Lawsuit Claims Marriott's Sales Initiative Shows 'Callous Disregard' of Hotel Owners' Interests

The owners of the Residence Inn Alexandria Old Town South at Carlyle filed suit against Marriott last week in Alexandria, Va., claiming the hotel company's sales practices knowingly and adversely affect their hotel. According to the complaint, obtained by M&C, under fire is Marriott's sales initiative known as "Sales Force One," which the company began rolling out more than three years ago. Under the current structure, Marriott salespeople no longer represent specific properties, instead taking on regional responsibilities for all of Marriott's brands. The lawsuit alleges Marriott's "callous disregard" of its responsibilities as manager and operator of the Residence Inn property in question, owned by MG-Carlyle Hotel, LLC. Sales Force One, the owners claim, "represents the epitome of a management company's knowing disregard of the best interests of individual hotel owners in order to advance its own self-interest." The suit claims that the hotel no longer can compete with other Marriott-affiliated hotels in the area, nor do its salespeople have any motive to sell specifically for the hotel. Additionally, the suit claims, the sales strategy "inappropriately offloads millions of dollars of Marriott's corporate overhead onto owners of Marriott-managed properties." According to the suit, the sales program "has caused an uproar" among owners of Marriott-managed properties. "The initiative also appears to be drawing the ire of meeting planners, who value the personal relationships they had cultivated with sales personnel at individual hotels. Many have expressed concern that the group reservations for small- to mid-sized groups are no longer customized," said William A. Brewer III, partner at Bickel & Brewer and counsel for MG-Carlyle Hotel LLC. A Marriott spokesperson said, "The facts belie the claims of plaintiff and plaintiff's counsel, which are without merit and which we'll contest vigorously. Our new field sales structure is reaching more customers and aggressively pursuing market share from the competition and generating more business for all of our hotel owners."