Jonathan Schofield on corporate responsibility and simple pride
It was an ugly sight for anyone. The problem was, this wasn't a one-off, although this time it was several degrees more disgusting.
Manchester Central Premier Inn on Lower Mosley Street has an area set back from the road protected by a thin chain. On Tuesday it was a tip of clothing, food, broken tents and unspeakables. As people walked past, averting their eyes, the pigeons swooped in upon the filth, pecking away; you could almost hear them cooing for joy.
Jeez, why would anybody want to eat and drink at the Premier Inn with that filth outside?
This terrible mess was close to several major Mancunian institutions and organisations. These promote the city to residents and tourists, The Premier Inn clearly wasn't giving a damn. They were ignoring the fact just down the road is the Bridgewater Hall, and a little further on, HOME arts centre. They seemed oblivious to their location opposite the city's main conference and exhibition venue, despite stealing the latter's name for their hotel moniker.
So how could the Premier Inn allow this exposed fetid landfill to occupy their own property? It was a puzzle and doubly aggravating because this happens frequently.
The hotel's publicity states: 'Day or night, at Premier Inn Manchester Central you're in prime position for all the city's highlights. And with meeting rooms for hire you can squeeze even more out of your stay. Go classical at Bridgwater (sic) Hall. Get conventional at the Central Convention Complex. Explore the bars, pubs and clubs around Deansgate. See the stars at the Opera House or Palace Theatre. And, after the final curtain call, grab a drink in our Table Table restaurant and unwind in our spacious rooms and new, modern rooms with extra-comfy kingsize Hypnos beds.'
Jeez, why would anybody want to eat and drink at the Premier Inn with that filth outside? Why would anybody want to arrange a meeting at their 'Touchbase' rooms when the pigeons are rummaging through that horror. Where is the company pride?
I rang up the Premier Inn and asked for the manager. I wanted to enquire why this mess was allowed to gather time after time. She wasn't available, so I left a message asking her to ring me or maybe to get someone from head office to call me. I left my number. Nobody rang.
The next morning the mess was gone, it was all very clean. One nil to the media, but still why had it got so bad. So I rang again and received the stagey, "No comment."
The mess was created by a homeless man. I've seen someone sleeping there in the tent (or not) on many occasions. It happens, it's part of the 21st urban UK condition. It shames the nation that we can’t look after our own better. This does not mean the homeless person or persons who left their little encampment like that haven't behaved atrociously, but nor does it absolve the Premier Inn. It should have taken responsibility.
After we sent an email to head office, Premier Inn finally responded with: “Homelessness is a complicated issue and one to which unfortunately there is no overnight-fix. We are aware there are some homeless people who choose on occasion to sleep outside one of our hotels in Manchester and that when the situation arises, it poses challenges for our guests, team members and most importantly, the homeless people themselves. Our teams have been working hard to help achieve a long-term resolution, including the frequent removal of excess litter left behind and are working with local authorities to assist their efforts in providing a long-term solution for the people involved. Additionally, as part of our Force For Good programme, we remain open to working with charities at a local level.”
That's not good enough, a classic case of mealy-mouthed corporate platitudes. Premier Inn needs to be proactive - especially since this is land under their control. This could all be sorted with a member of staff or two going out every morning with gloves and a bin-bag and clearing up. It could all be sorted by talking to the homeless who gather there.
There's a business in the south of the city centre which has, within the building curtilage, a similar set back area. A homeless man bedded down before Christmas. He was gently told that nobody minded him sleeping there but could he please move during business hours to not harm trade and also please could he not leave litter because there was a bin just over the road. He subsequently cleaned up in the mornings. And when he didn't the business did. There are many examples of this.
We have written this before but it's worth repeating with some finger jabbing at Premier Inn.
Every retail, food and drink business, office and so on with a ground floor presence should want to show they have self-respect. Commercial premises should clean the area in the front, back and sides of their premises, to the kerb line at a minimum. Even if this involves swilling away sick, or scrubbing off a coffee stain. Don’t complain about the amount you pay to local government or in rents to a landlord just show a bit of pride and sort it yourself. It should be self-interest anyway, presenting a good impression to customers.
Premier Inn might want to think about that on Lower Mosley Street.