Customer Service & How Your Brand Suffers

A tissue issue nearly flushes this hotel’s brand reputation.


tissue issue


I’ve been thinking a lot about branding lately. Specifically, how that a brand matches up with its reputation.

Your Brand

Brand image is important as this allows companies to sell their products and oftentimes command a premium for superior service. I must admit, I’m more of a Chevrolet man who enjoys his Cadillac touches. Buick might do, but if I can have the best and do so without paying full price, then why not?

My current branding thoughts most likely have everything to do with where my family chooses to stay when we’re on the road. For several years we were Choice Hotel members (Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, and Sleep Inn to name a few), then briefly switched to Wyndham (Days Inn, Microtel, etc.) before deciding we absolutely liked the accommodations available at Marriott properties. I had already been staying at Marriott properties before we made the switch, having been put up in these fine hotels by clients when I’ve flown or have driven into town.

A quick trip up north this past week meant that we would split our journey into two days going up and two days coming back, with stays at Marriott properties in Winchester, Va., each time. On the way up, it was a Fairfield Inn property. On the way back, it was to be a TownePlace, a newly built hotel at that.

Marriott Properties

The Fairfield Inn is on the “budget” side for Marriott as is TownePlace, but the Fairfield offered several nice touches including breakfast, fresh fruit, coffee throughout the day, and an inside pool. The TownePlace offered much of the same although the pool was outside. This latter hotel also had a hard-to-find entrance — the hotel looks like an apartment complex and there was no entrance door with a defining and welcoming canopy. Still, we found our way in, made the payment, and went to our room.

TownePlace’s are wonderful for families especially if you want to avoid eating out. Breakfast is served, but each room features a kitchenette equipped with a full-size refrigerator, a stove, a microwave, a sink, and a dishwasher. Plates, cups, and utensils are also available, allowing travelers to make themselves at home. Restaurant food is fine, but it can wreck your diet — make it yourself and eat better and save some money.

Marriott Amenities

Important to everyone wherever we stay is the bathroom as well as the beds. Marriott properties typically have some of the most comfortable mattresses and pillows anywhere — your sleep comfort isn’t an issue. The bathrooms are large with plenty of towels for our family of four.

What was lacking and what soon proved to be a problem was the toilet tissue. The lone roll available was down to about one-third of its original size with no additional rolls in storage. Thinking nothing of it, we soon hit our mattresses and fell asleep.

Tissue Issue

The next morning, realizing that the “issue of tissue” would soon become a problem, I made my way down to the front desk and spoke with the representative, asking for a roll. Her response stunned me — “We’re out of toilet paper and we don’t expect any more until later in the day.”

That wasn’t the answer I wanted to hear and, being that I have an expressive face, I dropped my jaw in disbelief and was rendered speechless, but just for a moment. Realizing that we were about to hit the road again and in need of r-e-l-i-e-f, I asked for the next best thing, a box of facial tissues, which the rep was able to supply.

Once back in the room I explained the problem to my wife who was just as surprised and disappointed as I was. We managed with what we had, packed our bags, got in our car, and headed home.

Hotel Feedback

The next day I received a note from the manager of the TownePlace asking us about our stay. In reply I offered the following:

I must admit that I was disappointed with my most recent stay. Yesterday morning, when I asked at the front desk for a roll of toilet paper, the rep told me that the hotel was out of paper and that they hoped to get some in later in the day. Honestly, I was stunned by her answer — but, I managed to regain my composure by asking for a box of facial tissue to help us out. When we checked into our room, the one roll in the bathroom was mostly depleted.

With Martin’s (a supermarket) just across the way from the hotel, surely someone could have picked up a few rolls.

The room was fine although I couldn’t get the bathtub to drain. I shower fairly quickly, but the water was still above my ankles.

I’ve left Choice Hotels and Wyndham because of substandard service but will continue to use Marriott. Still, I’m surprised by the toilet paper problem and was a bit embarrassed. My wife wasn’t happy either.

Hopefully, this isn’t an ongoing reflection of your new hotel, otherwise, this could prove to be a problem later on. BTW, on the way up north (the previous Friday night), we stayed at the Fairfield Inn in Winchester and loved it.

GM Response

A few hours later I received a direct reply from the hotel’s general manager who apologized and offered an explanation. A delivery truck with said supplies did not show up as expected the night before. The rep was the only person on duty that morning, but the GM wasn’t aware of or informed of the problem until she arrived at the hotel later that morning.

For my inconvenience, I received an additional 5,000 Marriott points, credited to my account immediately. I appreciated the gesture and can imagine that the GM has already taken steps to get her staff to notify her of problems before they escalate.

That’s something I’m all too familiar with, having once worked as a store manager for Wendy’s, the restaurant chain. Whenever a problem arose while I was at work and was something my other managers couldn’t resolve on their own, I was contacted and immediately brought in a box of lettuce, a ream of cups, or other items that were in short supply. This was in the day before cell phones too — I had to keep on top of things even when I was at home. No wonder I lasted just three years in the industry…

Customer Satisfaction

So, back to branding: you are only as good as your most recent customer feedback, and a small, but significant problem can leave a bad taste in your mouth. The Marriott “tissue issue” was a surprise to me, but it hardly compares to problems I’ve had with uncomfortable beds, awful breakfasts, and dirty rooms experienced elsewhere.

Still, it is often the little things that can ding your brand, leaving a bad taste in the mouth of your customers who might flee to the competition.


Return to Matt’s Musings.

Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay