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Posted: June 06, 2013

Chef Laura: Trust hang-ups

Are you inadvertently offending potential customers?

Laura Cook Newman

What do hair dryers and hangers have to do with trust?  A lot actually, but more on that later.

Whether it’s a book on relationships or management, a common theme in these self-help guides is “trust”:  how to earn it, how to keep it and how to leverage it.  Bestsellers like The Speed of Trust by Stephen M.R. Covey is required reading in MBA programs and at Fortune 500 companies.

And it should be. It’s a good book – most of these slick-marketed texts usually are.  The thickness and complexity of these books, however, tend to rival a Tolstoy novel.  Busy professionals barely have enough time to throw back two Bloody Marys during a layover, let alone read an in-depth book on the (spoiler alert!) two-way street that is trust.

No need to memorize a corporate-speak text, I wrote some CliffsNotes. Just (virtually) travel with me; you’ll see how simply it can be established, how quickly it can be destroyed, and if you or your company is sending mixed messages.

As a bit of a road warrior and lover of old school rap, I spend my fair share of nights in hotels, motels, and Holiday Inns.  There are two objects in the room that speaks to a hotel’s ability to trust their guests.  Even hospitality guru John Willard Marriott probably didn’t realize the subtle, yet potentially negative, message these objects send to their guests.

You guessed it: hair dryers and hangers.

First, locate the hairdryer.  Is it a mini version tethered to the bathroom wall?  This hotel suspects you have sticky fingers and can’t wait to add another tiny 100-decibel hairdryer to your collection.

Next, head over to the closet.  At first glance, the hangers look nice – maybe dark wooden ones – but on further inspection, you notice the unusually small hook designed to fit only their skinny rod.  Or worse, in lieu of a hook, it’s a silly stick and ball requiring the guest to tap into their Milton Bradley “Operation” skills to hang a blazer. Either way, both of these hotel chains predicts you’re a hanger-hoarding thief.

If a hotel assumes you’re a crook, you may start to act like one. There are only so many 3.4 oz bottles of shampoo TSA allows you to stuff into a Ziploc these days.  So of course it seems logical that in your frustration to pilfer munchkin-sized toiletries, you plan to heist things that aren’t bolted down.

Why am I so hung up on this issue?  Well, because this practice blows.

As business pros, you need to protect yourself and your company, but not at the risk of offending potential customers.  Are you inadvertently sending signals that you don’t trust them?  Maybe requiring convoluted contracts, chaining a ballpoint pen to a counter or installing cumbersome hangers?

Instead of convicting guests guilty as soon as they check in, hotels would benefit by taking a page from Covey’s book.  How about stocking the closets with standard hangers?  Or even better, logo the full-size hangers like the hotels did in the golden era. They’re telling you “Go ahead, take a souvenir!” 

It’s not stealing; it’s marketing genius.  

I have an antique “Biltmore Hotel Providence, RI” hanger in my closet proving this theory.  A simple hanger becomes so much more than an apparatus to keep your suit wrinkle-free.  It’s brilliant advertising and a powerful symbol of trust.  They trust that I will have such a memorable stay that I will want to take a hanger, tell my friends, and be a repeat customer.  And they’re right. Trust me.

Laura Cook Newman is a professional Chef and Training Manager for a Fortune 500 food manufacturer. She earned her chops at Johnson & Wales University, has an MBA in Marketing and hosts a blog for behind-the-scenes insights on the food service industry. Contact her at

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Readers Respond

If I was you Laura I'd hang onto that vintage coat hanger. I mean who knows? - A mafia hitman from Federal Hill might have hung his trench coat on it! Have it dusted for prints. Some detective on the dole will do it for you - TRUST me. P.S. keep writing! Your articles are good to the last drop! By Pamsclams on 2013 06 14
Dear Chef Laura, I liked your article's name and taking that Hotel's hanger. Do you recommend that Hotel? Thx Chef T Dub By Chef T Dub on 2013 06 12
Dear Who Ha, I think it's standard practice when a CEO of a big company is put out to pasture, they are obligated to write a business book. Kinda like our former presidents get a library, or museum, or their face on some currency. My point is, you're right - not all of these books are gems. Perhaps you and I can go into business of selling just the book covers. Then business travelers can wrap that around "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" and look wicked smart on their next flight, despite the fact that they're laughing hysterically to "The One Minute Manager." By Chef Laura on 2013 06 07
That hotel was great. Their towels were so big and fluffy I could hardly close my suitcase! By Henny Youngman on 2013 06 06
Generally I agree with your articles, but honestly, do you believe that all those "slick-marketed texts" are good? I've read a few of Mr. Covey's (and other authors) books. I've found that they all tend to say most of the same things I learned from my mother and kindergarten and then received a freshener course as I've raised my kids, only in fancier and longer language. As you say we professionals have little extra time and wasting it on these books seems counter productive - unless you want to look like you are reading them - then pick up several at a used book store and stage them on your desk (or work surface). By You believe that who ha on 2013 06 06
Great article. I had the same realization in the CO ski country hotel. There was a list of hotel objects on a price sheet in the room. Do you what a phone $50, TV $750 (which is bolted down), pillow $50, bed spread $300 etc. Really a bedspread.... should I send them the cleaning bill for that?? By Mark on 2013 06 06
What about the robes........... By Ya but... on 2013 06 06
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