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January 12, 2019

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Social media and the hotel scandal: giving the public its needed voice

IT all began last November when a blogger posted a video online with footage of shady cleaning practices he encountered while staying at top hotels around China. The video quickly went viral, and the five-star hotels involved scrambled to release statements appeasing the public and officials, including the handful located here in Shanghai. What followed was a lot dirtier. The man behind the videos was forced into hiding after his personal information was leaked by hotel staff and he began receiving threats of violence and death. What is the significance of such retaliation, and what does it mean for us, not only as consumers, but members of a fair society?

What was in the video?

The 11-minute long video released by blogger Wu Dong was shot using hidden cameras as hotel cleaning staff tended to the rooms he was staying in at five-star hotels around China. He uncovered dodgy cleaning practices in 15 luxury hotels, including seven in Shanghai. Some of the cleaning practices undertaken included using used towels to clean and dry toilets and cups.

What was the immediate aftermath?

As one would hope, the videos went viral and were picked up by media all around China. This forced the hotels involved, and hopefully others who could be using similar cleaning methods, to immediately rectify the situation and improve staff training. Hotels featured in the video rushed to release statements assuring guests and local governments that the issue would be dealt with and that their rooms are clean and safe.

Hotels seething behind the scenes

Despite putting forward an understanding and apologetic front, though, some hotel staff were angered by the blogger for releasing the video in the first place. Soon his personal details were released online, and he was forced into hiding after receiving threats of violence and death.

A staff member at the Hilton Garden Inn in Guiyang shared a photo of Wu’s passport in a WeChat work group, suggesting that he be blacklisted and not allowed to stay in the future.

An Intercontinental Hotels & Resorts employee reshared the information in another group, and members of that group called Wu “ugly and annoying.”

Back in Guiyang, a marketing employee from Sofitel said that the blogger should “be ready for any revenge and intimidation” because of the video. He went on to say that Wu is “doing evil under the guise of benefiting the public.”

This is worrying behavior, because it means that at least some hotel staff are willing to ignore the very crucial crux of the issue — that some cleaners are badly trained and are, quite possibly, putting paying guests at risk — and instead launching a personal vendetta against whoever brings such valuable information to the fore.

Why is social media so important here?

One of the valuable things about social media is its ability to give a voice to individuals who otherwise may not have a wide reach, whenever they have information or content the public has deemed worthwhile and important.

That’s exactly how information on social media goes viral, when the public care enough to share it and talk about it. While usually that will involve cute videos of cats or people singing and dancing, every so often it shines a light on issues significant to society and making society better, like teachers hitting children under their care, public officials shirking responsibility, and hotel cleaners putting guests at risk with shoddy cleaning practices.

The discussions that arise from such viral content is often invaluable, because it’s a very public and widespread way to encourage debate around vital issues as decided by the very public ourselves.

Talking openly and honestly about problems is one of the best ways to improve the world we live in and ensure society can continue to progress and develop.

Hotel manager detention a good sign

It’s a great relief that a hotel manager in Shenzhen was put under police detention for a week for his part in the leaking of Wu’s personal details online. That sends a strong message that this type of behavior shouldn’t be tolerated, and it will hopefully work to let others who may become guardians of important information in the future to do their best to bring it to the world.


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