Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Vandalism - Who Can Understand It?

When I was about 18 years old, I spent the better part of a year building a 1965 Chevelle SS to the point where it would draw attention whenever I drove it, or parked it somewhere.  Black with a white interior and lots of bells and whistles under the hood.  It doesn’t compare to the hot rods that they build today, but to me, it was something special, and I can still remember how I felt the first time that I returned to my car after having carefully parked it on the street for a few hours, to find that someone had run a key all the way down one side of the car.

Why?  How could someone possibly benefit from this action?  (With the exception of the paint shop that touched that car up for me on more than one occasion).

I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it any better now.

Fast forward to today – I’m out for my usual morning run, which takes me through my neighbourhood and past a new little shopping plaza with about a dozen little shops in it that opened about 6 months ago now.  In an effort to make the little plaza more inviting and attractive, the owner has installed a few park benches so people can stop and rest for a moment, and they also have about 10 large decorative ceramic plant pots along the exterior walkway, with a nice selection of seasonal plants in them – well, not anymore.  

Today when I ran by the little plaza there were only remnants of plants and plant pots, as the plant pots had been smashed into a hundred pieces, with dirt and rocks and plants and assorted pieces of the plant pots scattered for 2 blocks.  Why?

After my initial shock and disappointment, I found myself wondering as I continued my run, what would be going through the owner’s head, when he discovered what had happened.  Clearly, they could have avoided this problem if they had left the exterior walkway a barren landscape of concrete, but they chose to make the effort, at considerable expense no doubt, to try to enhance the area, to contribute to the neighbourhood.

I will be interested to see, in the coming days, whether or not the owner decides to replace the plants and decorative plant pots again, now that they know what could happen.  It’s a shame and at least to some degree it answers the question of who benefits from vandalism – no one, we all lose.

It’s also why I have always made it crystal clear to all of my employees that I will not tolerate vandalism in my hotels.  It is unacceptable.

Vandalism in hotels demonstrates a lack of respect for the owner, for the brand, for the hotel itself, and perhaps worst of all, a lack of respect to fellow employees.

I had the unfortunate circumstance once to be faced with a situation where we had an employee who was smearing human feces on the walls in the men’s employee change room.  Other employees were appalled and wanted this vandal caught as badly as I did.  They were as disgusted as I was and felt as I did, that this person had no business in our hotel, no business being a member of our “team” if he could behave this way.  Perhaps most upset was the night cleaner who came upon this situation on several occasions before the person was caught, which he was.

It took about a week to narrow things down to determine when this was happening, who was on shift at the time on the various days when it occurred, and then, once we knew that, we started scanning the security camera footage for the dates and times when we believed it had happened to see who was coming and going from the men’s change room during those times.

That was the ironic thing, for our employees’ safety, we had cameras in the back corridor leading to and from the staff change rooms, in order to ensure that no one got in from the street, etc., got down that hallway, and possibly entered one of our staff change rooms, and everyone knew we had cameras in that hallway.  That didn’t deter our vandal and the next time that he was on shift we monitored the cameras until he went into the change room, and we gave him a few minutes to incriminate himself, and sure enough, he did so.

I probably don’t need to tell you that we fired him.  Once confronted, he confessed.  Why had he done it you may be wondering?  He was upset with his manager about what he felt was a less than favourable performance review he had received.  But, had he said anything to anyone?  No, not his immediate manager, not the Director of HR, and not to me.  He decided instead to take his anger out through vandalism, and where did that get him?

It’s a shame and as I said earlier, it at least to some degree answers the question of who benefits from vandalism – no one, we all lose.

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