Beer muscles and a #SHRM12 lesson about accountability

I’m a fairly easy-going guy. My buttons don’t get easily pushed, I’m not easily riled, and I rarely get angry.

But, when I get fired up….look out, sucka!

One thing that really gets me going is when others fail to accept accountability for their mistakes and do nothing to fix them. As I punch out this blog post on my flight back from Atlanta following the SHRM Annual Conference and Expo — a truly first-class event that both HR professionals and employment lawyers should make it a point to attend at least once — all I can think about is an incident that occurred at my hotel, of all places.

It’s an unexpected reminder, one that separates the truly great from the good, that I’d like to share with you, after the jump…

* * *

When a hotel clerk opens with, “Sir, we have some options for you,” head for the hills.

That was my welcome at the hotel on Monday night upon my arrival at 9:30 pm. With a big conference like SHRM in town, the hotel had accidentally overbooked.

“We can offer you a room with no bed” (yes, you read that correctly) “or we can put you up at another hotel.”

Not exactly the red-carpet treatment that I expected, but curiosity (and lethargy) got the best of me:

“Does this room have a shower? TV? Phone?”

“Oh yes, sir. It’s just that the room doesn’t have a bed. It’s a parlor room.”

(Editor’s Note: The dialogue both above and below is paraphrased slightly, but I specifically recall the clerk describe the room as a “parlor room.” More on that later…)

Now, I don’t know about y’all — that’s “Atlanta” for “all of you” — but when I reserve a hotel room weeks in advance, I expect two things: (1) a room; and (2) a bed. I know. I know. I’m very demanding. Fearing that the hotel would not have a bed for me — even now, totally surreal — I inquired about the other hotel:

“Well sir, most of the area hotels are booked up. But, we can put you up at the airport Marriott.”

Nuts to that! I had just travelled 30 minutes on the subway uptown from the airport, I had a party to attend, and I was already running late. The other hotel was not an option. In which case, they had me by the you know whats.

So, I bargained:

“Can you send a bed up to the room?”

“Yes, sir. We’ll send that bed up in ten minutes. And we’ll cut your room rate in half.”

Lemons into lemonade.


But, a few hours (and Coronas and limes) later, I return to a room with (sigh) no bed.

Having just been scammed by a local taxi driver, my mood was somewhere between pissy and irate. The lack of bed did nothing to enhance my calm. Trying to maintain some level of decorum, I called the front desk to inquire:

“Yes, Mr. Meyer”

“I’m in room 6707. It’s past midnight (12:20 AM to be exact) and there is no bed in here.”


[decorum waning…]

“No. You see, when I book a hotel room, I take for granted that there will be a bed in it.”

“Well sir, it’s a parlor room — “

[decorum gone…]


“Yes. We’ll send one up.”

Uh, right.

Ten minutes pass…still no bed, still no apology. Whereupon a call is strategically placed to the front desk. Although, the browbeating that ensued was more ad hoc:

“Where is my bed?”

“Well, sir, we have only three spare beds —“

“Are you saying that I have to sleep on the floor?”

“Oh, we’ll send it up.”

“You’d better comp my room.”

“Excuse me, sir. You are already getting a half-priced rate.”

“Are you kidding me? Comp my room. COMP MY [BLEEPING] ROOM! Get this bed up here or I’m going to blast you on social media.”


Possibly, the all-time dorkiest flexing of beer muscles to cap an obscenity-laced tirade. But, what’s a blogger to do at 12:30 AM on Tuesday morning?

After some deep reflection — I gave it three minutes — I took to Twitter.

Now, generally speaking, I think we can all agree that booze and social media don’t mix well. However, I think I fared pretty well (here and here). And then one of my 4300 Twitter followers chimed in. Just more fuel on the fire; I expanded my social-media-venting-horizons to include a YouTube video, and an angry call to the hotel’s customer complaint department.

[Bear with me one second as I close my eyes and imagine that hotel manager coming into work in the morning, listening to a 12:45 AM voicemail from me complaining about a missing bed. Of all the things to start your day…]

Fortunately, before the sun came up — forty [bleeping] minutes after my initial call — my rollaway bed arrived.

But, I’m still waiting on the hotel’s apology.


Remember who comes first. And, when you make a mistake, admit it and make it right.

On my way to the airport, I read two great posts on TLNT. John Hollon writes about how the best businesses know that people come first and Tim Sackett offers a sound lesson about admitting when you are wrong.

My hotel experience is the best — or worst — of both worlds. When it comes to dealing with others — supervisors, colleagues, and, above all, customers — we are always accountable for our actions. Indeed, our businesses cannot thrive without respect for human capital and a commitment to satisfying consumers. Taking either for granted is a sure-fire recipe for failure. Therefore, when mistakes are made, rise up, and take responsibility — no excuses.

Rather than offer justifications, I prefer this four-step approach:

  1. Apologize,
  2. Stay humble,
  3. Offer a solution, and
  4. Execute.

That’s the unexpected lesson from my trip to the 2012 SHRM Annual Conference and Expo, one I intend to practice more between now and 2013.


“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”
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