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Out of Our Minds
Monday, September 27, 2004 11:46 AM
Speak truth to squalor
David Weinberger on Culture

Here's exactly what you don't want to happen to you if you are the manager of the Howard Johnson hotel in Bremerton, Washington.

And if you manage the DoubleTree Club hotel in Houston, you probably didn't want this to happen to you a few years ago.

From caveat emptor to Vendor Beware!


concrete contractor - 4/1/2005 4:25:14 PM
concrete contractor
Alfred Ogle - 2/17/2005 4:07:52 AM
Greetings from Perth, Australia. I teach an undergraduate hospitality management course at Edith Cowan University (Rooms Division Management) and seek your consent to use the HOJO Horror article in my coursework. It will highlight the need for good housekeeping even if it does portray an extreme example.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks and regards.

Alfred Ogle
Simon Jones - 10/24/2004 11:23:41 PM
I am the author of that Howard Johnson Horror page, and as such I would like to point out that I created the page to illustrate to Hojo themselves just how bad that place was. However they neglected to respond or deal with my complaint in a manner that was fitting the severity of the complaint, therefore the page remained online.

I'd also like to point out that the photos are 100% genuine. Hojo didn't ask me to remove the page, in fact they seemed utterly unconcerned it was even there!

I run my own company and do all I can to make sure that unhappy customers are somehow appeased to avoid precisely this kind of situation from occurring. In my opinion Hojo bought this upon themselves.
Alex - 9/27/2004 1:03:14 PM
Followup Q&A from the two guys in Seattle (re: Doubletree) from http://www.snopes.com/business/consumer/badhotel.asp

Q: Is this for real?

Yup. Although 'Night Clerk Mike's' real first name is a slight variation on 'Mike' -- also with four letters, also starting with 'M' -- this was an absolutely authentic response to a real service incident. To people who call, the hotel in question is saying nobody named 'Mike' works there. But what kinds of nuts would invent a complaint filled with so many specifics -- and put their real names on it?

Q: Who are you guys?

We are two directors of a web design/information consultancy in the Pacific Northwest. We've left our firm's name out of this.

Q: Why did you spread it all over the Internet?

In truth, we sent it initially to the hotel; two clients/friends in downtown Houston, and Shane's mother-in-law. That was it. Yes, the last screen says: 'And we hope they send it to THEIR friends!' Call us naïve, but we figured that meant perhaps twenty or thirty people. We never dreamed it would get passed around like this. Trust us. We had NO IDEA. The website postings, including the one at urban legend clearinghouse snopes.com, was done by others without our permission or approval.

Q: Can I have a copy of the presentation?

Uh, no. Given how far it's gone, we've decided not to facilitate any further distribution of the show, in hard copies or electronically. We think we've made our point.

Q: Can I use the presentation in training classes?

We've had numerous requests to save and show the presentation to business school students, hotel and airline trainees, etc. as an example of customer relations gone horribly wrong. OK, but we have two requirements: please go into the file and alter, 'X' out, or delete the names of the Doubletree Club managers that appear on the first page... and our e-mail address, which appears on the last page. We are beginning to think that even Night Clerk Mike and his bosses may have suffered enough -- and don't deserve to be forever synonymous with bad service. Also, we're already getting more email than we can handle gracefully. Thanks.

Q: How far has it gone?

Well, we've heard from five continents. Most hospitality professionals seem amused and sympathetic (though one former hotel manager suggested we get psychological counseling). We have had a couple of stern lectures from fellow road warriors/'civilians', though, who explain how out of line we were to expect our 'guaranteed' rooms held for us. About 2 percent of correspondents call us jerks and worse.

Q: What has the hotel done?

Both a Hilton brand manager and the GM of the Doubletree Club Houston have called to apologize. They are very aware, at both levels, that the PowerPoint has by now been seen by thousands. The Doubletree Club apparently is receiving enough phone inquiries to interfere with business (so don't call). They are saying there's no 'Mike,' but confirming that the incident occurred and that they're changing training policies. Doubletree's brand director has sent us a list of actions taken at both the hotel and corporate levels to improve employee training and overbooking policies.

Q: Are you seeking publicity?

Quite the opposite. We've turned down interview requests from Forbes and The Wall Street Journal. The WSJ ran a short blurb December 14 without our cooperation and based on second-hand information; it contains several inaccuracies. Canada's National Post newspaper ran a long piece December 16 based solely on information in this 'canned' email, not on direct contact. We hope Hilton Corporate will see that we're more focused on improving service culture than doing damage in public. We do think this would make an interesting viral marketing case study, but that's further down the road. We're only communicating with people who've taken the time to contact us.

Q: Or goodies?

No. A couple of competing chains have offered us gift certificates, which is nice of them, but we've politely refused. Without our asking, Hilton's Director of Guest Assistance sent us each certificates for two free room nights at any Doubletree. Given that we did not set out to pry free stuff out of the company, we're sending 'em back.

Earlier, when the Doubletree Club GM asked what we wanted in the way of compensation for our negative experience, we agreed that a donation to Houston's Toys for Tots campaign in the hotel's name would be nice instead. The hotel, Doubletree corporate HQ and Hilton Guest Services are each making sizable contributions. With so many people now apparently getting copies of the show, I'd like to try to extend that impulse. If you got a laugh out of it, perhaps you could kick the price of a Doubletree Hotel club sandwich toward the holiday charity of your choice in the name of Night Clerk Mike. Maybe even notify the Doubletree Club in Houston that you've done so. Their address is 2828 Southwest Freeway, Houston TX 77098. If you forwarded the PowerPoint to friends, we'd be grateful if you could chase it with this follow-up request.

Q: So... what's it all mean?

Hopefully, that while $#!@& happens, service matters -- and hand-to-hand email has power. We'd urge you not to draw conclusions about the whole Doubletree brand on the basis of our little complaint. Every hospitality brand has good properties and awful ones. (Thanks for so many great personal horror stories, by the way.) But we do urge travelers to be bold when they get the short end of the stick. Perhaps, now that 'Yours Is a Very Bad Hotel' has attracted attention in corporate offices of many hospitality providers, managers and customers alike will be a little more aware of the power customers wield.
Kevin - 9/27/2004 12:54:39 PM
Oh how the web and blogs have changed the world of complaints. Not long ago, these people would have written a letter to the hotels' management, gotten a formulaic note in response (or not) and the matter would have disappeared into the ether. Companies now ignore their customers' complaints at their own risk.


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