of street art, Henry Chalfant has produced a voluminous body documenting the emergence of the trend since its early days in the Bronx, following its transformation into the international phenomenon it is today.” (NRB)
Really good Nature piece about online flu tracking. I had heard about Google’s big flu tracking failure and subsequent shutdown, but not the ongoing work by the CDC and others to use digital signals to predict flu trends. (NRB)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN)
PS - Noah here. I’ve started a new company and we are looking for our first engineer and designer to join the team. If you are one of those or know anyone who is great, please share. Dinner’s on me at a restaurant of your choice if you help us find someone.
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