So­cial me­dia and the ho­tel scan­dal: giv­ing the pub­lic its needed voice

Shanghai Daily - - FRONT PAGE - ANDY BOREHAM

It all be­gan last Novem­ber when a blog­ger posted a video on­line with footage of shady clean­ing prac­tices he en­coun­tered while stay­ing at top ho­tels around China. The video quickly went vi­ral, and the fives­tar ho­tels in­volved scram­bled to re­lease state­ments ap­peas­ing the pub­lic and of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the hand­ful lo­cated here in Shang­hai. What fol­lowed was a lot dirt­ier. The man be­hind the videos was forced into hid­ing after his personal in­for­ma­tion was leaked by ho­tel staff and he be­gan re­ceiv­ing threats of vi­o­lence and death. What is the sig­nif­i­cance of such re­tal­i­a­tion, and what does it mean for us, not only as con­sumers, but mem­bers of a fair so­ci­ety?

What was in the video?

The 11-minute long video re­leased by blog­ger Wu Dong was shot us­ing hid­den cam­eras as ho­tel clean­ing staff tended to the rooms he was stay­ing in at five-star ho­tels around China. He un­cov­ered dodgy clean­ing prac­tices in 15 lux­ury ho­tels, in­clud­ing seven in Shang­hai. Some of the clean­ing prac­tices un­der­taken in­cluded us­ing used tow­els to clean and dry toi­lets and cups.

What was the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math?

As one would hope, the videos went vi­ral and were picked up by me­dia all around China. This forced the ho­tels in­volved, and hope­fully oth­ers who could be us­ing sim­i­lar clean­ing meth­ods,

Ed­i­tor’s note:

Andy Boreham comes from New Zealand’s cap­i­tal city, Welling­ton, and has lived in China, off and on, for the past six years. He has a mas­ter’s de­gree in Chi­nese cul­ture and lan­guage from Fu­dan Uni­ver­sity and is in­ter­ested in all things re­lated to con­tem­po­rary Chi­nese so­ci­ety. He wel­comes your feed­back on all of the is­sues he cov­ers. You can reach him at [email protected]

to im­me­di­ately rec­tify the sit­u­a­tion and im­prove staff train­ing. Ho­tels fea­tured in the video rushed to re­lease state­ments as­sur­ing guests and lo­cal gov­ern­ments that the is­sue would be dealt with and that their rooms are clean and safe.

Ho­tels seething be­hind the scenes

De­spite put­ting for­ward an un­der­stand­ing and apolo­getic front, though, some ho­tel staff were an­gered by the blog­ger for re­leas­ing the video in the first place. Soon his personal de­tails were re­leased on­line, and he was forced into hid­ing after re­ceiv­ing threats of vi­o­lence and death.

A staff mem­ber at the Hil­ton Gar­den Inn in Guiyang shared a photo of Wu’s pass­port in a WeChat work group, sug­gest­ing that he be black­listed and not al­lowed to stay in the fu­ture.

An In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Ho­tels & Re­sorts em­ployee re­shared the in­for­ma­tion in an­other group, and mem­bers of that group called Wu “ugly and an­noy­ing.”

Back in Guiyang, a mar­ket­ing em­ployee from Sof­i­tel said that the blog­ger should “be ready for any re­venge and in­tim­i­da­tion” be­cause of the video. He went on to say that Wu is “do­ing evil un­der the guise of ben­e­fit­ing the pub­lic.”

This is wor­ry­ing be­hav­ior, be­cause it means that at least some ho­tel staff are will­ing to ig­nore the very cru­cial crux of the is­sue — that some clean­ers are badly trained and are, quite pos­si­bly, put­ting pay­ing guests at risk — and in­stead launch­ing a personal vendetta against who­ever brings such valu­able in­for­ma­tion to the fore.

Why is so­cial me­dia so im­por­tant here?

One of the valu­able things about so­cial me­dia is its abil­ity to give a voice to in­di­vid­u­als who oth­er­wise may not have a wide reach, when­ever they have in­for­ma­tion or con­tent the pub­lic has deemed worth­while and im­por­tant.

That’s ex­actly how in­for­ma­tion on so­cial me­dia goes vi­ral, when the pub­lic care enough to share it and talk about it. While usu­ally that will in­volve cute videos of cats or peo­ple singing and danc­ing, ev­ery so of­ten it shines a light on is­sues sig­nif­i­cant to so­ci­ety and mak­ing so­ci­ety bet­ter, like teach­ers hit­ting chil­dren un­der their care, pub­lic of­fi­cials shirk­ing re­spon­si­bil­ity, and ho­tel clean­ers put­ting guests at risk with shoddy clean­ing prac­tices.

The dis­cus­sions that arise from such vi­ral con­tent is of­ten in­valu­able, be­cause it’s a very pub­lic and wide­spread way to en­cour­age de­bate around vi­tal is­sues as de­cided by the very pub­lic our­selves.

Talk­ing openly and hon­estly about prob­lems is one of the best ways to im­prove the world we live in and en­sure so­ci­ety can con­tinue to progress and de­velop.

Ho­tel man­ager de­ten­tion a good sign

It’s a great re­lief that a ho­tel man­ager in Shenzhen was put un­der po­lice de­ten­tion for a week for his part in the leak­ing of Wu’s personal de­tails on­line. That sends a strong mes­sage that this type of be­hav­ior shouldn’t be tol­er­ated, and it will hope­fully work to let oth­ers who may be­come guardians of im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion in the fu­ture to do their best to bring it to the world.

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