Regular readers of the blog will no doubt recall the appalling treatment I received at the Holiday Inn hotel at Kings Cross in March. My wife had arranged a Spa treat and a massage for me at this swanky hotel, to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. When I arrived I was given a "health questionairre" and duly filled it in. What followed was extremely upsetting and annoying. Having prepared myself for a massage, lying on the treatment table, I was informed that they couldn't treat me, due to the fact I have cancer. My first response was incredulity. I had clearly stated that I have a low grade, non aggressive and localised cancer in my prostate gland. In fact, my doctors have advised that massage is good for relaxation and poses no clinical risk. I informed the hotel that I was quite happy to sign a disclaimer and that I had taken medical advice. They informed me that it didn't matter, it was company policy. I then informed them that under the disablity act, what they were doing is illegal, as cancer is clearly defined as a disability ( If you have any cancer then the Equality Act 2010 covers you. The Equality Act is a law that protects anyone who has, or has had, a disability - cancer is classed as a disability under this law. Even if you no longer have cancer, you are still protected against discrimination.) The staff at the spa were very contemptuous when this point was raised.
As an adult, I believe I have the right to make choices. I can go and drink myself to death in the hotel bar, I can eat high fat foods in their restaurants. It is my choice. All of these things are far more of a threat to my health than a massage. If the hotel had any grounds to doubt my sanity, then they would have a point perhaps, but they certainly at no point raised this. As my wife was with me, they could have asked her. A company has the right to take reasonable precautions to protect its business, but denying a perfectly healthy person a beneficial treatment is clearly both illegal and immoral. If you operate a "health club", surely you should be aware of the health implications of what you do and the law. The stress of having my anniversary treat was probably the worst aspect of the whole experience. I feel extremely sorry for my wife, who not only felt very upset, but had to put up with me being in a foul mood on what should have been a special day.
Anyway, after the event several things happened. I was deluged with emails from massage therapists, posting links to articles stating the positive benefits of massage in my situation (thanks for the support). I was also contacted by someone who is a personal friend of a senior member of the Inter Continental Hotel board (who own Holiday Inn). They told me that they'd raise the issue with him. And we got a tweet from Inter Continental Hotels, asking them to email them. We did this. We had a short exchange of emails, the last of which was this.
Dear Mr. Tichborne,Thank you for your prompt response regarding your experience and greatly appreciate the time you have spent to bring this matter to our attention. We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience the level of customer service may have caused you.We are hospitality professionals who pride ourselves on delivering world class customer service and it is our regret that we failed to deliver an exemplary performance in this context. We want our guest to have a pleasant and professional experience when interacting with our staff. We sincerely apologize we fell below your standards on level of customer service provided.It has always been the goal of IHG to provide world class accommodations and services to all of our guests and members. The feedback we receive from our valued guests, like you, enables us to target problem areas, and take the necessary actions to ensure similar situations can be avoided in the future.I have also forwarded your comments to the General Manager and ownership of this hotel. We certainly do take these matters very seriously and assure you the circumstances leading to this incident will be thoroughly investigated internally to prevent another guest from experiencing a similar inconvenience. We understand the value of our guests and stress the importance of quality guest service. We trust you have experienced this higher level of service at our hotels and with our office in the past, and know that we do care about you as our guest.Once again, thank you for taking the time to contact us. We value you as our guest and hope you will continue to choose IHG for your future travel needs.Sincerely,Zelyn NavaltaeMedia CoordinatorIHGCareReference # 84771920
We received this email at 9.28 on Weds 25th March. I naively assumed that when the General Manager and the Ownership of the hotel realised what had happened, we may have got at the very least a personal apology. Sadly this apology from the "emedia coordinator" was the last communication we received. I thought it may take a week or two for them to review the situation. I think two months is quite long enough to conclude their review.
Every company gets things wrong sometimes. Only a fool expects otherwise. I judge a company by how they deal with situations when there is a problem. So how do I judge Inter Continental Hotels?
Well I think we can safely say that if you are living with cancer (which one in 3 of us are, often without realising), then they will discriminate against you and deny you services, based on no medical evidence. They will quite happily embarrass you and make you feel like a second class citizen and bring home to you that "you are different" (the first time this has happened since I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011).
We can also say that if you are there for a special occasion and there is an issue with the service that causes you to be dissatisfied with service, you can expect "a sincere apology" from the "emedia coordinator". Don't expect the people responsible for the problem to bother getting in touch or trying to make amends. I run a business. If a recording or rehearsal session has a problem, I don't get the bloke who runs my website to apologise, I try and make damn sure I sort the issue out myself. I can't say we always sort things out, but we try. DO you think Inter Continental hotels have tried?
I really don't think it is too much to expect that a large multinational brand, that operates health clubs, has a proper policy for dealing with people with cancer and other conditions. If my wife had been informed that the hotel would not give massages to ANYONE who has any form of cancer, no matter how beningn, we wouldn't have bothered using the hotel. I personally wouldn't choose to use a chain with such a policy, even if I wasn't in the situation I find myself in. I am sharing this experience with you so that you can also make the same decision. When the emedia coordinator contacted me, I sort of assumed that I'd get a follow up call or email and they'd sort this out. I can't pretend I'm not disappointed. I am also mildly surprised.
When this incident occurred, I was furious, not least because my wife was extremely upset that what she thought was a lovely treat that would make me happy couldn't have gone more horribly wrong. If you run a company which is in the business of providing "world class accommodations and services to all of our guests and members" don't you think they should try a bit harder. As I said, I was furious. Now I am just rather sad that in this day and age, large companies can be so useless.
If you have had a horrible experience somewhere as a result of company mistreating you due to issues with cancer (or any other illness), please feel free to submit a guest blog. We can only change things if we name and shame these corporations that simply do not care.