Dear Marriott: Does The Way You Fired This Employee Reflect Your Core Values?

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.

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.

Bottom line

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.

(Tip of the hat to View from the Wing)

Comments

  1. Kissing Chinese ass. That’s what Americans do.

    And that bugger will be expected to be loyal to the system that failed him. That sounds like living in north Korea.

  2. While you may have moral outrage, they were legally justified in firing him. They didn’t even have to tell him the reason.

  3. as a Taiwanese who grew up in China, the answer is sadly yes. In China, Marriot’s core value is money. Any corporation that wishes to survive here has to give up their own core values. It is either give in or give up. For those who give in, it is always about pleasing the master Chinese government. For Marriot, it is simple: one job lost, but so many earned in China. Sad times we live in.

  4. As Americans, we’re generally allowed to be ignorant of the world around us. For this particular position, you can’t be. It’s an easy reaction to want to pass this off as an untrained employee, but you don’t see any foreign multinational companies expressing support for Native American independence, or South Ossetiqn rebels.

    Good for Marriott for enforcing a basic level of competence for the job.

  5. What country is debit from? Guarantee it is a weak pathetic one that hides their cowardice behind America.

  6. I was a Marriott employee for almost 20 years. There used to be a time when it was the BEST hotel company to work for. I always felt that I was valued as an Associate, which is what Marriott calls employee’s. I worked my way up from Front Desk and through several departments into sales. I always felt there was nothing I couldn’t do when working there. But things started changing. When Bill Marriott started giving up more and more responsibility to Arne Sorenson Associates became less and less important. Arne is a finance guy and didn’t even make his way up through hotels. Things became more about the bottom line, and how much to return to Wall Street. The core values that had existed for 75 years “Take care of your people, they will take care of the customer and the customer will return” became lip service.
    I finally left to work for Hilton and now IHG. I wouldn’t go back to Marriott. And talking to my former co-workers, there is a lot of dissatisfaction as benefits are cut, sales bonus are capped, nearly impossible to get employee rate discounts.
    So this doesn’t surprise me at all. One of the founding values by JW was “If someone is not good at the job they were hired to do, don’t give up on them. Find something they’re good at and encourage them. ” But it seems that this too has fallen to the wayside.

  7. Big bully China is real tough beating up on a recovering addict in Omaha for disrespecting Chinese sovereignty but seems less emboldened to confront the nuclear powered carrier battle group rolling back and forth through the South China sea day after day. I guess defying their claim of sovereignty with lots of missiles and stealth fighters helps.

  8. ‪@Marriott you started this with your own survey!‬
    ‪ ‬
    ‪So some guy who wasn’t trained on this and makes a mistake that he wasn’t even aware of DO NOT deserved to lose his job and it is awful that Marriott fired Roy Jones, especially since Marriott(the company) listed Tibet as a separate country in a customer survey that Roy Jones(the fired employee) DID NOT design.‬

  9. @Bob You don’t see any Japanese person getting infuriorated over somebody listing PR China as an independent country. Then, Japan actually owned (albeit in a questionable way) Continental China briefly. PR China haven’t owned Taiwan island at all.

  10. @MarriottRewards Did you fired all the associates involved who listed Tibet as a separate country in a customer survey??? Roy Jones(the fired employee) DID NOT design that.

  11. “Good for Marriott for enforcing a basic level of competence for the job.” Valid opinion, if Marriott had actually assured themselves and him that he was fully capable of performing the job they expected of him. They did not, so Marriott’s management is being irrational (among other things) in firing him.

  12. More of these comments might be worth considering if they were written with correct spelling, punctuation and syntax.

  13. @Jay So people in Germany should be extremely annoyed and offended that most countries in Europe today are listed as independent countries? Shame on you for your nazi comment.

    Regardless, an undisputable fact is that Tibet (Xizang province) is in fact a province of PRC. So listing it as a country is a serious mistake no matter how you look at it. If you have problem with this simple fact, time to to back to school.

  14. @Jay

    This is about Tibet, not Taiwan. In case you weren’t aware, they are not the same place.

    Thank you for proving my point that lacking basic knowledge of the world we live in is something many Americans are able to get away with.

  15. The same goes with Hong Kong and Macau. They are undisputably part of PRC and ruled by PRC. Only Taiwan is disputable. But as you can see, PRC government does get mad if you list Taiwan as a country. And there will be consequences.

  16. I wonder how would ppl react if Marriott lists Hawaii or Catalonia as a separate country? Would you call the US or Spain bully should the relevant govt agency punishes Marriott?
    really amazed by the level of double standard and hypocrisy here….

  17. My wife used to work for marriott. I have several friends that still do. Yes, this action completely reflects their values.

  18. When superiors make up their mind, usually, it cannot be changed. However, I wonder if he could have done better than storm out?

    I was going to convert from a Hilton Honors customer to Marriott have decided not to, at least for 2018.

  19. @John

    “Regardless, an undisputable fact is that Tibet (Xizang province) is in fact a province of PRC”

    Undisputed by who? Just because you want to fall in line with governments claims doesn’t mean the native people want to fall in line with it. According to your logic, if you question anything governments say, you need to go back for re-education. F@ck me, this is the sad world we live in. Good boy, Johnny. Big Brother is very proud of you today.

  20. DNTA, yes, I would think the Spanish or American government was behaving inappropriately if it punished a private company for listing Catalonia or Hawaii as a separate country. Though the better analogy is probably something like Puerto Rico, which I’m willing to bet is quite frequently listed as a separate country in informal contexts like this one.

  21. Taking charge of a multi billion dollar company’s social media account requires a basic skillset, and that man clearly wasn’t capable of doing the job. Firing him is totally legit. Well done.

  22. This man’s actions, whether by honest mistake or not cost Marriott money. That’s a fireable offense. The PR of it doesn’t look good but people must be held accountable for their actions. That’s a huge issue with society in the social media age. So many people think they can say or do things and not be held accountable because they are live streaming or recording an incident. We as individuals are all accountable for our actions and in this case Mr. Jones is being held accountable by his ex-employer.

  23. Two distinct issues:

    1. Ought Tibet to be listed as a province of China or a separate country? This is the type of question that is profoundly unsuited to discussion in this type of forum. I don’t believe that Ben is taking a position on this question.

    2. If a mistake was made, should the employee in question have been fired? Assuming that the report that the employees did not receive specific guidance on this issue, Ben is stating (and I imagine most people agree) that this should not have been a firing offense. Without direct instructions on the issue, I don’t think it’s reasonable for an employee to (at least at this level) to negotiate this kind of international political nuance.

    I’d go further and say that the employee should not have been disciplined. At the level at which he was working, it’s probably correct to “like” any tweet that congratulates Marriot. If Marriot has supervisors whose job it is to promulgate and supervise policy at this level, that’s where the discipline belongs. Otherwise, this would be an opportunity to educate their social media employees on Marriot’s policy.

    Unfortunately, external demands may have been placed on them, and a corporate body like Marriot will look at the bottom line rather than a just outcome for an individual employee.

  24. Ok, you’re right. Are you upset enough to vote with your wallet? A good portion of this travel world revolves around SPG and leveraging those points for various things.

  25. Lickspittle, brown-nosers and lapdogs dancing to Beijing’s tune. Forgive the guy his honest mistake and tell China to go to hell. China has demonstrated just how much of a paper tiger it is over the Trump trade war….running scared while shrieking like schoolgirls. Typical bully behaviour but Marriott falls over itself desperate to appease. Pathetic.

  26. China is different story. Lets be realistic. If Marriot wants to continue to do business in China, better not to fight the country… I remember at that time, most Chinese people and their government were outraged by the “like”, they felt like they were humiliated, and they demand that someone had to “responsible” for it, mistake or not.

    Let’s face it, if Marriot is forced to stop its operration in China, perhaps thousands of people will lose their job in China.

  27. The more I read your posts the more divorced from reality you seem to me. You’re upset that Marriot fired him? How about the fact a 49 year old is making $14 an hour clicking on social media posts.

  28. Marriott needs to kowtow to China to make amends and sadly that involves sacking this employee. They probably thought it’s not worth losing business in China than receiving negative press from this termination.

  29. Simple question. The man has to go. If not, China will ban Marriott even longer, making Marriott to fire not one but hundreds Marriott employee in China and even US.

  30. With the greatest of respect, I had these thoughts when the story first broke, and I don’t recall you being awfully sympathetic to the employee in that original post. I remember thinking how disappointing that was. Now, weeks after the incident when people have forgotten it, you express your anger with Marriott. Better late than never I guess.

  31. Unfortunately, it seems like OMAAT, Viewfromthewing, and other blogs may have contributed in some way to Jones’ firing by constantly posting about the NFL promotion that ended up keeping Marriott’s social media staff flooded with tweets.

    From the Omaha World Herald, Jones is quoted as saying:
    “We would be underwater for days or weeks on end….It was like a Hydra. You take out 300 of those NFL promotion tweets, and the next day you come in and there are 3,000 more.”

    While it’s understandable that travel blogs want to post about the latest promotions, reader comments in those posts about using fake Twitter accounts to rake in the 1000 points each week should have been removed. Now we know how bad the situation with the bot accounts was, there was no need to publicize fraudulent behavior.

  32. Did they actually fire him?
    If they and he were smart, they would’ve made this ordeal public (to show China just how amazingly awesome and powerful and cool it is) but changed nothing.

    File that under the utilitarian theory of punishment. It looks like he was punished to the world and that’s good enough because in our hearts we know that LIKING A TRULY HARMLESS FUCKING TWEET DOES NOT DESERVE BEING FIRED.

    That is all.

  33. ‘“I had to tell my dad that I got fired from this job because I pissed off China,” Roy says.’

    Sorry for laughing but that’s a great quote.

  34. Was the person or team responsible for the questionnaire that listed Tibet fired? Was the director who ordered that questionnaire fired? The social media people are using a 3rd party software to sort through thousands of tweets a day. They are trained to respond or ‘like’ everything about Marriott. He did his job. The tweet included a nice picture of Marriott employees and NYC and text without any curses or negative information. The execs that bowed to the pressure of Marriott should have personally went to tell this guy he had to be fired because they were more worried about the Chinese business. Sending the corporate HR guy and the 3k severance offer is a nice gesture, but not enough.

    I am very sorry for this man, and I hope he finds a new job soon.

  35. Ignorant people like Bobby Sands is a true problem America is facing. So, dear Bobby, when you travel to Tibet, do you need a Chinese visa issued by PRC government or do you need a Tibetan visa issued bt Dalai Lama? Does this thing called Tibetan visa even exist?

    Hong Kong and Macau are different when it comes to visa because they are S.A.R. of the PRC due to historical reasons. So you can call them regions but not countries.

    You are welcome for junior hig level basic knowledge.

  36. in the failed empire, the bottom line was always the most impt thing. money was everything. hustling, huckstering, imperialism. That was america. that was american corporations. No one with functional frontal lobes should be surprised by this “firing” in an employment at whim/will farce “country”

  37. The image of the Marriott you’ve used in this posting is of the Marriott in Yerevan, Armenia. It has nothing to do with China. Could you please modify the image to show a Marriott elsewhere?

  38. @John

    “Ignorant people like Bobby Sands is a true problem America is facing.”

    Talk about ignorance. Who said I was from America? Oh, right, your belly button that you think the world revolves around is telling you that. Keep tuning into your nightly newspeak. Jog on son.

  39. Well all depends, if the employee did not know the politics between China and Tibet then Marriott is wrong for firing him. But if the Employee knew and decided to ignore it then he was trying to get Marriott in Trouble because he represents Marriott in a way.

  40. 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.

    That’s what Donald did to Rex…. LOL

  41. I’d said this before and I’d say it again.

    Should he liked an anti-semitic tweet, he would be fired at once.

    Marriott should better train their PR people for sure.

  42. Dear Marriott: Did it reflect your core values the way this employee was fired?

    or

    Dear Marriott: Does the firing of this employee reflect on your core values?

    #grammar

  43. Can’t believe he was fired with such little cause, would clearly be a constructive dismissal case in most places that have any protections whatsoever for employees.

  44. Don’t say Marriott is responsible for no training about this. This is common sense. He should be aware of this common sense that Tibet is part of China. If he does not know this common sense, that means he has problem with his education and he is not qualified. It’s fair to fire in this case.

  45. Well written… I completely agree that this is an issue of the company not having the correct training in place. Did they fire the person that listed the three areas separately on the survey?

  46. Not surprised that Marriott acts cowardly when it comes to China and kowtows to China’s demands. As another example, Marriott has been forcing all properties in Taiwan to use simplified Chinese brochures when Taiwan’s official national written language is the traditional character!

  47. Ben,
    He settled for $3k but could have had a massive lawsuit against Marriott. Marriott made the mistake. Did they advise all employees not to click a like?

    China overtook Tibet, you could say they annexed it. Tibet was free and independent then China sent in their soldiers and took over in the 1950’s. DL fled to Northern India.

    Meanwhile, Ben do you plan to start an online action in support to get Marriott to do the right thing.

    I also believe if Bill Marriott was still running the company, things would have been done very differently. But that was that and no longer.

  48. If Marriott sacking this employee is a reflection on their values, and you are “ashamed” of how much money you spend with them, why do you visit China. Stay away.

  49. If you truly care then cut up your cards and don’t do business with them. We found it impossible to do business in China after we found out after easy research that they were using political prisoner’s vital organs for transplants. One Dr. bragged to us that he did up to six a day and was “more than a millionaire”. At first we thought it was drunken banter until we made a few phone calls. They did nothing to hide the fact at all. Similar cold calls were on youtube but now have been taken down.

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