In early March I shared the story of how Marriott fired an employee in the most pathetic way possible. There’s now a further interview with the man who was fired, and I can’t help but write about this again, because after reading this I’m even more ashamed to think of how many nights per year and dollars I spend at Marriott’s hotels (now that they own Starwood).
Let me start where I finished off in the last post, with one of Marriott’s core values:
“Take care of associates and they will take care of the customers.”
I’ll let you guys tell me whether Marriott is living up to those values in the below story.
This controversy involves China, and specifically how a Marriott social media employee was fired after accidentally liking a Tweet. This goes back to the beginning of the year, when some companies found themselves in trouble with China for “disrespecting Chinese sovereignty.” One of the companies that was in trouble was Marriott. In a Mandarin language questionnaire that they sent to customers, they listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries, which China viewed as disrespecting their sovereignty.
Marriott was severely punished, as the Chinese government blocked their website and mobile app for a week. But that wasn’t the end of the controversy. Just days later, Marriott’s Twitter account accidentally liked a post that congratulated Marriott for listing Tibet as a separate country.
— Friends of Tibet (@friendsoftibet) January 9, 2018
As you’d expect, the @friendsoftibet Twitter account supports the movement for Tibet’s independence, which China is staunchly opposed to, and which Marriott was in trouble over in the first place.
But this is where things get really unfair. The Marriott employee who liked the Tweet was Roy Jones, a 49 year old working at Marriott’s customer engagement center in Omaha, Nebraska, who made $14 per hour.
The Omaha World-Herald has a longer interview with Jones, which contains some interesting tidbits (including about the weekly NFL promotions), both about the general job these social media employees have, and also regarding how horribly Marriott handled this situation. I’m writing about this again in hopes of there being some justice here.
Here’s the actual issue, which talks about how Jones accidentally liked the Tweet, and the actions that Marriott took:
He’s not sure how. Maybe his computer froze for a split second. Maybe he meant to click an “ignore” button that was right below the “like” button on his screen, he says. Maybe — and Roy really doubts this — he was skimming, failed to see the content of the message and clicked “like.”
That same day, a top official in the hotel chain’s human resources department boarded a flight to Omaha, traveling here, Roy says, to fire him.
He says he got zero training on how to handle issues that might inflame the Chinese government. He also says the offending tweet was liked for nearly a day before anyone above him noticed.
“My job isn’t to decide whether Tibet is a country,” he says. “I’m a customer care rep in Omaha, Nebraska.”
Or rather, he was. Roy Jones made it through an initial meeting with several bosses, including the top human resources official. He hoped to escape with a suspension.
Instead, he says he found out he was fired when he read it in a China Daily story. The next day, he met the top HR official in a conference room at a Fairfield Inn and Suites, a Marriott property.
The company offered him $3,000 in severance. Roy Jones says he got mad and walked out, never signing the severance deal.
This is pathetic on Marriott’s part on so many levels. There’s some more backstory on how much this job meant to him, how he had been promoted since accepting the job 18 months prior, and how he really enjoyed it and otherwise had few opportunities in life:
“This job was so important to me,” he says.
Roy Jones freely admits he’s far from saintly. He spent time in Boys Town as a teenager. He developed drug and alcohol dependency issues before graduating from high school, and eventually got three DUIs as a young adult. He bounced aimlessly from job to job.
But the Marriott job was different, he said. In his 18 months there, he had been promoted once, then given a raise, as superiors rewarded his skill and hard work.
His mother was proud to tell her friends that her son worked for a big hotel chain.
“I had to tell my dad that I got fired from this job because I pissed off China,” Roy says.
“This was such a big step for me to find a job I loved, one I took to with passion and heart,” he says. He takes off his glasses and dries his eyes with his shirt sleeve.
I’m genuinely disgusted by how Marriott has treated Jones. Here we have a customer care rep who loved his job and who accidentally liked a Tweet. He hadn’t been trained about Tibet, he doesn’t even think he liked the Tweet intentionally, and no one even noticed the Tweet for 24 hours after it happened.
I get why Marriott took this seriously, since there’s potentially a lot of money at stake. However, this is something the company should have accepted full responsibility for. They didn’t properly train their employees. They didn’t have proper “stops” in place to prevent this stuff. So instead they use an employee as a scapegoat, and don’t even have the decency to fire the guy directly, but rather he finds out through the media that he was fired.
If Marriott were to fire someone here, it should be the person responsible for training employees on these types of things.
Is that your definition of “taking care of your associates,” Marriott? Am I the only one who is so outraged by Marriott using an employee as a scapegoat in this way?
If you feel the same way I do, I recommend Tweeting @Marriott to express your displeasure (I’m sure the people manning their social media account feel the same way), or feel free to just RT my Tweet if that’s easier.
— Ben Schlappig (@OneMileataTime) March 27, 2018
(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)