TAMPA (FOX 13) - A Tampa woman and her sister are sharing video with FOX 13 of an encounter they say is unfair treatment at a Hampton Inn in Georgia, and wonder if it has anything to do with their race. At the very least, Mary Williams is calling it a major failure in customer service.
“For the first time in my life, I felt like someone was judging me just based on how I looked,” said Williams.
When Williams complained about a room reservation at a franchisee-owned Hampton Inn in Lake Park, Georgia, she decided to roll on the conversation. At the start of the video we see a Hampton Inn front-desk staffer with a name tag reading “Rose” and hear two women off camera, Williams and her sister Ebonee Dobson.
The video begins like this:
Rose: “You people are ignorant.”
Williams: "You people?"
Rose: “Your reservation is not in my system! We extended a courtesy to you. We did not have to.”
Williams: “Ma’am... ma’am..."
Rose: "Step away from my counter!"
Williams: "Whoa, this is so unnecessary."
Williams says she made a reservation on the Hilton Hotel app for the Hampton Inn and received a confirmation email. But the Hampton Inn’s computer showed her July 2017 reservation was "cancelled" when she checked-in at the front desk. Williams says she got a room, but it had fewer amenities, and cost more than the one she originally booked.
The video continues:
Rose: “There's nowhere else to put you. You are lucky you got in a room for what we did do, for what my girl got you. She got in touch with me and I did check internally, but ignorance is bliss and you guys are just blazing this morning."
Williams also snapped photos of a cracked toilet and broken roll-away bed in the replacement room. They wanted to switch the room for their next night's stay.
William's sister Ebonee Dobson was traveling with her to visit their grandmother. Dobson actually works in the corporate customer complaint department for Hampton Inn’s parent company, Hilton.
“I know the standard, and I feel like my family hasn’t been able to experience that,” Dobson said in an interview later, saying her attempt to handle the situation for Williams backfired. “I really feel like it was because me letting her know I work for the company. That was the trigger."
The video continues:
Rose: “If you're in corporate complaints, walk in there and call. I'm not afraid. I don't know what you people think?”
Dobson: “Well, first of all Miss Rose…”
Rose: “I do not want to talk to you! I'm not going to argue with a fool! Do you understand?"
Dobson: “Wow, I don't know why you feel that way about me.”
Rose: “You know what, shut up! You people are ignorant!"
Williams: “Ebonee, Ebonee, Ebonee, just stop.”
Rose: “I don't want to talk to you. I'm not going to argue with a fool.”
Williams: “So we're both fools? I know you asked me a question. Are we going to have a conversation or do you just get to talk?"
Rose: “I'm done! Do you understand the law is coming?”
It is important to point out that there is no video of the moments before this encounter.
Williams: “She says you called her staff incompetent.”
Dobson: “I did not. Not one time did I say that. The young lady was very nice last night.”
When customer service consultant Simon Bailey watched the exchange, he exclaimed, "Wow! Wow. I'm in shock.”
Bailey worked for Disney for years and says this goes against customer service industry standards.
“So let me say this. I started at the front desk and one of the things you are taught is if the guest has a complaint, you do not go up the scale in your emotions. It is tonality. It is editing your word choice and it is empathizing with them by saying, ‘ma’am, sir, I understand how you feel. What has happened? How would you like for us to fix this?’”
For Williams, the fix would have been Hilton letting her know they had taken action. While Dobson says she got an apology at work from her Hilton supervisors for the way everything was handled, Williams says she’s still waiting.
"I'm almost 40 years old. I can think back to all of the experiences in my life. I cannot remember a time in my life that someone made me feel less because of my race,” she offered.
Williams says Hilton acknowledged by email that they received her complaint, but never offered a resolution. So, Williams sent Hilton a letter from her attorney, “asking let's just talk about this. No refund, points, nothing. Just talk about this. Nothing.”
Hilton has not responded to our multiple requests for comment. FOX 13 called the Lake Park Hampton Inn directly to see if Rose, the woman identified in the cell phone video, was still working there. A woman who identified herself as Misty Whitehead, the hotel’s new general manager, told us her predecessor Rose was terminated shortly after the incident we were calling about, and that the incident did contribute to her being let go.
“At this point right now, whether she's with the company or not, she wins. She won that day, and that’s the thing that continues to eat at me since it happened,” continued Williams.
Williams feels she did everything she could to seek a reasonable resolution and gets emotional when she sees the video.
Williams: “Why can't you just be calm?"
Rose: “This is a joke and if you're with corporate how do you think this is going to play?"
Williams/Dobson: "How do you think this is going to play?"
Rose: “I'm an educated woman and you are the two most pathetic things I've seen this year.”
Dobson says, "We know what ‘you people’ mean. Pathetic, fool, crazy uneducated. Those words were also hurtful beyond what is attached to that meaning of "you people.”
Williams plans to share the video on social media to put public pressure on Hilton to resolve her complaint. “I want them to see the video and understand I want to see someone face to face. I've got to sit down with someone. It has been too long now. I need to see someone and let them know how that made me feel."
The Lake Park Hampton Inn's new general manager said that the franchise owner had been made aware of our emails asking for comment by Hilton, and that his lawyer should be reaching out to us. That was more than a month ago.