Hyatt PR Hell a Lesson in Open Media

Hyatt Hotels is making all the wrong moves in its PR disaster that is spreading across the country.

The Hyatt Regency Boston, the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and the Hyatt Harborside fired 98 housekeepers on Aug. 31, replacing them with $8-an-hour employees from Hospitality Staffing Solutions. Many had been cleaning rooms at the chain’s hotels for more than 20 years and earned about $15 an hour.

The criticism unleashed at Hyatt Hotels has been unrelenting and merciless, fueled through social media channels.  The Consumerist, Executive Nomad, and the Harvard Business Review (Lessons From Hyatt: Simple Ways to Damage Your Brand)  have weighed in, along with national news outlets, since the story broke on Sept. 17. Facebook groups have cropped up to “Save the Hyatt 100.’ On Tuesday, Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick threatened a government boycott of the hotel chain. Taxi drivers are boycotting Hyatt and the protests have spread to Chicago.

Hyatt originally stonewalled any inquiries into its actions. Lately they have become belligerent in fighting what they consider outside intrusions into their business affairs. Public relations cannot fix a company or right wrongs. In this case, top Hyatt executives who are calling the shots are doing deep damage to the brand and probably costing the company many millions over the pittance they are saving over the ’Hyatt 100.’ 

USA TODAY: Reader to Hyatt Hotels: “Shame on you” for outsourcing housekeepers

“I understand first-hand how difficult it is to manage through the current economic challenges without compounding the disruptions the times have caused,’’ Massachussetts Governor Deval Patrick wrote. “But surely there is some way to retain the jobs for your housekeeping staffs, as other hotels have done, and to work with them to help the company meet its current challenges, rather than tossing them out unceremoniously to fend for themselves while the people they trained take their jobs at barely livable wages.’’

Hyatt faces other challenges: Union workers stage sit-in to protest cuts to Hyatt’s health insurance coverage

LaFrances Rowell, 26, is taking chemotherapy for breast cancer and is supporting three children, ages 1, 2 and 7, but it was no question that she would join 194 other unionized hotel workers and their supporters in sitting in the street Thursday at the height of rush hour in front of the Park Hyatt hotel on North Michigan Avenue. The union workers are protesting Hyatt Corp.’s attempt to negotiate cuts in their health-insurance coverage. They also fear other hotels will follow Hyatt’s lead.

Comments

  1. Brian O'Loughlin says:

    The money saved by the Hyatt by firing those employees could have been made up in many other ways, paper purchases could have saved as much annualized. But this is not about saving money it’s about “losing heads” that require benifits as in healthcare. I would trust a Hyatt housekeeping employee with 20 years with anything in my room while I was out on business, but I am not leaving anything laying around, I don’t feel like my perscriptions, computer, my briefcase, any personal property are secure using non Hyatt employees, outsourced at $8 an hour, security, safety, I don’t think so!

  2. Eric McNulty says:

    This was really bone-headed given the ways that frequent travelers are networked these days: sites like mine (Executive Nomad) and http://www.joesentme.com, groups on LinkedIn, etc. amplify the impact of missteps faster than ever.

    Perhaps the PR people weren’t consulted first. If they were and agreed to this, heads should roll. Even if they weren’t, stonewalling is mistake #1 in a communications situation like this. The company already looks hard hearted because of the personnel move; stonewalling makes them look arrogant to boot.

    This is a situation where someone at Hyatt corporate needs to do a very public firing of the senior-most person who approved this move and then reinstate the original workers permanently. Short of that, any steps they take will look like insincere back-pedalling and covering of tracks.

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