03/25/2013 06:37 EDT | Updated 03/25/2013 06:42 EDT

Hotel Staff Revenge: Rude Guests Face Sabotage, Says UBC Study


It looks like revenge really is a dish best served cold in the hotel industry.

While it's always a good idea to treat your fellow human being with kindness, failing to do so can end come with some nasty results according to a study from the University of British Columbia. The study found that when faced with rude customers, disgruntled hotel staff reacted with sabotage but the severity of that payback depends on where travellers are staying.

Researchers found that North American hotel staff lashed out at rude guests by giving them wrong directions or by serving them cold food. Hospitality workers in China on the other hand, responded to the same treatment with a lower quality of service to all customers.

“North Americans take a surgical approach to abuse, zeroing in on individuals who mistreated them,” says Daniel Skarlicki, a professor with UBC's Sauder School of Business and the co-author of the study. He adds that hotel management must be mindful of these cultural differences when expanding operations across the Pacific.

“Chinese don’t blame the transgressor. They blame the system — the company or customers they serve,” Skarlicki explained.

Using a sample group of 214 hotel workers from the same hotel chain — 132 in Beijing and 82 in Vancouver — Skarlicki and Ruodan Shao, the study's second author, found that despite the different forms of revenge, the number of people who would react to rude customers was similar. The finding showed 20 per cent of North Americans were more likely to turn to sabotage to even the score while 19 per cent of Chinese workers were more likely "to lose enthusiasm in their jobs" as payback.

According to Skarlicki, the method of payback fits his theory on Eastern and Western culture.

“In China, they are very collectivist. And sure enough, what we found is that they tend to cut back on service to all customers in general. They just simply disengage from customers. It’s very passive, it’s indirect. It’s not surgical [retaliation] like it is in North America,” Skarlicki told the Globe and Mail.

Other investigations into hotel staff revenge have also shown similar attacks on individuals instead of on the hospitality system. According to Good Morning America, those who failed to tip valets risked having their cars taken for a joy ride and those who mouthed off to hotel concierges could be placed in a sub-par hotel room without a second thought.

Have you found yourself on the wrong end of a disgruntled hotel worker? Tell us your tale in the comments below or via Twitter @HPCaTravel.

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