Almost every week you see some story of a company doing something where you are left thinking - how on earth could they be so stupid. I'm not talking New Coke where they tried something, it didn't fly, and they went back to old Coke. That was a reasonable business decision and when they realized it wasn't working - they reverted.
No we're talking the category here like the idiocy of Abercrombe & Fitch with their racist clothing line. Even dumber than this is the recent actions of the Hilton Hotels.
There is a steak house in Washington D.C. that has been quietly serving steak dinners to wounded vets for free, Friday nights for the last 2 years. Their efforts have been greatly appreciated throughout the military because they are helping those who were very seriously wounded.
So Hilton decided to not renew the lease for the restaurant which is located in the Capital Hilton. Rather than re-list what happened here, please read it as reported in the Mudville Gazette (right wing) and TPM Cafe (left wing). Also savefrans.org.
Now here's the thing. When both the Washington Post and the Washington Times are telling you that you are being a dick - chances are you are being a dick. And even if you know you are in the right, when you have this kind of bad press - you need to address it. And address it means that you satisfy people with your response.
So what has the Hilton company done?
- People who are highly respected in the blogosphere are saying that the Hilton Corporation is lying. And their answers sure sound bogus to me. Lying just makes a bad situation worse.
- They refuse to talk to people. If you have a ton of pissed off people emailing you, you are only going to anger them more if you refuse to listen to them. How much would it cost Hilton to hire some people to handle all of the incoming email? Note to the Hilton executives - just because the email no longer gets to you does not mean that the problem is gone.
- I tried to contact their P.R. department about a week ago on a totally unrelated issue. Never got a reply back. I did get an auto-reply from one of the P.R. addresses saying that they were on vacation. When you are being pounded with bad P.R. don't go on vacation and do answer emails from people who are authors, journalists, or active bloggers (or in my case - all three).
- When the issue appears like it may be due to the Hilton not fixing the facilities to comply with the ADA, answer that. It's not just the legal liability, it's the fact that a lot of people will assume that this is true if you do not address it.
- And if you can avoid it at all, do not screw wounded vets. Every member of the military, every family member, every retired vet, all of them now know that the Hilton Hotels are screwing over the wounded vets. I'm not in the military, never have been, and I know. I think you would be hard pressed to find something you could do that would upset members of the military more than this. The only thing that comes to mind is if the Hilton supported the scum that picket military funerals.
What blows my mind about this is that the Hilton has gone into a bunker mentality where they are insisting that everything is ok. It's like they are the Bush White House. Yes they can end the lease. This is known as winning the battle and losing the war.
It's not just that for the near future military conferences will tend to avoid any Hilton property. It's not just that military families will tend to not stay in hotels that say Hilton. It's not even that the lost business over the next couple of years will be greater than any cost of continuing the lease.
And it's not even the issue that there will be times in the future where Hilton will be asking for a variance and that some of the politicians voting on this variance will be ex military and gee - no the variance is refused.
What makes this incredibly dumb is that the financially sensible action for Hilton to take is to apologize to everyone, renew the lease, and donate money to support the meals. They could make all of this go away mainly by issuing a statement with 5 little words - "we're sorry, we were wrong."
It makes you wonder how fucked up the rest of Hilton is when they basically have handled this in the worst possible manner. So the World's Dumbest P.R. Department goes to Hilton, not for the initial dumb action - but the incredibly bad way in which they have handled it after it blew up.
Inexcusably stupid. Senior management is paid how much to run a corporation this way? I think Paris Hilton would do a better job as CEO.
Update - Another post as to the integrity of the Hilton Corporation. This is just sad.