In the past several weeks we have seen some activity against some of the bastions of the Hospitality Industry - a high end hotel portfolio – the Dorchester Collection and fast food operators - primarily McDonald’s. Regular news outlets and social media have had a field day, covering the activities. There are some differences, though, with the premise of each; one is in reaction to a new criminal code in a foreign land and the other is economic with a global reach.
Let’s look first at the hotel company situation. The Dorchester Collection, made up of ten first class Hotels in Europe and the US, is owned by the Sultan of Brunei, who rules a tiny North coast piece of the island of Borneo. Looking beyond its’ size and small population of under one half a million people, Brunei does happen to sit on large reservoirs of crude oil and natural gas. It has the fifth largest GNP in the world. Effective shortly, the Sultan will enact a tougher criminal code for his kingdom, based upon Sharia law, where adulterers and those engaging in same-sex activity will be stoned to death, and thieves will have amputations rendered.
Most of us readers would find this legal application just atrocious and unacceptable, although such Sharia law action can be found elsewhere throughout the world. What will the boycott of the hotels accomplish – the Sultan selling the Dorchester Collection or reversing course on his land’s legal system? One starting point could be attributed to author F. Scott Fitzgerald’s thoughtful social appraisal: “Let me tell you about the very rich. They are different from you and me…” Great wealth is an amazing shield against dissent, and this is a tightly controlled society in Brunei. I do not think the Sultan will be fazed or influenced by the protests here in the US or abroad. In the grand scope for the Sultan, it is too much of a stretch to compare a cultural and religious imperative to a minor business venture.
On the other hand, the protests demanding wage increases in the fast food industry have some traction. This is not the first such outcry, following on the Occupy Wall Street movement and earlier fast food worker protests across US major cities. Plus, trade unions across the world have lent their support and voice. The current protest combines with and complements the national argument to increase the minimum wage. We now can attach faces and stories to minimum wage earners. The Obama administration has already taken steps with government contractors, and many states have enacted a minimum wage higher that the federal scale. Fast food workers are hoping to make a case for a $15.00 hour wage and the right to unionize without retaliation. The point here is wage increases will happen, not tomorrow and not for $15.00 an hour, but soon! The prospects for union representation, however, probably will not change much.
Civil protest and active discourse are good for a vibrant society and democratic nation. The goal is to inform and create that passion for change. Sometimes the process takes years, but, ultimately, the fruits of dissent are borne.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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