CHICAGO — A major hotel chain is apologizing for turning a group of people who typically live on the street away, even though they had a reservation to stay for more than a month.
Dr. Aleta Clark, the founder of Hugs No Slugs and better known as Englewood Barbie, said the group had a $16,000 reservation to stay at Hyatt House in the West Loop.
When it was time to check in on Wednesday, they said they felt like they were turned away because of how they looked and where they came from.
“The friends are the people that live out here,” Clark said. “I don’t identify them as homeless because that places them beneath me. Calling them the friends places them beside me.”
She took several friends to the hotel where a Hugs No Slugs supporter made a reservation amount to more than $16,000 for the friends to stay until March 10.
“I gave them my confirmation number, they say ‘My general manager doesn’t feel comfortable renting to these people,'” Clark said. “I was like ‘These people? What do you mean these people?'”
Clark said from there she was given the run-around and told the hotel was booked and the money was refunded.
John Stringer was one of the friends in the group.
“As soon as they see us, they cancel the reservation right then and there,” Stringer said. “That’s pretty bad. How would you do people like that?”
A Hyatt representative told WGN that “the reservations for this group were canceled before they arrived on property, as it raised some standard security concerns, including not having a real name on the reservation. The reservation was made through a third-party website under the names “Friend Friend” and “Universal Fast Delivery” which raised concerns for the hotel; they review all arriving reservations for potential standard security concerns. During the conversation between the group organizer and hotel management on February 8, the hotel offered to rebook the group for a one-week stay, which was all that was available at the time, and the group declined.”
In an official response, Hyatt said they are “deeply sorry” for the incident and apologize for making the group feel unwelcome.
“Hyatt’s purpose is to care for people so that they can be their best, and we are deeply sorry for the incident that occurred Wednesday, Feb 8 at the Hyatt House hotel in Chicago’s West Loop,” Jason Ballard, Hyatt’s VP of brand excellence support, said in a statement. “We apologize the hotel did not deliver on Hyatt’s brand promise and that the group was made to feel unwelcome.
“We are dedicated to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion and, when those values are not upheld at a Hyatt-branded Hotel – like in this case – we hold ourselves and our third-party operators urgently accountable to do better. We are further addressing this matter with hotel leadership and Hyatt’s operations leadership team to assess how we can better serve all guests and better communicate regarding reservations in the future. It is standard practice that management of reservation systems enables hotels to cancel reservations made under third-party bookers. We also understand the hotel’s operate plans to implement training for all colleagues at the hotel in an effort to prevent something like this from happening in the future.”
Aaron Williams said he was deeply hurt by the hotel’s actions.
“I don’t know why this person would say ‘those people,'” Williams said. “Society has a stigma. Like why for a moment can’t they just put this stigma, this subjected-minded thinking to the side?”
It’s not uncommon to see Englewood Barbie sleeping in a tent near her friends. After Wednesday’s incident, she said she’s not going anywhere until they have a comfortable place to stay.
“I can’t go home tonight knowing that these people that this hotel just told them to go back to their tent,” Clark said. “So I told them I’m going to stay out here every day until I raise enough money to buy us a shelter.”