One Bad Apple

Have you ever left something in your hotel room?  I have.  Did you get it back?  I did.  Sorry to say the same is NOT true for one of my long time friends.

She left her beloved iPhone charging on the desk of the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, CA when she checked out.  No sooner did she arrive at her breakfast meeting when she realized her oversight and called the hotel to retrieve it.

Fairmont Hotels are a luxury brand with a stellar reputation for delivering a superb customer experience which makes this story all the more shocking.

From the first call to the last (there were many) the hotel Manager firmly insisted she had lost it “somewhere else” and never put any obvious effort into locating her phone even though his theory did not account for the charger which was also missing.

Her request that he specifically ask the housekeeping staff who were assigned to clean the room she vacated was met with indignation; “Are you saying one of OUR staff took it?  That simply would not happen.”

When she stopped in to an Apple store, they told her they could locate it using the phone’s GPS.  On the screen, it showed the phone was still in the hotel.  The Manager’s response, “It’s a big building.”

A later check of the GPS position gave the address of an apartment building in an unsavory part of town.  When the Manager was provided with this information and the suggestion that he have Human Resources check staff files of those with access to the room for this address, he again insisted she had lost the phone “somewhere else” and that was how it ended up at the address she gave.

The saga finally ends with the SIM card being removed so the GPS tracking terminates, my friend buying a new iPhone – over $500 out of pocket and the Fairmont San Jose Manager stating they have “closed their file”.

It has always been my policy to not “name names” when using a business’ shortcomings as a learning opportunity for my blog readers but as you can see, I made an exception for the Fairmont San Jose.  Why?  Because I believe it’s important to weed out “bad apples” before they poison your team, your company and your reputation.

Who’s the bad apple here? Certainly whoever decided to keep the iPhone rather than turn it in to “lost and found”.  But also the Manager who continues to put his head in the sand and not deal with the reality of the situation.  His failure to act makes it even more likely the scenario will repeat.

No one likes to think they have placed trust unwisely.  Managers are naturally reluctant to confront employees without solid proof of wrongdoing.

However, there are graceful ways to handle the situation. Immediately going  in person to each of the cleaners for that block of rooms and stating “I realize you haven’t had a chance to get back to lost and found yet, I have the customer calling so you can just give the item to me and I’ll see that it gets returned”.  In this way, no accusation is made.  Done face to face, only the most seasoned liar and thief would not turn over the missing item.

What is happening in YOUR organization?  With YOUR team?  Don’t let one bad apple ruin the hard work of the rest of the group.   No business can afford the long term consequences of inaction.


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7 Responses to “One Bad Apple”

  1. Gayle O'Donnell Says:

    In this case you should name the name and I’m glad you did. This manager was almost a worse apple than the thief for treating the guest with such disrespect. I hope your friend is taking this up with the GM or someone at Fairmont headquarters!

  2. The Fairmont San Jose Says:

    We were terribly sorry to learn that your iPhone has been misplaced. As you mention Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has built an enviable reputation on delivering exceptional guest service.

    According to our records, a manager was immediately dispatched to the guest room upon receipt of your call and unfortunately the missing property was not found in the room. Our management logs further note that another manager was sent to the room that same day to again search for the phone.

    We apologize that you were not satisfied with the actions of our management team. We strive to make every guest interaction positive. We hope to have the opportunity to welcome you back to the Fairmont San Jose in the very near future.

  3. sunnykobecook Says:

    In reply to the Fairmont’s white wash of the situation, it is not MY phone which was stolen by a staff member, but the lack of attention to the details of the post are not unlike the lack of attention the stolen phone received.

    All attempts to reply directly to the Fairmont San Jose directly are blocked by their email spam filter. Guess they really don’t want to be bothered.

  4. Jeff Anderson Says:

    How unfortunate for the Fairmont San Jose. Clearly management at this particular property choose their own business decisions and don’t care (or understand) the fact that the small amount of money to replace the phone has, and will balloon into several thousand dollars of lost business.

    • sunnykobecook Says:

      Even if they didn’t replace the phone, their obvious blinders to a problem within their organization is stunning, especially in today’s economy when customers are less forgiving. I know if it had happened at my business, when the GPS showed it was still in the building, I would have made it my MISSION to find it.

  5. Glenn Leach Says:

    To dispel any notion that you are using your blog to bully this hotel into giving your friend a free phone, let me testify as to how you ran your business and became known far and wide as the “Nordstroms of Mattresses”. Working in one of your stores, I had a customer purchase a fairly inexpensive headboard that was supposedly in stock in the warehouse. He would come back the next day to pick up, and when he did, the headboard hadn’t arrived. I apologize and called the warehouse to find out what the problem was. They assured me that it was indeed in stock and would be there the next day for sure. Again, the customer came back and it was Not there again.

    This was simply unacceptable service and I knew I needed to do something for this customer. After calling the warehouse again and having someone “lay hands” on the headboard, I gave the customer a choice: We would either deliver and set up the headboard at no charge the next day, or if he would prefer he could drive to the warehouse himself and pick up the headboard and I would refund his purchase price.

    He chose to go get the headboard and was given a full refund for his trouble. Not only did I not “get in trouble” for this decision, you personally praised me at the next sales meeting for taking care of this customer. That was the culture of the business you ran. I did not have to ask permission to do the right thing, I was simply expected to do the right thing for every customer, even if it cost us money. The result of this culture was a very profitable business with thousands of happy customers.

    I gotta think that this hotel manager would not be working for you right now if you were the owner – and your friend would have long ago been taken care of without having to make multiple calls or escalating to higher ups. Do the right thing for enough people and your business will thrive. Yeah, you’ll get taken advantage of sometimes, but doing what’s right for people is the only way you’ll have a chance at succeeding.

    • sunnykobecook Says:

      Glenn, Thank you for the endorsement and you are right, I am not using my blog to bully the hotel – in fact, my friend does not even know I wrote it. I was just so appalled by the situation and saw the “teachable moment” in it so I shared it. The email responses I have gotten are amazing – I’ve obviously touched a nerve with the business readers I have. This example will definitely make it into my speaking material also!


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