SSG Chad Staples’ incident at Best Western

| August 8, 2012

****LATEST UPDATE IS LOCATED AT BOTTOM OF STORY*****

 

USAWTFM and the WTF Nation has never and will never sit idly by if one of our own siblings in arms, a veteran of any kind is mistreated. We were first notified of this story on Tuesday, 07 August 2012, at 2201 HRS EST  via  a message from one of SSG Chad Staples’ friends. After reading the story we were very upset and decided action MUST be taken.  It is absolutely reprehensible, unacceptable and completely deplorable when any disabled person is treated with the disrespect Mr. Staples was shown. However, when that disabled person is a veteran then we take even greater offense and feel it our civic duty to demand action.  So, we found the email information for the corporate offices at Best Western and emailed them.  They replied to us and we will also share their reply with you. So, here is the story from beginning to end as to how it happened. You read and decide where you stand, was enough action taken?

The Incident
This is the incident as written by SSG Staples:

I stayed at a best western in Monahans TX yesterday for a pit stop at a rate of 289 for six hours. It was a necessity at the time. For those who might get this message who don’t know me, I was injured in Iraq five years ago and am in a wheelchair. The elevator was down when I woke up, so I called the front desk. The conversation goes as such… Verbatim.


Me: Hi the elevator isnt working
Holly: It’s been down for about an hour
Chad: Can you send someone up to help me down the stairs ( I said this as calmly as I could, I know Shit happens)
Holly: Are you serious? (In a mocking voice)
Chad: (Explains that I am in a wheelchair)
Holly: Well, what do you want me to do about it? (she said flippantly)
Chad: Are you fucking serious? I’m in a fucking wheelchair.
Holly: [Chuckles.]


So I made a formal complaint after the manager played dumb. The file number is 120806-3855.
The lady at the other end sated its a liability thing, and assured me the complaint would be passed on. But, we all know what goes on with these types of things.


So, I would like all of you to spread this message to others please. And everyone feel free to call customer support est western and tell them that you would like to boycott the chain untill a resolution o this issue is found. The address is:

PO Box 42007
Phoenix, AZ 85080.


So how did I get down the stairs? 3 flights. I threw all my bags down with my wheelchair and went down on my ass.

Our Response
Obviously upon reading this story you cannot help but to be completely apalled. We were. So, although our initial instinct was to put this in front of the WTF Nation and let nature take its course, we decided to be more responsible. We were able to find an address, normally used by media, for the corporate offices at Best Western and sent the following email on 08 August 12 at 0054 HRS EST :

To whom it may concern,It is my sincere hope this email reaches the senior levels of leadership within your company. I chose this email address to write as it is more likely to get visibility than is the standard “customer care” email.I am an administrator for a website and essentially an online community, which represents over 173,000 military veterans (active and former) as well as military family members and supporters. An incident has been brought to our attention that is in stark contrast with your very own CEO David Kong’s claim of commitment and emphasis on customer care.SSG Chad Staples is a disabled veteran paralyzed from the waist down from injuries sustained while deployed to Baghdad in 2007. During a recent trip Mr. Staples stopped at a Best Western for an overnight stay. The next morning Mr. Staples, who is confined to a wheelchair, awoke and left his room in order to go check out and continue his trip.
 
Upon arriving at the elevators Mr. Staples discovered the elevators were down and realized the steps would be the next option. So, Mr. Staples contacted the front desk. The following conversation with the front desk employee, Holly, was typed out by Mr. Staples as he remembers it. Pardon some use of foul language as this is a truthful and accurate account of the conversation:
 
Chad: Hi the elevator isn’t working
Holly: It’s been down for about an hour
Chad: Can you send someone up to help me down the stairs ( I said this as calmly as I could, as I know things like this sometimes happen.)
Holly: Are you serious? (In a mocking voice)
Chad: (Explains that I am in a wheelchair)
Holly: Well, what do you want me to do about it? (she said in a condescending tone)
Chad: Are you fucking serious? I’m in a fucking wheelchair.
Holly: Chuckles.
After being ridiculed, patronized and laughed at during this conversation, whilst simultaneously receiving no help from the employees, Mr. Staples had to get himself downstairs. In Mr. Staples letter to us he describes “throwing my bags down the steps with my wheelchair and having to slide down on my [butt]“. As a combat veteran and active duty service member myself the very image of a fellow veteran, a disabled one at that, in this demoralizing situation makes my blood boil. I would imagine it would the same for any who hear of it. Mr. Staples filed a formal complaint with the hotel but little apology or care was given by even the on duty manager. The official complaint number is 120806-3855.The reason I am writing is this, upon receiving this information the other senior staff and I decided action must be taken. Before releasing this on our FB page (www.facebook.com/usawtfm), broadcasting on our affiliated weekly radio show (www.blogtalkradio.com/dangerzoneradio) as well as our other affiliated pages and sites we wanted to try to handle this at our level. Releasing this information would guarantee an audience of just over 300,000 military members, past and present, their family and fellow supporters. Additionally, this story would immediately become viral on the internet. Therefore, I would not want to do so without first giving you and your staff a chance to communicate with us and allow you to take the appropriate steps to rectify this situation.Mr. Staples is owed a deep apology for not only the pompous and prudent disrespect shown him by your hotel’s staff, but also for the demoralizing and dehumanizing position he was placed in by being forced to drag himself down steps. You may not care about the service and dedication of wounded veterans, or any veterans, and I do not ask you to. You may have political views against Soldiers or even the war, it’s your freedom I can respect that. But for you to treat a disabled man, or ANY customer, like this is both egregious and embarrassing.I will follow this email up with a phone call to your corporate headquarters during regular business hours on Wednesday, 08 August 12. I would hope to hear back from you before Thursday, 09 August 12, as it would no longer be ethical or practical for me to keep this incident private beyond that time.

Thank you very much for your time and thank you ahead of time for your prompt attention to this matter.

Very Respectfully,

USAWTFM 

Their Response
The very next day (08 August 12 at 1221 PM EST) Best Western’s Public Relation’s Manager replied back that, quote, “I just got the email and am looking into this very serious matter. I will get back to you asap.” Obviously, this was not going to be enough for us but we waited. Finally as the clock was ticking down towards the deadline we provided, and as the story begin to leak elsewhere on the interwebs and other FB pages, they replied to us on 08 August 2012 at 1841 HRS EST with the following message:
 
While all Best Western hotels are independently owned and operated, we strive to have consistently excellent customer care standards in place at all of our member hotels. We have received the information from Mr. Staples regarding his stay, and we are truly sorry to hear of this matter that occurred during an unexpected area power outage that affected numerous businesses and many people.  Customer care agents, the hotel’s general manager and a brand senior vice president have all reached out to or talked directly with Mr. Staples and hopefully have resolved the matter to his satisfaction.Best Western International has been an industry leader in proactively communicating ADA requirements to its hotels and also has specific training available to address the needs of our disabled guests.  We believe it imperative that all guests are treated with dignity and respect.  We will continue to emphasize this training to our member hotels.We respect Mr. Staples’s status as a disabled veteran and the sacrifices he has made for our country.  We can only hope that Mr. Staples will stay at a Best Western hotel in the future and afford us an opportunity to express our gratitude.
 
 In Conclusion
So, that is the story from start to finish. Our take on it? They first put a BIG caveat that “all Best Westerns ar independently owned and operated”, as if we didn’t know this, which kind of made us feel like that did not want to bear the full brunt of the responsibility. Next they stated “hopefully have resolved the matter to his satisfaction” after speaking of reaching out to Mr. Staples. I applaud them for reaching out to Mr. Staples but if they are not SURE it was rectified to his satisfaction then I am not satisfied in their response. However, maybe it was enough? What do you think?
 
I think I will just not stay at Best Western hotels unti I know they stand behind the words in their message to us that “We respect Mr. Staples’ status as a disabled veteran and the sacrifices he made for our country.” The actions of your hotel initially? Make him crawl down the steps on his ass, demoralizing and dehumaniziing. Your WORDS say you respect him. Your actions now? A resolution you HOPE was to his satisfaction. Hmmm, I’m not convinced.
 
I really hope Mr. Staples reaching out to us through our page or our Gmail so we can bring this story full circle and to a close. I will update you guys on this thread if that happens. Until then, you have the information and know everything we know. Do with it what you will WTF Nation.
 
First Update
First, although we were unable to directly contact SSG Staples as of yet, the guys at Stolen Valor (www.guardianofvalor.com) with whom  we work very close with, was able to talk to a confirmed close associate of him. We have confirmed with Bulldog that SSG Staples did in fact accept their apology. However, for those of you who believe that should be the end of this, I fervently disagree. First of all, an apology isn’t enough and SSG Staples acceptance of the apology is merely a testament to the true heart and integrity of this warrior.

We still do not know the details of how, or IF, he was compensated for his stay. Best Western has not indicated they are taking ANY steps to provide BETTER training to ALL their employees to prepare them to deal with disabled persons in their hotel. We were able to confirm that Holly is still an employee at this hotel, because she was on a regularly scheduled day off today and returns to work tomorrow.  In my opinion, they have literally done nothing outside of an apology to rectify this situation. We are not seeking merely justice for SSG Staples but to ensure this never happens again.

We cannot truly expect Best Western to tell us what, if any, punitive action was/is being taken in regards to the employee, Holly, who was solely responsible for mocking SSG Staples and denying him assistance. However, for those who say she is solely responsible for this whole incident, you are wrong. Why didn’t Best Western’s policies prevent him from being on the second or third floors to begin with? Plus did you know that recently, within the last few months, a Texas law was passed indicating that all hotels claiming ADA compliant transient living spaces had to also follow several new laws?

This BW claims that status and must comply with these laws. One of the regulations was that all employees must be trained to recognize and triage physically challenged personnel so that they don’t suffer the way SSG Staples did. If they do fall into ADA category then they must be treated accordingly. They have over 40 ADA rooms at this hotel.

Plus, in the event that a physically challenged individual needs aid due to some failure at the hotel they must also have an urgent response plan to facilitate the needs of the physically challenged. This is also is an OSHA requirement. FAIL

In the response to the claim Best Western posted on CNN’s website which indicated that the elevator was not functioning due to a power outage. Our friends at Danger Zone radio (www.blogtalkradio.com/dangerzoneradio), Maniac to be specific made contact with TXU, OTIS elevator and the gas station across the street from the hotel. Power was out at the hotel for approximately 2.25 hours.. However, get this, it happened 12 HOURS prior to the event.  They had power.

OTIS services this hotel and has an emergency service clause in their contract. The inspection of the elevators was done recently. This inspection is public record. OTIS never received a call. OTIS indicated that the hotel elevator is designed to return to service once power is restored. If something was wrong with the elevator then staff is required to call. They didn’t.

The gas station across the street confirmed the power outage but also confirmed that power was out for a short period of time and that they saw the power return to the hotel.

Also, remember the little cop out they used about the hotel being “independently owned and operated” so as not to bear the full brunt of the situation? Well, upon contacting the hotel we found out they have been informed that they aren’t allowed to talk to the media. So, they try to wash their hands of their actions but are in conclusive control of their actions. Sorry, Best Western, your smoke and mirrors won’t help you here.

Lastly, we are in contact with a high school associate of Holly’s and are working to get an interview, or at least a statement from Holly regarding the situation.  Major media outlets have been notified and we are not going out quietly on this one.

 

Our Follow-up Email to their “apology”
Thank you for your reponses to our emails and for your attention to this matter. However, we are writing this email to inform you of our actions and our feelings regarding your response.

 
While we applaud your efforts in directly contacting Mr. Staples and for offering him your apology directly, this simply is not a sufficient resopnse to this incident. Mr. Staples accepted your apology because of the true warrior spirit he possesses and none of us would expect nothing less from him. However, if you believe that this canned PR statement of a response to him, or to all vets offended, is enough to compensate for dehumanizing Mr. Staples or for your chain’s complete inability to comply with ADA and OSHA regulations is enough then you are mistaken.
 
We have officially published the story to our site and a lot of veterans, military members, family members and supporters are very upset. The overwhelming response has been to discontinue giving Best Western the business of military veterans and their families. A boycott has begun in which all those who join will no longer patronize any Best Western until a sufficient response to this matter has been taken.
 
We feel that their should be mandatory training to all employees immediately to PROPERLY prepare them to handle disabled persons. You claim in your apology that such training exists but the evidence of the actions taken by your employee that day indicate otherwise. We feel that SSG Staples should have never been off the ground floor to begin with. We also feel that Holly’s continued employment at Best Western is an utter disgrace.
 
We are in no way stating this as our “demands” and do not wish to offer you ANY plan of action that you should take. I wrote that only to give you an idea of the overall group consensus. What course of action you choose to take is completely up to you. The only thing I wish to say is that our standing boycott of your chain will continue until proper steps have been taken to ensure SSG Staples was properly compensated for his stay as well as ensuring this event WILL NOT occur again ever in the future.
 
Very Respectfully,
 
Staff
USAWTFM
 
UPDATE #2
 
We have made contact with SSG Staples, I have made contact with the reporter, Felicia, over at CBS 7 doing the report tonight. Here is the quick brief and then I will go over and update the story on our site with more detail.Summary of Conversation with SSG Staples
SSG Staples has stated he is NOT satisfied with their apology and does not accept it. He does not beleive this is about him and is not interested in being compensated for his stay. All he wants is that Best Western take appropriate ACTION (not words) to ensure this doesn’t happen EVER again to another disabled person, especially a vet. He is not fielding calls from CNN, FOX, etc., only veterans (us and those like us) because he does NOT want this to be about or around him. He fervently believes Holly should be fired for her actions and does not believe Best Western has taken appropriate responsibility for their actions and lack of sufficient policies/guidelines in place to deal with a disabled customer.

 

 

The News Story
The reporter doing this story at CBS7 is named Felicia , the entire WTF Nation would like to THANK HER for picking this story up and her news station. This DESERVES mass media attention and it’s good to know it has started somewhere. She is working a follow-up story for tonight (Thursday 09 Aug 12, stateside) which will include the interview with SSG Staples, the interview with Holly, and our story and you guys for sending this viral. Here is the link for the story as she has updated it so far and I will provide a link to her follow-up and future updates as I get them: http://www.cbs7.com/news/details.asp?ID=36562
 
 
Charlie Mike
There you have it WTF nation. That is pretty much exactly in line with what we have been calling for and thus our boycott continues. This is about the VETERAN and DISABLE VETERANS as a whole. The world should know they will NOT mistreat us at their will. We have a voice and we will use it. Either Best Western takes sufficient action to fix this, their policies and their guidelines or we don’t let up. This is NOT an isolated incident WTFers. If we don’t care of our own, nobody will. The longer BW takes, the worse it will get. We have found out that Disney currently has a “contest” running in conjunction with BW, I guess we need to contact Disney since we haven’t YET heard from BW senior execs, no TRUE PUBLIC statement, and no change in training or policies. We will target all businesses who work with them and encourage them to pull their partnerships, contracts, businesses. If we shut them down, so be it.
 
WTF Nation Unites
This boycott is a joint WTF Nation venture with all pages and partners affiliated with us. That includes Stolen Valor (www.facebook.com/StolenValor), Danger Zone radio (www.blogtalkradio.com/dangerzoneradio), 11B Grunts (www.facebook.com/BlueChord). You guys, we are together the voice of our community, you are all doing AWESOME in contacting BW and making sure EVERYBODY knows of this. If there is a Best Western nearby, picket them. “Independently owned and operated”, yeah we know, don’t care, we are targeting BW corporate. Just so you know the citizens in and around Monohans, TX, where this happened have been picketing that BW all day. Great job WTFers!! Let’s keep at it!
 
 
Final Thoughts
After reading this in its entirety, if you really think that Best Western’s half-hearted apology is enough then I simply cannot see your logic. Plus, this incident represents many more unheard of incidents in which veterans are pushed around. You guys, who comprise the WTF Nation, are sending out a resounding “Hell No” to those who think that we no longer have a voice. USAWTFM stands firmly by our decision to boycott Best Western. As with any civil movement, such as a boycott, we will back off ONLY when certain conditions are met. Until Best Western SUFFICIENTLY and APPROPRIATELY addresses this situation beyond much more than just a PR apology and speaking to SSG Staples, we will not lift our boycott. What you do WTF Nation is up to you.
 
***LATEST UPDATE****
 
Real Action
So, in response to the STILL ONGOING and nationwide Boycott of Best Western by vets, family members and supporters that comprise the WTF Nation, Best Western has placed Holly on administrative leave. Now, this may seem like a band-aid on a major wound but that’s not necesssarily true. This is a step in the right direction. Additionally, the Vice President of BW is going to the Monahan, TX, BW to check their procedures for dealing with diabled person’s.
 
WTF Nation Boycott Continues
Do not let up on Best Western, WTFers, this boycott is what has demanded this action. With the VP snooping around procedures then hotels, especially Best Westerns nationwide will start taking SERIOUSLY how to deal with disabled persons, veterans and the like. THIS WAS OUR GOAL FROM THE BEGINNING AND WE WON’T STOP UNTIL WE MEET IT!! REMEMBER #BOYCOTTBESTWESTERN ON TWITTER, SHARE THIS STORY ON FB, EMAIL, AND ANY OTHER MEDIUM. BOYCOTT BEST WESTERN! Good job all.
 
Media Updates
 
The original and full investigative story from CBS7 in Monahans, TX, http://www.cbs7.com/news/details.asp?ID=36586
 

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