Motel 6 Facing Barrage of Criticism Over Response

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Motel 6 isn’t often in the national spotlight. The discount motel chain offers inexpensive rooms to travelers who are looking for a comfortable stay with few thrills. Now, though, Motel 6 is in the news for entirely different reasons.According to reports in the Phoenix New Times, some Arizona Motel 6 locations were alerting immigration officials when undocumented guests checked in at the motel. Rumors of this practice first hit the headlines back in the summer, when ICE officials detained Manuel Rodriguez-Juarez. This arrest was only one of 20 such detentions over a few months this year.

According to the PNT story, sources suggested motel employees sent information about illegal immigrants to ICE when the guests checked in. Rodriguez-Juarez submitted his Mexican voter ID as proof of identity when checking in. The article reported that ICE didn’t say whether or not the agency had received tips from Motel 6 staff, but employees at the motel were far less coy.

Motel clerks admitted sending information to ICE when guests checked in. Some claimed they did this every morning, early, before guests were awake. That would give time for immigration officials to arrive to make an arrest.

After the story ran, many praised the Motel 6 employees for taking this initiative, while many others condemned the workers for targeting people without their knowledge. Soon, though, Motel 6 became the target of complaints about the practice. The chain released this statement:

“This was implemented at the local level without the knowledge of senior management. When we became aware of it last week, it was discontinued…”

That was it.

Now, some would say the brevity of the statement was not an issue. The company explained its position and moved on. This was a localized situation and no reflection of the company’s overall policy.

Others have criticized the comment as unnecessarily terse and unhelpful. They want to see Motel 6 condemn the actions of employees at the two corporate-owned locations. While that might sound like kowtowing to a particular consumer position, there is an industry precedent for this argument.

While motels routinely comply with legal search warrants, most don’t volunteer information about their guests to law enforcement. Motel 6 employees took that standard one step further. So, critics want to know where Motel 6 leadership stands on that issue. Do they support a system in which motel employees routinely do legwork for local and federal law enforcement, or do they want to re-enforce a more passive policy?

That question has yet to be answered, and partisans on both sides are waiting for Motel 6 to weigh in. So far, those consumers have yet to be satisfied.

Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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