In mid-January Marriott included
Taiwan Tibet (and Taiwan, but Tibet was the bigger issue) in a list of countries that was sent to some email survey recipients in China. That did not go over well. The email and the survey were managed by a third party and the hotel chain cut ties with that vendor but not before it was forced to apologize profusely to the Chinese government. It also had its website taken offline for a week as punishment for the transgression.
There was more to the incident than just the country list in a survey. There was also a tweet. Clicking the “like” button on that tweet appears to have cost one Marriott service rep his job.
— Friends of Tibet (@friendsoftibet) January 9, 2018
Roy Jones was working his regular night shift at Marriott’s customer engagement center when a tweet from “Friends of Tibet” came through mentioning the company with a hashtag and thanking it for listing Tibet separately. It was a positive comment amidst some complaints about the “incident” so Jones clicked the little heart from Marriott’s account, acknowledging the recognition. That proved to be a fire-worthy mistake.
I’m acutely familiar with the risks of an ill-timed tweet or social media kerfuffle. I’ve had a contract terminated over comments I made on Twitter. But it still seems a stretch that this guy deserved to be on the chopping block for that action. Especially if his work performance was otherwise reasonable.
I also wonder who else in the organization faced similar punishment. Was the manager who hired the 3rd party vendor that sent the email also fired? Surely they are equally, if not more culpable for the mess. After all, it was their decision that led to the Tibet emails in the first place.
There’s also some irony in punishing someone for behavior considered offensive to China on a service based in the United States and which China blocks aggressively. This was not a push on Weibo to highlight the Tibetan independence push. It was a tweet that the vast majority of Chinese would never know existed, much less engage with.
But the low man on the totem pole gets cut off from an online customer service job for not being fully versed in geopolitical subtleties. Not transferred to answer phone calls. Not warned. Not educated. Not suspended.
Somewhere, somehow that made sense to someone at Marriott.
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