Marriott Hotel Manager Argues Customer Is Not Always Right, But Should We Excuse Poor Service?

Where is the line between accountability and kindness? What if “kindness” was used as a convenient and all-encompassing tool to evade responsibility for providing an essential service?

When “kindness” becomes an excuse for poor service in hotels

My wife says I’m a nice person who makes a mistake – I hear everyone (hence the often toxic comment section Live and let’s flyI am very generous in giving my time to others. She may have been right, although this is a debatable character flaw. It’s still the same question I want to ask in this story.

Farouk Rajab, general manager of the Providence Marriott Downtown in Rhode Island, told The Wall Street Journal:

“We have always been pleasing people in the hospitality industry. The customer has always been right. Well, they are not.”

Some basic information:

Mr. Rajab, whose staff was overwhelmed by complaints about front desk calls not being answered quickly enough and complimentary off-brand shampoo, put up signs at the hotel entrance and in the restaurant area, informing customers that they are facing staff and asking them to be kind and patient.

First, I believe that being kind and patient is simply a great way to live a healthier and more enjoyable life. Second, being harsh and impatient generally doesn’t solve the problem. Even if he gets what you want a little faster, it raises your blood pressure and it’s just disgusting to treat another human being.

What worries me, however, is that hotels (and restaurants) are now using the “be nice” card as a clown to evade accountability. Sure, we can all vote with our wallets…but that’s for work in the future.

What about when you come into a hotel and no one answers the phone? Or the waitress takes 45 minutes to take your breakfast order and gets downed because the kitchen staff is too limited? Or is your room not clean? What if you ask for a clean towel and are told it is not available? Or you just want to check out but there are 10 people in line in front of you and only one employee working.

(These are all common occurrences in 2021)

Rajab says the customer is not always right. Well, in this case, the hotel is definitely wrong. It’s no wonder workers aren’t paid competitively (and the CEO of Marriott recently complained about it) or when guests ask to subsidize employee wages with tips. Whatever the root cause, the supply of labor is tight at the moment, and hotels would do better to be prepared for inflation if they have a distinction that goes beyond the short-term bean count.


I think I’ve gotten to the point where I find my eyes in hotels and restaurants asking people to be kind when they can’t provide good service. This does not excuse us from being kind. But we must politely and politely hold the hotels to account for the poor service. Don’t let anyone absolve themselves of accountability by telling you that you are not nice.

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