Values are like the old Seinfeld bit about rental car reservations. Companies are very good at expressing values (i.e. taking the car reservation), but they’re never much good at keeping them.
A small case in point:
On a recent pleasure trip, I stayed at a Holiday Inn. Overall, I had a good experience. I was struck by one thing, though. In the w.c., as Jack Parr once infamously referred to the bathroom, there was a small card. It reads:
Our hotel is committed to conserving our country’s natural resources. Every day, tons of detergent and millions of gallons of water are used to launder towels that have only been used once.
A towel on the floor : “Please exchange”
A towel on the rack means: “I’ll use it again”
Now I may just be the product of a Georgia public school (please, send your cards and letters to the Georgia school board, not me), but I understood the intent of the card rather clearly. I didn’t even need the oh-so-helpful illustrations of a towel on a rack versus one on the floor.
But, surprise, surprise, on my second day of my stay, I returned to my room that evening and I had fresh towels even though I had hung up the towels on the door and on the rack. I understood the card. Do the hotel’s employees not know what a hung-up towel means? What do I have to do?
Hide my wet towels? Take them with me? The old joke about Holiday Inn was that you’d find one of their towels in every home in America, but maybe folks weren’t stealing them, they were just environmentally conscious before it was cool.
I don’t want to single Holiday Inn out here either. It’s just my most recent experience. Every single time I’ve stayed in a hotel and seen such a sign, I try to comply and save water and I express my desire to reuse my towel. And every time I return to my room to find fresh towels.
A fresh towel is a wonderful thing. But then so is our planet. If companies could close the gap between what they say and what they do, we’d all be better off.