Issue: Marriott was racist.
Asked Compensation: An authentic apology and Marriott points for ONLY the room I stayed in for the 2 days I was there- shouldn’t be made to feel like a second class citizen and get the pleasure of offering cash to make that happen.
On February 13th, 2014, I was staying at the Walnut Creek Marriott on a business trip (Round Robin held by the College Preparatory School) when Sharon Hopkins (director from University Preparatory in Detroit, her two students, myself (all African Americans) and Elyse Conkin (who is white), all enter the elevator to head to a debate round. In the elevator is a hotel employee named Nolette, who asks what floor we’re going to, and hit’s the button. Once the doors close, the employee turns her back on the four blacks in the elevator and sparks a very friendly conversation with the only white woman in the elevator, until the employee gets out of the elevator. The conversation was so friendly but the situation was so awkward I had to ask Elyse if they’d ever even met, to which she says no. Everyone in the elevator noted the racism. It was racist, but I deal with racism every day. So I just planned on letting it slide (like most things).
The next day, as we’re planning on leaving the hotel (we didn’t clear and needed to get across the bay to check 75 kids into a hotel in Berkeley, which is close enough to walk and I never need buses (which is the only reason we didn’t stay in a Marriott- our team doesn’t even ask where they’re staying- just “courtyard, res inn or spring hill). As I’m about to head downstairs to start a debate I was to be judging in, I walk by Nolette who asks me “how my stay has been?” I feel this gives me the opportunity to tell her what she did, to which she apologized (but not a “I’m sorry” but an “I’m sorry you feel that way”- which is only definitionally an apology, but not an admission of wrong doing- which in this instance is critical- because her claim just says “sorry you saw that as racist” which denies that it was racist, as opposed to “sorry I did this racist thing” which acknowledges fault in the speaker. I responded in the exact way I described above- I felt the apology was hallow and forced, since it seemed she had a superior standing next to her (who turned out to be one of the hotel managers- Frank). As I go to walk off, he stops me and says he wants to talk- so I stop right there and begin talking (remember- we’re in the lobby when he approached me AND I had a round I needed to judge, so I was headed to do that so I could leave the hotel and check kids in another hotel 25 miles away). He also realizes this could be an uncomfortable conversation in the lobby, so he wants to go to his office. I tell him I don’t have time to go to the office, I have things I need to do for my job, and why couldn’t we finish the conversation here, as I needed to be out of the hotel by 1pm. He repeats the desire to have it in private, I repeat to him I have an job I need to do, so I can’t and that I’ll be leaving by 1p. He then talks to the woman running the tournament to set up a meeting time to discuss all these issues and I was invited to attend this 1:30pm meeting (seems like rather coincidence the meeting was set at a time I needed to be somewhere else- or it got the intent it wanted- a meeting without me at it). I have no idea what happened in that meeting, or even if there was a meeting- I was en route to Berkeley. The situation still bothered me, but a job is a job…(this made it an open issue b/c my complaint and then they closed it because I “chose” not to meet with them- which is Hobson’s choice- stay and have this converation and possibly be at risk for 75 kids in a city I wasn’t in yet OR walk away from a conversation I needed to have with the hotel, but it seemed the hotel manager set a time he knew I couldn’t meet.
…a week later I decide to call Marriott to talk about this issue, and to get some modicum of compensation for the miserable experience. I speak with people at customer care, who tell me I need to speak to the hotel directly (the people that made me feel like a second class citizen) to explain my complaints and ask them for compensation (not quite like making a rape victim relive her experiences, but traumatic nonetheless- if you’d like the studies feel free to ask me- just don’t feel like providing cited references in this). I told them they could have the hotel call and/or email me and we can correspond that way. Customer care says they’ll have someone call or leave an email….
…a few weeks pass and Customer Care calls for a follow up, to see what the resolution had been. When I informed them I had not been contacted at all, they told me someone called. I have a voice mail as well as caller id- the only way they called is 1) they didn’t use a business line, and 2) they didn’t leave messages, which would not be particularly professional. They tell me they will follow up with the hotel and have them send me an email. They do. Quicky. Holice Travis emailed me in under 24 hours. But his email was problematic: it never acknowledged any fault and treated the experience as if I perceived something that didn’t happen (remember- there were witnesses). Once he sent the email- it became a closed issue again. This email comes for me at a time where I have zero free time to do anything- we have state and national qualifers for speech and debate, practices everyday as well as this is an evaluation year for me, which means more things that take more time. Because of this, I didn’t get a chance to respond to his email until April 17…
…on April 17th however, I did respond to the email, and told him that these things DID happen to me, despite his claim that “there has never been any discriminatory behavior exhibited from any member of our staff” and that despite “bias and discrimination is not who she is” her treatment of ME in the elevator would be true of that, and how it’s possible that, as her supervisor, she might be different around him than around 4 blacks she doesn’t know (or obviously feel she doesn’t need to know). He also felt that I “could have met with them but didn’t”- which assumes I don’t have kids in another hotel in another city- the manager in his claims to both the general manager and the corporate office seems to leave off the claim I openly made that I needed to be out of the hotel by 1pm…in the letter all I ask for is compensation for the room I stayed in- and not even the money back. We stayed in 3 rooms and I only wanted the points for the room I stayed in for the 2 nights…
…On April 30, I decide to call Marriott to find out why there has been no response and that the case has been CLOSED since March 8th, when Mr. Travis sent the email that essentially called me a liar and said if I wanted to deal with it I should have come to the meeting they held (at 1:30p, specifically after being told I needed to be out of the hotel at 1p). Customer care tells me there’s not a lot they can do so they transfer me to Mr. Marriott’s Office of Customer Affairs, where I explain the situation- she asks me 3 questions: 1) Did Nolette apologize? 2) Did they offer you a meeting? 3) Did the hotel manager email you about it?
You don’t have to have a 178 on the LSAT or a 36R on the MCAT to see the writing on this wall.
I explain to her this is frustrating because I have a real complaint of racism, and you’re literally going over a checklist to see if they met procedure- which will allow them to be racists as long as they followed the procedure. The woman on the phone gets mad AT ME because I said that their policies allowed for racist actions. “I’m sorry that you’re offended by that (see what I did there?) but the idea that me describing an instance where racism is happening to me and describing how those policies allow you to act in fashions that perpetuate that racism offends you is actually laughable. And offensive. And dismissive.” She then tells me “I’ll evaluate your case and get back to you soon.”
I don’t expect a positive response. I actually don’t really even expect a response. Because that would be respectful, and I feel my interaction with the Walnut Creek Marriott in particular were only magnified and compounded with the consistent runaround and dismissiveness .
Until this gets some form of resolution, I’ll never give the Marriott another dime.