Thursday, April 13, 2006

Todays Fat Load of Crap: Hilton Screws Over Disabled Vets

This came from The Mudville Gazette by way of Basil's Blog

Fran O'Brien's steakhouse in the Capitol Hilton, Washington, DC. Every Friday night, Hal Koster, the restaurant manager and Vietnam Vet, invites wounded soldiers convalescing at nearby Walter Reed Army Center to a free steak dinner and drinks.Hilton Corporation has decided not to renew their lease as apparently,there are too many "liability issues" in accommodating American heroes in wheelchairs. In fact , the lease (and therefore the dinners) will expire in a few short weeks.

more from The Mudville Gazette

Thats enough to make you say, "You heartless bastards, I've got a mind to "
So please take the time to A: read the whole story B: vent at Hilton and C: Spread the word so that other people can tear Hilton a new one by either posting about it in your blog or emailing a friend or fifty.

Now that the important part is over allow me to ramble on for a bit. Hilton's behaviour is what is generally referred to as poor corporate citizenship and its not that uncommon. And I believe that its cause is linked to the same thing that also gives rise to corporate corruption. If you have ever taken buisness classes you know that the purpose of a corporation is "To return maximum value to its shareholders." Think about that. Maximum. Not great, not incredible, not better than last quarter, but the most you can possibly manage within the limits of the law.

Thats difficult to do and still be a good corporate citizen. And all to often maximizing shareholder value means doing it at the expense of others (downsizing, exporting jobs etc etc). Hilton's behaviour is a good example of that. Wal Mart is frequently villainized for it. I know Wal Mart stores donates to many local charities and odds are both Wal Mart and Hilton donate to charity on a corporate level as well but Hilton probably does not donate any more than the IRS allows them to deduct from their taxes. And in my opinion thats a really short sighted approach.

Why? Because as evidenced by Hilton's behaviour being a member of the heartless bastard club generates negative PR which will decrease profits. Had Hilton instead just built the damn ramp and renewed the lease that could have been avoided. Had Hilton gone a step further and say purchased dinners for disabled vets using money from their Advertising Budget they would have attracted new customers and increased the brand loyalty of some of their current customers and generated good PR. Odds are years of trying to pinch every penny possible has given Hilton tunnel vision. Wal Mart had the sense to help out significantly during hurricane Katrina and as a result got network news coverage for doing so.

I'm willing to bet that had Wal Mart paid for the same amount of advertising time they'd have gotten less consumer response and paid more for it than they actually donated. They made money by giving away money. That goes against the traditional "maximum value" way of thinking. And Nike, Whole Foods, and Google are good examples of what can happen when a company doesn't make "maximum value" its top priority.