Marriott employee 'fired' for Twitter error speaks out

An associate 'liked' a tweet that supported the labelling of Tibet as its own country


Earlier this year Marriott International revealed in a statement that it has taken down its Chinese websites and apps to conduct a full review after it listed Tibet as a separate country in its drop down menu in a recent survey.

In a second incident, an associate 'liked' a tweet that supported the labelling of Tibet as its own country. The hotel group listed Tibet, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan as separate "countries" in its emails and app.

The employee, Roy Jones, 49, who was let go by the hotel giant, has revealed to the Wall Street Journal handled social media accounts from his desk at a customer engagement center in Omaha, Nebraska.

According to WSJ, Jones says he had no idea that he would lose his $14 per hour job after "liking a tweet". 

Friends of Tibet congratulate global hotel chain #Marriott International for listing #Tibet as a country along with #HongKong and #Taiwan.

— Friends of Tibet (@friendsoftibet) January 9, 2018

Jones told the WSJ he wasn’t aware of any instructions on dealing with China. He also said he didn’t fully understand what the issue was about.

“This job was all I had,” Jones also said. “I’m at the age now where I don’t have many opportunities.”

After the incident, Marriott issued an apology via its Rewards handle.

Marriott International respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We don’t support separatist groups that subvert the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. We sincerely apologize for any actions that may have suggested otherwise.

— Marriott Rewards (@MarriottRewards) January 11, 2018

Craig Smith, president and managing director of Asia-Pacific for Marriott International, made a ststementat a meeting with the China National Tourism Administration in January, according to a Xinhua report.

Here is the full statement.

"Marriott International respects and supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China. Unfortunately, twice this week, we had incidents that suggested the opposite: First, by incorrectly labelling certain regions within China, including Tibet, as countries in a drop-down menu on a survey we sent out to our loyalty members; and second, in the careless “like” by an associate of a tweet that incorrectly suggested our support of this position. Nothing could be further from the truth: we don’t support anyone who subverts the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China and we do not intend in any way to encourage or incite any such people or groups. We recognise the severity of the situation and sincerely apologise.

In the aftermath of these two events, here’s what we have done.  As soon as we became aware of the issue with the survey, we worked to take it down and make the necessary corrections. We also reviewed the other areas on our websites and apps where this type of functionality might exist to make sure the labeling is correct. In China, at the request of the Government, we have taken down our Chinese websites and apps to conduct a full review and audit. We also quickly un-“liked” the tweet on our official channel and posted a statement of apology on Twitter.

Upon completion of a full investigation into how both incidents happened, we will be taking the necessary disciplinary action with respect to the individuals involved, which could include termination, changing our approval and review procedures for online content, reviewing our customer feedback channels, and enhancing training to ensure these situations don’t happen again. We are also working closely and co-operating with the relevant Government authorities in China.

As a company, we take very seriously the privilege and opportunity we have to serve guests in countries around the world – and particularly in China, a market we have been in for over 30 years. We also take responsibility when we make mistakes. We will learn from this experience, make changes to ensure errors like this don’t happen again, and continue to focus on making sure our Chinese guests feel respected and have wonderful experiences as we have the privilege of serving them in our hotels in China and around the globe."

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