According to the lawsuit, on Feb. 28, 2010, a British man and his family checked into the Ritz for a roughly two-week stay -- at a cost of at least $8,000 -- and told the hotel they preferred not be served by "people of color" or staff with "foreign accents."
Ritz-Carlton, like other upscale hotel chains, tries to meet guests' every need. The staff is known for bringing chilled water, fresh fruit and cooling damp towels to guests lounging at the pool and beach. In Naples, the Ritz rooms have all the amenities including Bulgari bath products and flat-screen televisions in the marble-clad bathrooms. Plush robes and slippers are in each room to help guests relax and each night the housekeeping staff again freshens up the room and prepare the bed for the guests sleep.
Rates at the Naples hotel during the peak winter weeks that the British family visited start at $600 a night for the smallest room and climb to $1,900 for a suite or $5,000 a night for the presidential suite. Other times of year rates can start around $230 a night.
For that price, the hotel prides itself in knowing what guests want. Everything from the way guests like their eggs cooked, or the type of newspaper they read is entered into the chain's computer system. If a Ritz guest likes to have chilled San Pellegrino in the room, that will be noted in the system and the sparkling water will be there for waiting upon their next stay at any Ritz hotel.
When the guest told the hotel about his racial preferences, that too was allegedly entered into the hotel's computer system at the direction of the hotel's managing director and vice president Edward V. Staros, according to court documents.
The note said "as per Mr. Staros this couple is very very prejudice and do like like ppl of color or foreign accents."
Staros declined to comment, referring all questions about the suit to the hotel's public relations team.
Sherie Brezina, director of Florida Gulf Coast University's Hospitality Management program, told the Naples News-Press that Staros is an ethics authority for the Ritz-Carlton chain, and travels to other hotels to train staff.
On March 12, 2010, the family came for dinner at the hotel's Grill Restaurant. Tranchant was working there but was prevented by immediate supervisors that night from serving the family dinner, the suit says.
Tranchant said in the suit that he "was humiliated, embarrassed, frightened, intimidated, subject to undeserved shame and suffered severe emotional distress." Tranchant says in his suit that he has sought medical and psychological treatment. He declined to comment.
New York University's Hanson said that generally the goal of luxury brands is to exceed guest expectations.
"The challenge is that achieving that goal can lead to sometimes impossible expectations," he said.
Some chains have daily staff meetings to review all arriving and departing guests for that day and whatever special needs they might have.
But sometimes a request is just either impossible, illegal or immoral, Hanson said.
In such cases, hotel staffers should repeat and acknowledge the request to show they are listening, apologize for not being able to fulfill it and then offer a substitute option, he added.