MFG 2.0

Business Traveler Beware

I've used this forum before to distribute information about scams, so you don't get taken in. Every so often I find out about a new one, sometimes the hard way.

The story starts pretty innocently, if uncomfortably. I recently spent two nights at the Hilton Bayfront Hotel in Tampa Bay, Florida while attending an American Society of Business Press Editors board meeting). I truly don't have a single nice thing to say about the experience (the hotel, not the board meeting, which was great).

On the contrary, the hotel room furniture was shoddy, the doors didn't shut right, the internet connection didn't work and I had to call the same, surly front desk staff to send the same, surly maintenance guy up to my room three times to change out the ethernet cable and a broken phone (twice on the same phone).

Then, I get back home after six long days on the road and am going through my AMEX statement online to prepare my expense report, and lo and behold there's an unauthorized $952 charge from the Hilton Bayfront (my stay at this hotel was prepaid by ASBPE, so there should have been no charge).

Then, when I finally get in touch with them to express my astonishment at this huge charge showing up unannounced on my credit card statement, the hotel front desk manager sends me a rude (and inaccuracy-filled) email saying that the charges were justified because I stole nearly a thousand dollars worth of property from the hotel room (including, according to the Bayfront staff, the curtains and curtain rods!) This *gentleman* didn't bother, however, to do anything legitimate like send me an invoice, or offer to send documentation/photographs of the supposed damage –- you know, normal, routine business procedure (like informing someone when you're going to charge their credit card for a thousand dollars).

Point is, right now as far as I can tell I'm the unwitting target of a scam attempt by Hilton Bayfront hotel staff, one that is (like other scams of this nature) probably aimed at businesspeople traveling with corporate credit cards, who might send their AMEX bill through the AP system to get pencil-whipped right on through to the check-cutters without a second glance. And as much as I appreciate them thinking that I'm a high roller and worthy of scamming (much less sneaky enough and strong enough to carry $1000 of curtains and whatever else out of a hotel room in the middle of the day, into my rental Prius for a couple days of driving around Florida, and onto a plane back to Cleveland three days later) I am most assuredly not, nor did I do anything of the kind.

I would find it absolutely unbelievable if this incident weren't part of a larger theme -- quality fade. To bring it back around to manufacturing and our collective reason for being, last night I took a break from planning my viral media onslaught against Hilton hotels to read my online news feeds, and came across a blog post where two pretty discerning individuals were praising one of the Chicago Hiltons for its exemplary customer service.

Such a divergent set of experiences at the same brand at the same exact time makes me wonder just how often this happens at the enterprise level, where at the HQ the heart of the company beats proudly and the loftiest of rules are followed to the letter while the disease of compromise, quality fade and even outright corruption eats away at the fringes of the best corporate reputation and the product -- in this case the manufacturing of good customer experiences for business travelers like myself -- suffers serious defects.

Just like any chain, Hilton Hotels Corp. is only as strong as its weakest link, and “world class” is a pretty tough standard for any global business to uphold globally (and one that is obviously way out of Hilton's reach).

Just my two cents -- $952 will buy a lot of those...

TAGS: Innovation
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