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Chef Laura: Trust hang-ups

Laura Cook Newman //June 6, 2013//

Chef Laura: Trust hang-ups

Laura Cook Newman //June 6, 2013//

What do hair dryers and hangers have to do with trust?  A lot actually, but more on that later.

Whether it’s a book on relationships or management, a common theme in these self-help guides is “trust”:  how to earn it, how to keep it and how to leverage it.  Bestsellers like The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey is required reading in MBA programs and at Fortune 500 companies.

And it should be. It’s a good book – most of these slick-marketed texts usually are.  The thickness and complexity of these books, however, tend to rival a Tolstoy novel.  Busy professionals barely have enough time to throw back two Bloody Marys during a layover, let alone read an in-depth book on the (spoiler alert!) two-way street that is trust.

No need to memorize a corporate-speak text, I wrote some CliffsNotes. Just (virtually) travel with me; you’ll see how simply it can be established, how quickly it can be destroyed, and if you or your company is sending mixed messages.

As a bit of a road warrior and lover of old school rap, I spend my fair share of nights in hotels, motels, and Holiday Inns.  There are two objects in the room that speaks to a hotel’s ability to trust their guests.  Even hospitality guru John Willard Marriott probably didn’t realize the subtle, yet potentially negative, message these objects send to their guests.

You guessed it: hair dryers and hangers.

First, locate the hairdryer.  Is it a mini version tethered to the bathroom wall?  This hotel suspects you have sticky fingers and can’t wait to add another tiny 100-decibel hairdryer to your collection.

Next, head over to the closet.  At first glance, the hangers look nice – maybe dark wooden ones – but on further inspection, you notice the unusually small hook designed to fit only their skinny rod.  Or worse, in lieu of a hook, it’s a silly stick and ball requiring the guest to tap into their Milton Bradley “Operation” skills to hang a blazer. Either way, both of these hotel chains predicts you’re a hanger-hoarding thief.

If a hotel assumes you’re a crook, you may start to act like one. There are only so many 3.4 oz bottles of shampoo TSA allows you to stuff into a Ziploc these days.  So of course it seems logical that in your frustration to pilfer munchkin-sized toiletries, you plan to heist things that aren’t bolted down.

Why am I so hung up on this issue?  Well, because this practice blows.

As business pros, you need to protect yourself and your company, but not at the risk of offending potential customers.  Are you inadvertently sending signals that you don’t trust them?  Maybe requiring convoluted contracts, chaining a ballpoint pen to a counter or installing cumbersome hangers?

Instead of convicting guests guilty as soon as they check in, hotels would benefit by taking a page from Covey’s book.  How about stocking the closets with standard hangers?  Or even better, logo the full-size hangers like the hotels did in the golden era. They’re telling you “Go ahead, take a souvenir!” 

It’s not stealing; it’s marketing genius.  

I have an antique “Biltmore Hotel Providence, RI” hanger in my closet proving this theory.  A simple hanger becomes so much more than an apparatus to keep your suit wrinkle-free.  It’s brilliant advertising and a powerful symbol of trust.  They trust that I will have such a memorable stay that I will want to take a hanger, tell my friends, and be a repeat customer.  And they’re right. Trust me.