The Problem isn’t with Hilton

Well. I’ve just had a time with the Hilton Hotels management. Monday night, we stayed at a Hampton Inn & Suites in Westlake, Ohio. Tuesday morning, in the breakfast nook, the television showed Fox News. “Next up,” said the anchor, “we’ll discuss sanctuary cities and how they lure illegals to their deaths.” This put me off my bagel. I asked the desk manager to change the channel, and without a blink, he said he couldn’t. He could not. It is a corporate rule that all Hilton hotels and subsidiaries must show Fox news in the breakfast nook. James and I both heard this. We stared at him. He puffed a smile.

Hilton Hotels has approximately 5000 locations worldwide. Their subsidiaries include such giants as Hampton Inn & Suites, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites, and Doubletree. According to their website, they served 140 million customers in 2015. Also according to their website, they have a Global Headquarters phone number. This morning, I called it. 

Actually, first I called the Hilton in Des Moines. I asked if they could confirm the Fox policy, and they said they knew nothing about it. They suggested I phone the global headquarters—and when I did that, the global receptionist passed me up to the head of guest services. I asked again for the Fox policy confirmation, and she said she had no idea what I was talking about. She’d always assumed television choice was up to the individual hotel. She asked who had given me this information; I gave her my source. She put me on hold. And when somebody next tended to me, it was the desk manager in Westlake, Ohio.

So I said, “Oh yes! Remember me? I asked you to change the channel in the breakfast nook.”

The manager said, “Sure!”

I said, “You told me you couldn’t change the channel because of corporate policy. Do you remember?”

He said, “Oh. No, that actually wasn’t me. That was Dustin. My name is Steven.” (Steven had an unusually high voice—just like Dustin.) I said that was fine, and that I’d like him to talk to me about corporate policy. And he said, “Well, I think there’s been some miscommunication about that. Because we do have standards about showing news, but it doesn’t have to be Fox news.”

So I said, “If I asked you to change the channel in the breakfast nook, you would?”

He said, “Of course!”

I said, “And if I told my friends they could ask you to change the channel, you’d do that too?”

He said, “Of course! We serve our customers!” I thanked him for his assistance, and I hung up.

So. I don’t know what all is going on here. But my best guess is that Hilton does not have a Fox-only policy, and that Steven/Dustin of Westlake, Ohio, does. (Or did—depending on the potency of my cross voice.) What I can take from this experience is as follows: 1. When taking action regarding a corporation, always practice due diligence. Before I called global headquarters, I had an entirely different post that was set to call for a boycott of all Hilton hotels. 2. Let the corporation know you are practicing due diligence. If they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, they’ll appreciate the check. And if someone in the corporation is doing something else, the corporation might stop them for you. I actually believe the management in Westlake will think twice before lying again about Fox. 3. Challenge hotel proprietors about the news they show. In 2016, an estimated 48 million Americans took a road trip during last year’s Thanksgiving weekend alone. Day trippers notwithstanding, that’s a lot of people bellied up to the waffle station, in front of what could potentially be Fox News. You have the right to ask hotels to change the channel—and if they refuse, they may well be violating national policy (or at least the spirit of their training).

During your request, you must keep things respectful. That’s basic human decency. It also helps your attempt to get something from the management. In fact, if you can, compliment the service before you make your complaint. But then be prepared to meet any refusal with both a promise not to re-patronize the establishment and an assurance that you will urge the same from your friends. By that I mean especially your social media friends. Businesses both love and fear us.

And speaking of that: I just found a 2015 TripAdvisor review of a S.C. Hilton that defaulted all of its room televisions to Fox News. There it was, whenever a customer turned on the tube. “What happened,” said the review, “to the old default Weather Channel?” I’ll tell you what’s happened. We’re at a point, dearies, when people will give us a make-believe storm before they show us a real one. And it’s increasingly become our job to hoist our travel-brollies, wade our way through it, and say, “Hey. That isn’t rain. It’s bullshit.”

(Originally posted July 26, 2017)

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