Hurra Para Los Trabajadores
By Peter Funt
LOS CABOS, Mexico — Here's a handy suggestion for businesses that wish to improve employee morale and enhance customer service — in this case, at a large resort hotel.
First, have the most powerful hurricane ever recorded in the region with sustained winds of over 125 mph destroy just about everything. Close down for nearly a year. Give most of the hotel staff — waiters, maids, clerks — jobs on construction crews and let them rebuild the place from the ground up: all 375 rooms. Then, when you reopen, give everyone their old jobs back and watch as they function with a renewed sense of dedication and pride.
That's what you have at the Hilton resort property here on the Sea of Cortez between San Jose del Cabo and Cabo San Lucas, where Hurricane Odile struck the night of Sept. 14, 2014. The storm did about $1 billion in damage in a relatively small area, scoring a direct hit on the Hilton. Miraculously, no one was hurt.
The Hilton is once again a beautiful place, but this isn't a review — there are plenty of those online. This is about the hundreds of workers like Carlos, a waiter with an infectious smile.
"After the storm, some moved away," he explains. "But most of us stayed and helped rebuild." He laughs as he describes learning how to paint rooms with a large unwieldy roller and how he and his mates struggled to carry tons of furniture without a working elevator.
Then he points to Angel, serving at the next table. "He wasn't here during the storm. It's not the same for him. He doesn't have the sense of pride that we feel. We built this place."
So, Carlos, is that why you smile so much? Everyone here seems to be so happy. Why?
"Because we survived. We did it. Beautiful, isn't it?"
Not half a mile from the hotel there is extraordinary poverty. Mexico remains an often-corrupt and at times dangerous place. So this isn't an ode to a government so much as it's a glimpse at what happens when a large corporation does the right thing and when a staff of good, decent people rises to face a daunting challenge.
I asked Tim Booth, a New Orleans native who's been here as general manager since the resort opened in 2000, if there was ever any thought of giving these heroic employees an actual monetary stake in the business?
"They aren't owners," he explained, "but they do have enormous pride. They consider this their home, and they treat it that way."
A remarkable aspect of this survival tale is that guests of the hotel have been sending cash, unsolicited, to help the employees get back on their feet. Along with money from Hilton's Global Fund, a non-profit that works primarily to aid abused children, over a half-million dollars has gone directly to staff members and their families.
Of course, it's not possible to visit Mexico these days without asking about U.S. politics and the shameful remarks of Donald Trump.
"It's hard for our people to hear the stories," says Booth, "to hear what's being said in the American campaign. We're very proud. When visitors come we do everything we can to give them the truth."
And then Tim Booth gazed out at the beautifully rebuilt veranda, the painstakingly replanted palms and the freshly scrubbed and painted lobby and issued an invitation.
"If any U.S. politician wants to examine the true Mexico and the spirit that is embraced here, send him to us."
Hurra para los trabajadores. Hooray for the workers.
Peter Funt can be reached at www.CandidCamera.com
Peter Funt is a writer and speaker. His book, "Cautiously Optimistic," is available at Amazon.com and CandidCamera.com.©2016 Peter Funt. Columns distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons, Inc., newspaper syndicate.
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