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My company was approached a while ago by a hotel chain and we were offered a discount of 10% when any employee stays at one of their hotels. It doesn't cost us anything; it's mutually beneficial for both us and the hotel. They are simply trying to give us incentives to stay there as opposed to one of their competitors. They only require that we show an employee ID when we check in. Business or pleasure trips... doesn't matter. We made that clear at the outset because we don't want any liability if an employee does damage, etc. while on vacation. So, there is no liability issue. It's simply a discount just like an auto club or senior citizen discount.

When our employees are on vacation, they sometimes use this discount--and so do I. We've been taking advantage of this for years.

I was wondering, in light of this other question, should I require my employees to ask for permission from our HR department before they take advantage of this discount when they are on non-business related travel? And should I ever reject their request?

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If they need to get your approval, doesn't that open the door to more liability? Makes it seem like they are representing the company. –  JeffO Dec 7 '12 at 22:20

6 Answers 6

up vote 4 down vote accepted

You should not make them ask you.

At best you create an atmosphere of favoritism, at worst you attempt to enforce the policy and end up having to fire someone that made an honest mistake in order to keep discipline. And in the middle? You are encouraging employees to ignore your policies (bad policy, but your expressed policy nonetheless).

Unless there is a potential conflict of interest, you should simply make it known that the discount is available, that it is free to the company and free to the employee and that your only involvement is to let them know it exists, what they do with it is their concern.

Fundamentally, the hotel is trying to use you to drum up business, unless you are charging the hotel, it's none of your concern.

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@Chad, thanks for fixing the typo's. –  jmoreno Dec 11 '12 at 6:59

If it doesn't cost the company anything and imposes no liability, I can't envision any reason for people to have to ask permission to use the discount. Treat it just like any other fringe benefit of the job.

In the other question, the concern was related to the fact that we had no idea how exactly the discount was structured. If the company was paying a fee for the discount or the company would be liable for damages or if there was some other potential downside for the company, it makes sense to ask for permission. In your case, there is no potential downside for the company so there is no reason to ask for permission.

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I agree with the main point of your answer. Regarding the other question, though, the answers submitted make no mention of liability. Take a look at my answer. Look how much it was down-voted. (workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/6066/…) Most people over on that question said employees should ask for permission. I say that's nonsense. Companies do not pay for these discounts--they are given to them by the hotel chains. It's interesting to me the difference in answers between here and there. –  Fernando Dec 7 '12 at 23:13
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@Fernando - You were down voted for posting a one line answer. You never explained why that was right. That was the reason you were down voted. It is also completely different to assume it is ok to use a discount yourself. It is another to require your employees to ask before using yours. –  ReallyTiredOfThisGame Dec 10 '12 at 5:08
    
@Chad It was never just a one-line answer. It was short, however. In any case, a short answer wouldn't elicit the number of down-votes I got. The primary reason I was down-voted was because people completely disagree with my answer. Look at the comments. It's only you who are subjectively anal about certain short answers. But back on subject... you are right that they are two different things--but two different sides of the same coin. This is hard to get into your head for some reason, but there is no reason to have employees ask and there is no reason to ask your employer. –  Fernando Dec 10 '12 at 14:03
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@Fernando - The distinction I would draw between the two questions is that in this case, we know that the discount program is free to the employer and imposes no liability. We don't know whether that is the case in the other question. It's certainly likely-- most discounts operate like this one-- but I'd wager that there are cases where companies pay for the discount which is why the general advice of asking HR is appropriate. This question is also about establishing policy-- if the company happens to have a policy that you must ask first, asking first is appropriate. –  Justin Cave Dec 10 '12 at 14:09
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@Fernando, your answer was downvoted because it's an unsupported over-broad assertion, and your response to counter-examples was to argue instead of addressing them. –  Monica Cellio Dec 10 '12 at 16:16

I'd think there would be a benefit to knowing how useful it is. How you figure that out probably depends on your company's size, culture and other travel booking processes.

The reason to know would be that sooner or later you may want to set up another discount program or your current hotel discount program may want to discontinue or change the program you have now. If you don't know who's using it, how often, or why they are using it, then you have no real basis for any future negotiations. Right at the moment, that's no big deal, since the program costs you nothing - so the value you get from it can be very small and still be a profit. So it's really more of a looking forward thing. The problem with any data-gathering thing is that you need to gather the data first, and make use of it second! (seems obvious, but it's often only obvious in hindsight!)

How you find out if the program is useful is really your call. You could ask everyone to check in with you, but if you have an informal company, this process may actually limit the benefit that others get from it, and there's no benefit there. I'd say maybe a survey, or a quick chat here and there if your company's small enough. A simple "how many times a year do you use it? For personal travel? For business travel?" and "have you/would you refer this hotel to a friend?" may be all you need. Maybe just do it once or twice a year and be done with it.

Also, sending out a survey once and a while reminds employees that it's there and available for use. It's easy to forget and who doesn't want to be reminded about good discounts?

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Very good - exactly what I was going to suggest. Is good to present it as a benefit to the employee for them to let you know of their usage rather than a burden. –  enderland Dec 7 '12 at 16:26

The only reason I can think of would be for reporting purposes.

Do you/your company take note of what employees are using it and when?

Is the information required to perhaps get you some better leeway with the hotel? Perhaps a 15% discount in the lower peaks to benefit everyone more so?

I Would say if you have no reason for knowing then why make them ask?

Though saying that there is also the factor of the hotel. Does your agreement with them allow for employees to use it for reason other than business? If they can then I would say you have no reason to ask.

After all, it's not like the employee will be expensing the cost of it to you for personal use!

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There is the potential that requiring your employees to get "approval" from HR or management could create a liability for your company that does not exist in your current state.

If the use of the discount were to be approved by your team and the a member of the hotel staff decides not to honor the discount, your company could end up being held liable for the expected savings.

The amount is small but if you have a large number of employees over time this could add up. Even if you do not honor that liability you could end up the target of a class action suit over your refusal to honor your "approved" discounts. It could cost your tens of thousands or more to defend yourself. There is no benefit to requiring approval or permission but plenty of risk on the other side.

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Are you suggesting that employees ask prior to each personal use or if they should ask once to see if you'll allow it? I see that as a big distinction.

Define a Policy

A simple blurb in the employee handbook to tell employees if they are allowed to use the discount for personal use is all it takes. That way there is no question in the employees mind at all. You might want to go further and state in the policy that the employee assumes all liability resulting from personal use to make the HR and Legal types happy.

Ask for Approval

I see no justification at all to tell an employee to ask each time they want to use the discount for personal use. Seems intrusive and invasive for the employee and adds no value to you.

The only exception that I can think of is if you wanted to track usage simply to negotiate with the hotel for a better discount rate.

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Why would the employer want to pay it's people to track something that doesn't need to be tracked? It makes no sense! –  Jim In Texas Dec 7 '12 at 19:25
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My point is that if they can go back to the hotel and say we and our employees booked 5k room nights last year then they might be able negotiate for a better discount rate. –  Stephen Dec 7 '12 at 19:38

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