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24 Jun '13

It is policy

Posted by T.J. Addington in policies
Last week I stayed at the Hilton Mexico City Reforma (yes they deserve to be named in this blog and I have kindly forwarded a copy on to them). On my first morning I was sitting with a colleague in the lobby with my eyes closed as we waited for our friends to arrive for the day. All of a sudden I was prodded by a security guard who proceeded to lecture me in Spanish for some unknown infraction. It turned out I was not allowed to “sleep” in the lobby which I was not in fact doing. Just because one’s eyes are closed does not necessarily constitute sleeping. My colleague will attest there was no requisite snoring.


Once I understood what he was adamant about I went to the front desk to share my unhappiness regarding my treatment.  The answer was, “It is policy sir.” I asked for the front desk manager, told her what happened and was told, “It is policy sir.” She knew that I wanted to talk to the hotel General Manager but he was unavailable and we left for the day.


Inexplicably, the General Manager did not attempt to leave a message for me although he had been told of the situation so I called him later that afternoon to dialogue with him about my treatment as a guest at his hotel. “Sorry sir, it is policy” he said. “We have had people from the street come and sleep on our chairs so we have this policy. It is unfortunate but it is our policy.”


I suggested to him that it would be fairly evident that I was not a homeless individual from the streets of his capital – I was wearing professional clothes including a white dress shirt, had a camera and was sitting with a colleague but that seemed to make no difference. After all, he said he had not met me personally so he could not make a judgment on that. Policy is policy. And this is the hospitality industry and I was paying to stay in his hotel. 

I asked him why I should consider staying in his hotel again for which he had no answer nor seemed the least bit concerned: So much for “hospitality.”  Incidentally, I have Diamond Status with Hilton which seemed to make no difference in any of the three conversations.


Now I stay in a lot of hotels around the world each year and this has never happened to me although I have had many adventures in lesser hotels – which is to be expected. When I shared this with the manager he just said, “I am sorry, but that is our policy.”


It got me thinking about policies. It is easy to write policies but harder to write policies that get the right outcome. In this case, in an attempt to stop street people from sleeping in their lobby the hotel developed a policy that disenfranchised their own guests. They were also evidently unable to differentiate between a street person and a hotel guest. How dumb is that? Yet we do the same thing in organizations all the time, especially when we write policies to solve problems that could and should be solved in other and better ways.


Following his lead, I will never stay at his hotel again. It is my new policy! I learned from the best. What policies do you have that are counterproductive to what you are trying to accomplish?