Millions of Americans are coping with devastating loss as a huge portion of the coastal regions of the United States have been slammed with hurricanes over the last couple of weeks. Those affected number in the millions and the out pouring of support has been heart warming, in most cases. Government assistance has been sent to affected areas, and friends and neighbors have banded together to help the people who need it most. Unfortunately, some businesses aren’t as interested in helping as they are their bottom line.
Despite the huge media attention and the millions of dollars raised for the victims of the two most recent catastrophic storms, at least one hotel chain is left with a black eye, and with good reason. The Marriott hotel chain chartered a boat to pick up their stranded passengers in St. Thomas, and even though they had hundreds of empty seats they left the 35 unlucky non-Marriott customers shivering on the dock.
The Washington Post recounted the frustrating circumstances encountered by these unlucky victims:
“The hundreds of people waiting on the dock in St. Thomas on Friday night had just survived a hit from Hurricane Irma that had crippled the airport and devastated pretty much every building not made of concrete.
Supplies of food and water were dwindling. Electricity was spotty. And Hurricane Jose had not turned north yet. The people on the island feared that the second storm could boom in, bringing more misery to St. Thomas.
But a large ship with enough room to transport all the tourists was approaching the dock. Just in time, help had come.
Just not for everyone.
The ship had been chartered by the Marriott hotel chain for guests who had to stay behind because the airport had closed.
Shortly after the ship arrived, about three dozen people — tourists not staying at Marriott hotels who had also ridden out the hurricane — watched as the vessel pulled away with hundreds of empty seats.
Officials on the ship said they had contacted people higher up in the company about the evacuation, Howard and other stranded passengers said. The company officials said they ‘didn’t want the liability,’ according to Howard.”
There will no doubt be those who say that this was an inopportune time to be visiting the area, and they are probably right. However, if you’ve been around long enough to live through a few of these events you know that there are at least 3 false alarms for every real live catastrophic event. So while it might not have been the smartest thing to be hanging out in an island type environment while a hurricane was in the area, if you’d planned a trip months in advance, you’d have probably been loathe to cancel it too.
The jilted tourists weren’t done yet:
“In her anger, Naomi Ayala, a Dallas resident who had been vacationing on the island but was now watching her chance at rescue edge toward the horizon, pulled out her phone and posted a video on Facebook.
‘They had 600 and something seats,’ she said, citing a number that she later revised upward. “They filled it with 300 Marriott guests and there are 35 people over here waiting and we can’t get on this large boat that will hold at least 2 to 300 more people.”
Then she named names:
‘And it was Marriott’s decision. Marriott did not let us on this boat to get to San Juan so we can get on flights back home. Instead, we have to ride out Hurricane Jose on St. Thomas when we just went through Hurricane Irma.'”
It’s understandable that a company would want to prioritize their guests and get them first, but leaving children and elderly while hundreds of seats went unoccupied has a Titanic like feel to it, only with a more aggressive edge to it. And we all know how that turned out. Marriot had a few things to say for themselves though:
“The company had already worked with authorities to get the boat into the port on short notice in an emergency — and to construct a manifest with all the appropriate passenger information. But Sheldon said the company didn’t control access to the port.
And with Jose approaching, there was no time to negotiate passage for the people who were ultimately left stranded.
In a statement to The Post, the company alluded to bureaucratic red tape:
‘On Friday, Marriott was able to secure a ferry to transport about 600 of our guests from St. Thomas to Puerto Rico. These were guests who had to stay behind after the airport closed in advance of Hurricane Irma.
The ferry departed St. Thomas Friday, September 8, with the Marriott guests onboard. There were a number of additional people gathered at the dock who were not our guests who also expressed a desire to leave St. Thomas. We very much wanted to assist these other travelers to Puerto Rico, however, the Marriott team on-the-ground was told they had no authorization to board additional passengers who were not on the approved manifest. This was enforced by dock security.
With Hurricane Jose on a path to St. Thomas, the ferry had a tight window to pick up passengers and safely depart.
As a company, Marriott places a priority on the safety and security of our guests, but we also have a long tradition of looking out for the greater community. In this case, we weren’t able to help and as grateful as we are that we were able to transport our guests, we are saddened that we were not able to do the same for more people. We continue to work with local authorities in St. Thomas to help support the relief efforts there.'”
Well, as long as it would have put you out or gotten you in hot water with the local authorities, it’s totally cool that you left humans stranded on a dock while their potential life-saving seats floated away, empty.
It’s difficult to imagine how if you’re required to stop and render aid if you see a car accident, a company wouldn’t be required to at least give the amount of assistance that wouldn’t even cost them any extra. It may not actually be a legal issue, but it certainly speaks to the character and spirit of a company that while so many are in dire straights they left those they could help with little hope just so they wouldn’t be put out at all.
[H/T: Washington Post]
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