Word on the Street by Kevin Carty
I am a Marriott Man. And proud of it. I love the hotels, the way it’s run, the options it provides, the generous rewards program. I Love Marriott!
So this is going to be really weird, because I am going to throw them squarely under the bus. And, not just under the bus but pull forward and backwards multiple times kind of running over with the bus.
Recently, I made a trip to Seattle to see Classic Exhibits distributors and to visit the Seattle office of Exhibits Northwest. While there, I stayed at the “tried and true” Courtyard by Marriott in Southcenter. I love this hotel! Starbucks in the lobby, HDTV flat screens in the room, balconies, and within five minutes of the two main freeways in Seattle. And always under $120 a night.
But on this past visit, something jumped out at me. I had just checked in and walked into my room. For some reason, the first thing that caught my eye was a little teepee sign on the nightstand. It read something to the effect of “Marriott cares about the environment. We will save power and water by not washing your sheets daily unless asked.” I am paraphrasing.
A good “eco-smart/green” message and step taken by a huge corporation, right? Well, that is the response the management and marketers for Marriott want us to have. But one BIG problem! When I walked into my room, the AC was already on full blast, 3 of the 4 lights were on, and the TV was showing the Marriott advertising station.
For some reason this caught my attention. I have no idea why, but it did. There is a term many of you know — Cognitive Dissonance, the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. Wikipedia describe it as “wanting to smoke a cigarette, yet knowing it is unhealthy and will kill you.”
Here’s another example. You have a neighbor. She’s a sweet lady, who’s friendly and is always working on her landscaping. Whenever someone is sick, she’s the first one there with a casserole or a pie. She even volunteers to babysit the neighborhood kids. Then one day, the cops break into her house, put her in handcuffs, and take her to jail. You discover, along with everyone else, that she has a major marijuana growing facility in her basement. She’s been supplying local dealers and kids for years with “Mamma’s Madness.” Now you have to reconcile the conflict. Is she that sweet woman who fed your cats while you were away for a Caribbean vacation or a supplier of pot to middle school students?
How about your business encounters? We all work with customers and vendors who we know, but don’t really know. They are acquaintances. Nice folks. But do you really “know” someone from those intermittent face-to-face interactions a few times a year when you see them at shows or when they come by your office. At some point, the guard comes down for a second (maybe even unbeknownst to them). You get a glimpse into their core. Most times, it’s positive. They spent two months building homes in Haiti or they are a caregiver for a relative. Other times, it’s a side that really does not fit. Something totally in congruent with who or what you thought this person and or the company represented.
We all have good customers, customers who may represent a big chunk of our business, who pad their expense accounts or lie to cover their incompetence or behave inappropriately at a show in Las Vegas. This is not the difference between two political views. They are nice to you. Often generous with their time or praise.
Suddenly, there’s the discomfort from holding two conflicting beliefs, a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors.
Am I judging someone or a company. Of course! We all have our value systems and when something conflicts with those values, we judge. That doesn’t mean we condemn them. We simply adjust our view. When I think of Marriott, do I really plan to never stay there again? No! But it does make me question them in a way that I had not before.
When dealing with people, is it as harmless? I am not so sure to be frank. It’s harder to have seen behind the “curtain” when it comes to people and then continue to give them your time, attention, or service if it conflicts with who you thought they were. It’s like being invited to a new friend’s house for dinner one night, perhaps someone you met while volunteering at the animal shelter, and while there, you see their dog, which is very skittish around the owner. You know something is amiss, but you’re not quite sure what. It changes you and how you see that person.
I am curious to hear how you handle these situations, particularly in business. Please share.
Hope you have a great and restful weekend