2018-09-30 09:01:30

After exposing a major hotel group whose cleaner wiped down a toilet with a towel used by guests last year, a whistleblower learned while checking into one of the group’s establishments a year later that he had been flagged as a guest “who installs cameras in the toilet to obtain evidence,” state news agency Xinhua reported Sunday.

On Sunday morning, Huazhu Hotels Group apologized on its official Weibo microblog account, emphasizing that it has neither the intent nor the right to make any judgements of its customers. “The hotel set up the function of special reminders on its member system to record guests’ preferences or special requirements, with the expectation to offer them personalized service when they check in next time,” the group said, adding that the “inappropriate remark” had been replace with “a VIP who has given us constructive feedback.”

While staying in a Ji Hotel — a midrange hotel brand under Huazhu — in downtown Jinan, the capital of eastern Shandong province, last August, the guest installed a camera in his bathroom and found that the cleaning staff had wiped down the toilet with the towels in his room. The hotel group was widely criticized on Chinese social media after the video was circulated online. Three days later, the hotel apologized, admitting that its housekeeping staff had been responsible for “serious violations” during the room sanitation process. The employee involved was fired, and the hotel’s manager was removed from their post.

Huazhu is a major hotel management company in China. Headquartered in Shanghai, it owns over a dozen budget and midrange hotel brands. According to its website, the group has 100 million registered members, as well as over 5,200 hotels in 1,125 cities across the country.

In late August, while checking in at an Orange Crystal Hotel — another brand owned by Huazhu — a receptionist told the whistleblower that there was a note in the “special reminder” column of the hotel’s guest registration system: “This guest will install cameras in the bathroom to collect evidence.” It is unclear why the receptionist volunteered this information to the whistleblower.

The remarks are juxtaposed with other negative characterizations the hotel group has applied to its guests, such as “financial issues,” “irrational needs,” and “potty-mouth.” When the whistleblower asked the receptionist why such a note had been appended to his profile, the receptionist assured the customer that it was just a record — “It doesn’t mean we’re going to do anything to you,” he said. He further explained that the note was merely intended to inform Huazhu hotels that thorough housekeeping was a top priority for this valued guest.

Hotel hygiene has been a chronic problem for China’s hospitality industry. In April 2016, several budget hotels in Beijing were busted for outsourcing their laundry service to a third party that mixed relatively clean sheets with filthy ones covered in blood and vomit, and then washed everything together with sodium hydroxide, causing the bedding’s pH to be dangerously high. In December of last year, three five-star hotels in the northeastern city of Harbin were exposed after their cleaners used toilet brushes to scrub drinking glasses, and mopped the floor with guest towels that had been dipped in toilet water.

Editor: David Paulk.

(Header image: Food-delivery drivers pass by a Ji Hotel in Shanghai, Aug. 31, 2018. Ji Haixin/VCG)