UPDATE (1)
07/04/13

  

With the WIN Summer retreat 2013 fast approaching, I have been asked by a few people to explain what happened at the WIN 2012 summer retreat. This seems reasonable to me, as I mention it briefly in the first post on this site below. Click Here to jump to that paragraph. 

Click Here to jump to my husband's review of our stay at the Herrington Inn during the WIN 2012 summer retreat.>>>>

Or Click Here to jump to the racism against a little African American Girl and Her Mom. >>>>

The below review is my opinion, and my husband's opinion, of what happened at the WIN 2012 summer retreat, our opinions about the Herrington Inn, and our opinions about Valerie S. Beck, Paul Ruby and Jennifer Piazza's reactions to those events.

In short, if you've found yourself cheering for Paula Deen's racist behavior in recent days, or adding your voice in favor of the racist backlash against the Cheerios "Love" ad, then in my opinion you will love your stay at the Herrington Inn during the 2013 Women's Innovation Network Summer Retreat with Valerie Beck. Think that's an exagerration? One of the specific complaints of discrimination against Paula Deen is that she maintained a racist work environment by only employing white and light skinned minorities in the front of her restaurants, keeping dark skinned employees in the back. If you choose to join the LadiesofWIN at the 2013 WIN Summer retreat, take a look around the Herrington Inn. My own observations, in my opinion showed major disparity. White employees at the front desk, white employees serve in the restaurant and at the bar, white employees work in management. There are Hispanic and African American workers employed at the Herrington Inn - but you usually only ever glimpse them briefly behind staff-only doors when some other employee is entering or leaving. Valerie S. Beck herself pointed this out to me, but it didn't change her eagerness to hold another WIN retreat at the Herrington Inn.

Click Here to jump to DaShan Thomas's review of our stay at the Herrington Inn during the WIN 2012 summer
retreat. >>>>


Or Click Here to jump to the racism against a little African American Girl and Her Mom. >>>>

I addressed this with the Herrington Inn immediately following the 2012 Women's Innovation Network (ladiesofwin) summer retreat, as I tried in vain to express to the Herrington Inn management of Paul Ruby and Jennifer Piazza just how disturbing the treatment of my African American husband had been in my opinion. I suggested that their employment policies looked discminatory, when minorities seem to be intentionally kept out of view, saying "Perhaps it might be time for the Herrington to consider hiring some African Americans in visible, front-end hospitality roles. On staff diversity often can be an organic method of rooting out racism." In my opinion they ignored my concerns, as you can see in the emails that I have linked to below.

Over the phone, Paul Ruby of the Herrington Inn suggested as a solution that in the future, if I planned to visit with my African American husband, I be sure to call Paul Ruby first, presumably , in my opinion, to alert his staff that there would be a Black person at the hotel. As I pointed out in the emails linked below "I worry what would happen if we were to check in without calling you, or if other African American guests checked in without having that same opportunity to call you directly. Again, it was lovely of you to suggest that and I appreciate the personal concern, but it doesn't necessarily solve the specific possibility that an individual staff member at the Herrington has the potential to mistreat one of your guests." Suffice to say, in my opinion, no staffing changes were made, no staff instructions were given, and the Herrington Inn maintains that the racism my husband experienced was simply all in his, and my, heads.

I'm including below a description of what, in my opinion, was the racist, bigoted, discriminatory way the Herrington Inn, the location of the first, second, and soon the third Women's Innovation Network summer retreat, treated my husband. Click Here to jump to DaShan Thomas's review of our stay at the Herrington Inn during the WIN 2012 summer retreat.

I would never endorse such a place, or take anyone to an establishment that would treat people that way. I tried to tell Valerie Beck "no." The Women's Innovation Network and LadiesofWIN, as Valerie now runs it, however, in my opinion does support the type of, in my opinion, racist, behavior that we experienced at the Herrington Inn in the summer of 2012.

As I mentioned before, Valerie S. Beck first expressed sympathy towards us and outrage towards the Herrington Inn when we told her how he had been treated. Then, out of the blue, she changed her mind and told me: "You and DaShan are my friends, but the Herrington Inn is my friend too, and I have a business relationship with them. I can't be in the middle of this." This was pretty horrible of her. I was running an organization with her, she had been a bridesmaid at my wedding, but she made a point of making sure I knew that she held me in no higher esteem than she did a hotel. Out of consideration for her friendship, not wanting her to loose important business contacts, I softened my last email to Herrington management. The Herrington's official position is that a misunderstanding occured. Below is my husband's description of the events, and links to pdfs of emails I sent to Valerie S. Beck, Paul Ruby of the Herrington Inn and Jennifer Piazza of the Herrington Inn. You can decide for yourself if it sounds like a misunderstanding.

Click Here to jump to DaShan Thomas's review of our stay at the Herrington Inn during the WIN 2012 summer
retreat. >>>>

------------------------
P.S. I can't wait to see the pictures of all the LadiesOfWIN company owners that support racism in 2013.
This is going to be awesome!!!

UPDATE (2)
07/04/13
Racism against a little African American Girl at the Herrington

As long as I'm reminiscing about the WIN 2012 Summer Retreat at the Herrington Inn,
I thought I should share one additional anecdote.

  

In the process of defending the Herrington Inn to me, Valerie once threw another WIN member's underaged daughter under the bus in a way that I found offensive and, well, horrible. She said that another of the attendees had felt she was treated differently because of her race during one summer retreat event that I did not attend (I was in a business meeting in the city at the time). She said that an African American WIN member had brought her daughter to this event, held in the Atwater restaurant in the Herrington Inn, and was offended that her very young daughter had been charged for an adult's portion of the shared afternoon tea. Valerie Beck told me that this woman felt this was done because of her race, but to defend the Herrington Inn, Valerie then proceeded to describe the woman's daughter as "overdeveloped" and "plump" and "overweight", and said, giggling, that she thought the little girl ate as much as an adult anyway. Now, I never had a chance to meet this woman's daughter, and have to this day never laid eyes on her. I have no idea what she looks like. I have only Valerie's description, which I find elitest, offensive, and disgusting. We were supposed to be running an organization that empowered women, and here she was tearing down a little girl, over her weight of all things. If you wonder whether this story is true, ask yourself how I could invent a story about a little girl I've never even seen. Ironically, she asked this same woman to be a speaker at the 2013 WIN Summer Retreat, but she no longer appears to be on the schedule, thank goodness.

Another thing. Why are bigots always trying to charge African American children as adults? When you think about it, was the Herrington staff watching the child, watching her plate, watching her eat, or did they see that she was as tall as a short woman, and charge her and her mother immediately as two adults instead of one adult and clearly one child. (I was a tall kid - I was 5" 11 by the age of 12 - so I can picture this, although I don't know the girl's height.) Look, afternoon tea is served with tea of course, and small sandwiches plus cakes on a tiered tea tray, that everyone, adult or child draws/eats from. It's the same tray for everyone at the table. So how close was the Herrington staff watching this African American Female child?

And for the undying supporters of racism: If MickeyDees charged Little Black Children the same price as an adult meal for the "happy meal", but charged little White Children the reduced child's rate for the very same "happy meal", would that be ok?

In addendum: My husband says that if your kids are a little heavy like he was, in his early teenaged years, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that - it's a sign of a stable, middle class African American family that cares about their children.

UPDATE:
March 27th, 2013

  

I have been notified by Network Solutions that Gayle Newcomb has attempted to take (steal, in my opinion), the following domain names:
ladiesofwin.org, ladiesofwin.com, womensinnovationnetwork.org, and womensinnovationnetwork.com.

These domain names were purchased prior to the creation of the WIN organization, and paid for out of my husband and my personal funds, via our own private account with Network Solutions. Neither WIN nor Valerie S. Beck nor Gayle Newcomb nor any other individual has ever paid me for any of these domains, and they have always remained on the private account with Network Solutions owned by my husband and I.

Network Solutions rightly cancelled the attempt to transfer (steal, in my opinion) the domains which belong to me into anyone else's account, because all four domains clearly are my own personal property.

The domains belong to Erica Thomas (myself) and DaShan Thomas. The only way, in my opinion, that the domains could be transferred would be via theft of the domains or theft of our identities. Identity theft is illegal, and these two are not Erica Thomas or DaShan Thomas.

This is still the United States of America, and, in my opinion, stealing from individuals and members is wrong. I would like to also make this small request: that Valerie Beck and Gayle Newcomb please stop what in my opinion appears to be attempts at humiliating themselves and let this go.

This has been an update (3/27/13): Network Solutions has DENIED Gayle Newcomb's attempt to take (steal, in my opinion) my personal property.

Click Here for the evidence>>

-Erica Thomas

Co-Founder


Valerie S. Beck says her email was "compromised"?
When will the lies stop? Very Pathetic.
For the truth Click Here>>

  

Posted: March 9th, 2013

You can find further information in the following links:

http://www.ladiesofwin.org/transaction_detail_by_account.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_jan_through_dec_2012.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_january_2013.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/Finances.pdf

And for a break down of some of my own contributions to the organization prior to today:

http://www.ladiesofwin.org/graphics_and_tech_crimson2win.PDF

  

Hello Friends,

Today at 4:30 pm I was summoned to an emergency telephone board meeting with Valerie Beck and her Mom. There was one agenda item: Due to "irreconcilable differences" which she did not explain or describe I was to be voted out of the Women's Innovation Network, which I founded with Valerie a year and a half ago.

Some time ago, when registering with the State of Illinois, Valerie S. Beck found she needed a third person on the board so she "temporarily" listed her Mom, and today the two of them voted to have me removed.

I understand that how Valerie Beck went about voting me out of the organization was not legal, at least in the opinion of those who have phoned me. However, I don't think there's much that can be done about it, now that her mind is made up. I've also been warned not to relay any of this information forward, but I am an honest person and a whistleblower at heart, and I can't change that. I believe people have a right to know these things. We have always said that WIN was to be transparent. This is transparency.

Some of you are probably shocked by this kangaroo court, and others may believe I should have seen this coming. Either way, I just wanted to reach out to you once more to let you know what has happened here: I believe you have a right to know.

What are the irreconcilable differences? I don't really know, exactly. I asked Valerie S. Beck for specifics, but she did not share them during the call. I do know that in recent months, when I have disagreed with some of Valerie's decisions regarding the running of WIN (elimination of WIN special events, refusal to adjust Committee Meetings so that Suburban members can attend, deletion of the WIN merchant processing account without a replacement, failure to address constant overdrafts and NSF charges), I have not been able to persuade her.

In the end, I recommended that the way to deal with our disagreements was to address the real problem: No organization should be run by a two-person board. Although Valerie's Mother is a board member, in so much as she voted to eliminate me, she has never attended a previous board meeting, and has never participated in a previous vote. Then again, we almost never vote. Valerie has stated that any member is allowed to attend board meetings, but I find many are surprised to discover that they occur every month before Spa & Cupcakes.

My suggestion was that we invite other leaders in WIN to become board members, so that we could actually vote on decisions that affect WIN, and so that the membership could have a real voice in the organization.

Perhaps we could even finally have elections!

Neither Valerie nor her mother were much moved by this. Instead they just voted to have me removed. The call was taped. As a member of the organization, you have a perfect right to hear it, and Valerie does have a copy. There were also two other witnesses on the call as well.

There may be another reason that these "irreconcilable differences" were so irreconcilable to Valerie. Recently, in light of the behavior I have seen from Valerie lately, and the realization that the WIN bank account appears to spend  the majority of the year in overdraft, I have begun taking a closer look at the WIN finances. We do not have a treasurer at WIN - Valerie and I both run businesses, and I figured I knew how to balance my own accounts and she does too, and my trust in her led me to accept the documents she provided regarding any of her expenditures. WIN does have a book keeper - the same one Valerie uses for her own business. You may have noticed that Valerie has complained quite frequently of late that she has poured too much money into this organization. By her bookkeeper's numbers, that amount is $4,027.21. I poured through the numbers, and found one suspicious entry that Valerie counts as a donation, but appears to be the cost of her hotel room during a summer retreat and another amount that included the cost of 5 people's dinner - two of those people were my husband and myself, and he paid for both of our own dinners. Subtracting those two amounts from the amount she claims to have paid WIN, the result is $3,300.30.

  

Then I took a look at some of WIN's expenses, and found many things that in my opinion WIN really shouldn't be paying for. I don't know if these are meant to be repayments of Valerie's investment into the organization, or if she finds it justifiable for WIN to pay $943.17 to hotels in Miami during a vacation she describes as a WIN retreat, but which no other WIN members attend other than herself and her mother. I counted up the items listed in our account as repayment of Valerie's donations, and added in the items that by no logic should be covered by WIN in my opinion ($1,118.20 for Southwest Airline tickets in a month where we did not even have any out of town events planned; payments to my company for work I did for her company, which she told me would be listed as debt repayment to her for donations she had made previously, etc), and found that they totaled up to $5,305.17. If Chicago Chocolate Tours has donated $3,300.30 and been repaid $5,305.17, then that means the debt repayment has been overpaid by $2,004.87. If this is not the case, then those items in question need to be identified and explained as to their relevance to WIN operations.   If this is the case, then Valerie was repaid in full by 6/30/2012, and the overpayment of debt began by $500.00 that same day. WIN members are entrepreneurs, building dreams and fostering our economy - the dues they pay to this organization should not be used as anyone's second purse.

I've been warned by very good people not to include many of those specifics in this email. I realize that it puts me in a dangerous position. I was on the board while these things were happening, I may be liable myself for any misappropriation of funds. I had no idea that this was going on until very recently, but it would probably be wiser for me to keep quiet about it for my own sake. However, I am very worried about the WIN members who continue to pay their hard earned dollars every month, or every year, only to possibly have it squandered. It may be better for me legally, under the gaze of the IRS for instance, not to say any of this. But it is better for my conscience to tell it all and be a whistleblower, so that's what I'm doing. I have all the documentation that she has brought to board meetings previously. Please feel free to call or email if you'd like me to email anything.

Since I'm going, I guess I'll mention one other disagreement Valerie and I had - perhaps this is part of those irreconcilable differences. At the last summer retreat, the hotel staff at the Herrington Inn treated my husband deplorably, in a way that was plainly and inarguably racist in my opinion. I detailed the treatment to Valerie, who expressed horror and joined me in contacting the management. When the response from the management was tepid at best (suggesting that next time my husband planned to visit, that he call the manager first, to make sure this didn't happen again, which is hardly the way to ensure that this never occurs to anyone else), I wrote to the hotel to express my disappointment. In 2012 or 2013, it is horrible to think that an African American has to call a hotel first before arriving to make sure that the staff will not treat them with discrimination. Valerie contacted me and suggested that they should have offered me a coupon or some money, and I said that I wasn't really interested in that, I just wanted to make my complaint with the hotel that someone on a WIN retreat would be treated this way. Valerie suddenly stated that although I was her friend, the Herrington were her friends, too, and she did not want to get in the middle of it. The hotel emailed to say that they did not want to discuss the matter further. Valerie then proceeded to plan the next summer retreat at the same hotel. When I objected, she said I should come up with alternatives. When I did, she said that we had no time to pick anything else, and perhaps we could consider an alternate location next year for summer 2014. I had no voice in the decision whatsoever. If you're wondering why you haven't seen my husband at any WIN events since this summer, that's it - why would any sane man show loyalty to an organization that refused to back him up when he was mistreated at an organization's event?

  

This is a very long email now, and I know we are all very busy people, so I don't want to keep you too much longer. But I would like to address one last thought: Two years ago I walked away from NAWBO with Valerie S. Beck to form WIN. When we left, Valerie was being attacked in the press, via email, and in person, by people who called her tyrannical, a dictator, erratic and worse. I defended her with all the energy I could muster, as did my now-husband DaShan Thomas. Valerie was a bridesmaid at our wedding. I stood by her, and threw myself entirely into that defense, and into the building of this new vision of innovation inclusion and inspiration - that we both had. My husband designed the WIN logo, together he and I built and updated the site together, and Valerie and I talked and emailed and texted as we planned this new utopia of women's business. I considered Valerie one of my very best friends - and I don't take that title of friend lightly. Most of my friends are from one of two circles - people I have known for over a decade and speak to every day, and people I have known since high school and speak with every week. I think friendship is one of the most important human ties. Lots and lots of people warned me along the way about Valerie, and I thought they were horrible for it. Many of them are horrible - I still do not think Valerie's treatment at NAWBO was just. I still believe everything I said then. I am proud of the stand I took there.  I don't agree with the practice they used to oust her, or their behavior in doing so, or in any of the other problems that came to light during that time. But at least they are now free of Valerie Beck. Given her behavior recently - refusing to allow disagreement with any of her leadership decisions, going so far as to "fire" me when she declared me difficult - I must say that if she wasn't a tyrant before she is becoming one now in my opinion. To every other passionate defender out there in WIN membership I say: be careful. In fact, to every other WIN member I say the same: be careful. You may think if you approached the same situation sweetly, nicely and kindly, you might get a different result. Think again, that was my approach, that was me. Be careful. If she did it to me, despite my dedication to the organization, despite all that I built for WIN, which was everything, despite my dedication to our friendship, she can and may do it to anyone. It does not matter how much time you put into the organization, or how much you build. I cannot tell you how often I have been mistaken for a paid worker for WIN, given how much time I have put into this organization, but it didn't matter for me, and it won't matter for you. It doesn't matter how bad an idea is, if she is for it - she will sprinkle glitter on it and insist it shines, and if you disagree she will do the same thing to you that she has done to each of us that has disagreed with her. I am the 5th WIN Founder Valerie has had eliminated from the organization. None of the other founding members of the board remain, except Valerie.

I'm very glad that the very last event that I ran within the organization was the WIN Black History Month Innovation Panel, and that it was a success. I'm proud of that event, and I'm proud of how well it went, despite Valerie's repeated insistence that we cancel. Just know this: in my opinion, if I & my husband did not go to the bank at 6am on the day of the event to pull out $260 to pay the university, the event would not have happened at all. I was terrified that the money would be squandered before the University of Chicago could be paid, and indeed, before the event had even begun, we had already sunk back into overdraft status by a check written by Valerie S. Beck.

I am still passionate about supporting women entrepreneurs. With the time Valerie has now freed up for me, I'll have the time to finally launch NetworkHoncho.com (the new social media for business), and I may run simultaneous live networking events to coincide with online ones I will hold there. Or perhaps some likeminded WIN members would prefer to join something entirely new. If that is the case, count me in. I am as enthusiastic as ever, and I'm not tired or burned out or stressed out. I'm eager to get back to the work of supporting women entrepreneurs through effective networking events.

May the rest of your weekend be glorious. Please feel free to contact me any time.

  

You can find further information in the following links:

http://www.ladiesofwin.org/transaction_detail_by_account.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_jan_through_dec_2012.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_january_2013.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/Finances.pdf

And for a break down of some of my own contributions to the organization prior to today:

http://www.ladiesofwin.org/graphics_and_tech_crimson2win.PDF

  

-Erica Thomas

Co-Founder

Women's Innovation Network

http://www.ladiesofwin.org

Valerie Beck says her email was "compromised"?
When will the lies stop? Very Pathetic.
The details are below.
Posted: March 13th 2013

  

You can find further information in the following links:

Email Hosting Documentation:
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/AccountCreationEmailandRenewalEmail.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/AccountTerminationEmail.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/TerminationConfirmation.pdf

  

Hello Friends,

I just wanted to make a quick statement of fact, in reply to the email from Valerie S. Beck:

Valerie Beck did indeed purchase 1 year of website hosting from me on Jan 3, 2012. On Jan 3, 2013, she had the option to pay for another year or switch to a different host. All of my clients are business owners, and they know when their bills are due. When Feb 21 rolled around, and I still had no renewal fee, I sent Valerie S. Beck a very friendly email talking about how time had flown, and reminding her that payment needed to be made right away. When I didn't get a response to that, I tried texting, and got a response that she was too busy making air travel plans to attend to her hosting. When she finally replied I stated again that she needed to make payment, and she replied that she wouldn't be able to until that Monday, when her bookkeeper would be in. One Monday passed by, and then another Monday. On Sunday March 10, the day after Valerie fired me with no notice or warning or justification (or legal right, I believe), I noticed to my surprise that she still had not switched to a new host, or paid for a new year. My company sent her the same notification of termination that any client would receive, from any web hosting company, giving her several hours to complete the switch, in the evening, when such a switch would cause the least disruption. When she complained, 15 minutes before the deadline for termination, I totaled up the amount of content in her emails, and how long it would take to back up all materials, and then gave her an extra 4 hours to make sure she had time to gather everything she needed before I cancelled her account. By that time, my company had provided her with over 60 days of free email hosting, which I think was quite nice. Neither my tech company, or any other company, is obligated to carry any customer indefinitely without payment. I have kept very careful documentation of all of this, and am happy to provide said documentation upon request. Some of it is below.

In what is an even more distressing revelation, I have been getting calls and emails from former WIN members who have told me that they are being refused refunds when they attempt to cancel their WIN membership. This is deplorable, as is the language and hostility used towards these former members of WIN. Apparently, the story is that WIN has a "no refunds" policy. Prior to Saturday, March 9, at 4:30pm when Valerie Beck and her Mother voted me out of the organization, WIN had no such policy. In fact, in the financial documents posted on the WIN site, you can clearly see that there is precedent for WIN members receiving refunds, even for a single month.

If you are attempting to recoup money you paid in WIN prior to the revelations of the past few days, and are being refused, please feel free to contact me, and I will do my best to put you in touch with a lawyer who can assist you.

  

As to the rest - it is all in the documentation and letter I sent and posted earlier this week, and backed up with facts and evidence, unlike the email full of nothing but innuendo she sent today. Also, a reminder that the telephone board meeting from Saturday was taped, and should be available for members upon request from Valerie, unless she has changed WIN's original policy on transparency, along with the creation of the new "no refunds" policy.

My heart and life are quite well, and I'm only saddened that I and so many others have been treated so badly. Aside from that, things are pretty great. :) Business is good, I have wonderful, supportive friends and family, my identifiable handsome husband continues to be awesome and real, not a wish nor a hope but real and really awesome, and I'm enjoying life.

Frankly, in my opinion, that letter from Valerie S. Beck today proves only one thing: she's full of it. It saddens me to see Valerie Beck humiliate herself like this, and in my opinion, she is doing just that. If in the future, she intends to address the questionable entries in the official WIN financial documents that she brought to board meetings, that's great, but if, as she suggests, she is bringing an entirely different set of books - well, we're all Chicagoans, we know what kind of organization has two sets of books. Only an unreasonable soul would spread misinformation and lies like suggesting someone "compromised" their email, when it has been canceled for lack of payment. If someone can lie about something small, like their hosting being cancelled for lack of payment, or something big like a "no refunds" policy than in my opinion that person can lie about anything. With all the documentation and evidence that is out now, I feel the truth of this matter is clear. I believe people can see it, and they can see right through the lies. Whatever is causing all this, I hope she doesn't destroy the reputations and businesses of whomever she touches.

Valerie S. Beck has a lot of explaining to do to what's left of the WIN membership. Her best hope would be that I am wrong, and she has some evidence that she paid her email web hosting bill, evidence of a "no refunds" policy and some evidence in that audio of WIN's telephone board meeting, at which she and her mother voted to have me removed from the organization, that such an action was justified. If not, oh well.

Thank you, and may the rest of your week be free from such drama.

  

You can find further information in the following links:

Email Hosting Documentation:
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/AccountCreationEmailandRenewalEmail.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/AccountTerminationEmail.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/TerminationConfirmation.pdf

  

WIN Finances Documentation:
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/transaction_detail_by_account.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_jan_through_dec_2012.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/profit&loss_january_2013.pdf
http://www.ladiesofwin.org/Finances.pdf

And for a break down of some of my own contributions to the financing of the organization (my start-up costs) prior to today, please see below. If the organization owned my contributions, they would have a record of payment from the organization of my contributions:

http://www.ladiesofwin.org/graphics_and_tech_crimson2win.PDF

-Erica Thomas

Co-Founder

Women's Innovation Network

http://www.ladiesofwin.org

  

Not A Misunderstanding
Just old fashion racism.
by DaShan Thomas

I have stayed at the Herrington Inn 3 times, but I will never return.

The below review is my opinion, and my wife's opinion, of what we experienced at the Herrington. I'm an African American Man, and my wife is white.

The first time I stayed at the Herrington with my then-fiance-now-wife, on business. Although we were a bit taken aback to notice how universally homogenous the staff at the Herrington is - with no visible African Americans anywhere on staff, for instance - we adored the amenities, and were charmed by the customer service from the bellhop - so much so that we decided to return for our honeymoon. The second stay, we encountered the same bellhop, and once again loved the room.

Then, just last month we returned and upon check in experienced treatment I had not previously encountered outside of historic movies about the Jim Crow era south. It seemed so antiquated, watching the desk clerk go full bigot. It was pathetic.

At no time during the check in did the individual behind the desk acknowledge me, make eye contact with me, or address me, although I was filling out the paper work for the room and pulling out my Chase Visa Business Debit Card for the room.

When I handed him my business debit card - the same one we used at each previous visit to the Herrington - he treated the card with great drama and disdain, holding it up with two fingers to examine it like it was made out of reconstructed, out-of-date food stamps.

He then declared "this is a debit card!" and went on to make a dramatic speech that he would be have to precharge the card for the room immediately. Seeing that he did not get a rise out of us with that, he then went on to say (with great emphasis) "PLUS" an extra charge of $50 for "incidentals". (I'm thinking to myself, "incidentals? I'm not a rock star. What incidentals? I can only assume that he thought I was going to steal some towels - or that they would have to burn the sheets.")

This young man then went so far as to even repeatedly look back at his computer screen to check that our card had been approved before handing it back to us. He was shocked when it was approved. And that's when I figured out what he was really trying to do. He added the incidentals on, hoping and praying that I did not have enough money in my account to cover $50 extra, so he could deny us a room altogether. Now that's how you know how pathetic bigotry really is.

It may have been jealousy or envy. But my African Americaness brought out the worst in the Herrington.

When we later raised this issue with the Herrington management, they made it clear that it is their policy to inform guests that they would put "approval holds" on any debit card. However:

1) we had never received this speech before in our two previous stays, despite using the same card,
2) we had never had an approval hold placed on that debit card in the previous two stays
3) none of the other people staying at the Herrington for the same business event that day who had used debit cards experienced either the speech or the hold
4) the *manner* in which the speech was given, and the *manner* in which the card was handled is at particular issue, which is to say that he didn't simply inform us of a hold, he treated me as if he expected I would not be able to pay for the room. He was rude, disdainful, condescending and completely ignored my presence throughout.

He treated me as if I was invisible.

But I guess when I think about it, I can pay for my stay, and my wife's stay, and the Herrington Desk Clerks can only afford to work there.

The problems apparently began before we even arrived - which, from what I've read in other reviews, is not uncommon at the Herrington. My wife, who booked the room, called again the day before we arrived for a one-night business stay. I overheard her on the phone, first when she made the reservations and later as she made the follow up call the night before, specifically reminding them of both our names. Yet when we arrived, hers was the only name on the room. And here's where I would like to remind you that I am Black and my wife is White.

At no point during check in did the individual checking us in correct the room to list two occupants. There is no documentation that I stayed in the room at all, except that I signed the paperwork, and my card was charged for the room.

At the end of check in, when the desk clerk had verified that the card was not in fact a homemade cardboard counterfeit, and I had handed him our paperwork, signed by me, he asked my wife if she had stayed here before. When she replied that we had, he launched into a half hearted mumbled speech about the amenities she would enjoy, all the while clearly indicating that he was assuming this was our first stay, despite what she had just told him.

Adding to the invisible treatment was the fact that my name never was added to the room. Of course, as a result, housekeeping only provided us with one pair of slippers, one bathrobe, etc. Like I was never there.

Upon checkout, we were extremely glad to see a familiar face we had looked for the day before - the bellhop who had been so friendly and helpful during our previous two stays. When we checked out, he asked us if we had enjoyed our stay. We couldn't lie and say we had, and his face fell in disappointment and confusion. At the time, we merely assured him that we would contact the management, as we mistakenly thought this would take care of it.

I don't know why the Herrington can't identify the individuals who checked us in and out, one would expect that to be a fairly easy thing to determine, but I can say with a certainty that the individual who checked me in that day behaved in a way that was discriminatory towards myself because I am African American, and perhaps also because I was checking in with my wife who is extremely beautiful.

I do not say this lightly, nor would I have expected such treatment in a million years. We both felt quite at ease in Geneva. We never felt any ill will from anyone in Geneva before this, and never would have expected it. As I said, the whole thing seemed like an ancient movie from 1950's deep south - not something that could really happen in 2012.

We have gotten nothing but spin and denials from the Herrington. They even deny that the conversation with the bellhop who checked us out ever occurred. They have asserted that no one matching his description was working during that time, who is allowed to check people out. They have insisted that the same person who checked us in also checked us out. They first began by suggesting we were checked in by a man who is at least a decade older than the one who actually did check us in, and when my wife assured them that the person who checked us in was much younger, she was told that occasionally people behind the front desk log in under each other's accounts.

The Herrington Management tells us they have "thoroughly investigated the matter", and their results are:
1) The same person checked us in and out
2) The person who checked us in and out was a younger employee
3) The person who checked us in has worked there since 1999 (note that this result contradicts the one above. Basic math: if he had started working there in 1999 at 19 years of age, that would make him 32 now. Speaking as someone who has past that life marker already himself, that's called middle aged.)
4) The person who has worked there since 1999 did not check us out (note that this result contradicts the first result)
5) They are "quite certain" that I was never discriminated against, that the entire exchange exists only in my (and my wife's) head, that the only errors were clerical, and that the whole thing is just a "misunderstanding". When I think about it, you can call absolutely any grievance that's happened in history a misunderstanding if you use that logic. This is how much the Herrington can care less about out and out bigotry on the part of their employees.

My wife, initially, attempted to reach out to the management at the Herrington with a couple friendly voicemails and two diplomatically written, gentle emails. Both the calls and the emails were filled with praise for our previous stays and concern that anyone would besmirch such an otherwise stellar hotel. Her thinking was that they would be appalled to discover that one of their employees acted this way. They weren't. They were appalled that she would say anything about it, they accused her of making "serious allegations" and refused to discuss it further.

To the Herrington Management and Desk Clerks, I would just like to convey that education is the key to success, not petty envy with a racist cherry on top.

At this point, our only recourse is to make sure everyone hears about how we were treated by the Herrington. We've recommended it to a few people, I can only hope this review reaches more. Don't stay here if you are a minority, or married to one, or have any African American friends or family members. There's a good chance you'll be treated like nothing - not even a person - if you do, and management apparently couldn't care less.

Overall, to be fair, I would give them two solid "k"s out of three.
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P.S. I can't wait to see the pictures of all the LadiesOfWin company owners that support racism in 2013.
This is going to be awesome!!!


The email correspondence with the Herrington Inn.Click Here