“Why?” the customer asks, while recording the encounter.
“Because you are rude!” the clerk yells. As he walks back toward the door to the reception desk, he tells the customer again to get his family and leave. There’s more back-and-forth arguing between the guest and the clerk.
Then, as he is opening the door, with his back against the customer, the clerk muttered a curse word and said “monkey.”
The incident happened Friday at the Country Inn & Suites by Radisson in Newport News, a coastal Virginia city 170 miles southeast of Washington. The hotel’s general manager, Lisa Little, said the employee was fired on Monday.
“I want to apologize for the inappropriate behavior and comments of one of our employees … As a result of this incident we will also be re-training every employee this week on our code-of-conduct policies to help ensure something like this never happens again,” Little said in a statement.
The customer, Irby Fogleman, said he and his family went to the hotel Friday evening to hang out with his mother, who was visiting from West Virginia for Fogleman’s son’s second birthday the following day. When they arrived at the hotel room, the family noticed an overwhelming odor of smoke. Fogleman said his mother had never smoked in her life, and he didn’t want his two small children to be exposed to the odor.
Fogleman’s girlfriend, Kelsey Cunningham, went to the lobby to ask for another room. Cunningham said the clerk was immediately confrontational and mumbled something under his breath.
“He mentioned that the hotel was basically a joke, that he didn’t have what he needed to get his job done,” Cunningham said. “You could tell his frustration and anger was really building up. He did mention he’d only worked there for only three weeks.”
Cunningham said she went back upstairs to the hotel room after she was told that the only other available room had no air conditioner. Fogleman then went to the lobby to see if he could talk to a supervisor. The clerk told him there was no one else he could talk to, Fogleman said. He then took a business card from the reception desk, sat down at a nearby chair and began sending an email.
As Fogleman typed on his phone, another customer came to the front desk to complain that he had no TV in his room. Fogleman said that the other customer, who had heard him talking to the clerk minutes earlier, looked at him as if to share their mutual dissatisfaction. Fogleman shrugged his shoulders and said, “See?” as if to agree with his fellow customer.
That’s when the clerk became angry and began telling Fogleman to get out of the hotel, he said. Moments later, Fogleman began recording.
Toward the end of the 54-second video, Fogleman can be heard confronting the hotel clerk for calling him a monkey.
“Oh, so you’re racist?” he said. “That’s why you don’t like me — because I’m black.”
The clerk replied that he didn’t like Fogleman because he was rude.
Fogleman said the outburst was unwarranted and that he wasn’t yelling or showing disrespect toward the clerk. A spokesman for Radisson Hotels said the company is not releasing the clerk’s name at this time.
Fogleman said he and his family immediately left the hotel.
He said the experience was his first brush with racism. “I could not believe it. I could not believe it. It’s 2018. I have two biracial kids. Race is not a thing to me,” said Fogleman, who has two sons, a 2-year-old and a 4-month-old, with Cunningham, who is white.
The family had moved from Northern Virginia to Newport News in December to be closer to Cunningham’s relatives, the couple said. They had rented an apartment not far from the hotel and had plans to make the city their new home. That has since changed, they said.
“We moved to this area for a future, and I don’t know if I want a future down here,” Fogleman said.
The 36-year-old sales inspector in Newport News said the experience was enlightening, but he doesn’t want it to define his life.
“I don’t want to be remembered as that guy who got called a racial slur,” he said. “I just want to live like myself and raise my kids the proper way.”
Other businesses have found themselves in hot water recently after being accused of mistreating black customers. In April, two black men who had arrived early at a Philadelphia Starbucks for a business meeting wound up leaving the coffee shop in handcuffs. Days later, two black men were wrongly accused of not paying to use an LA Fitness gym in Secaucus, N.J., The Washington Post’s Rachel Siegel reported.