I’ve never been to the St. Regis Resort and Spa in Monarch, Calif., but it sounds like a very nice place. According to their website, at the resort’s spa, “each treatment begins with the toss of a coin into our “Well of Desires,” where symbolically all your cares will be left behind.”
The folks at AIG, the embattled insurance company spent approximately $440,000 to send 100 employees to the resort as a reward for being the company’s top sales people. This is less than a week after taxpayers bailed out AIG with $85 billion in loans. Included in this $440,000 party: $23,380 in spa services.
That sounds like a lot of coins being dropped into the “Well of Desires” at the St. Regis.
Incredibly, once this came to light at a Congressional hearing this week, the company defended this decision to media and the CEO defended it to Treasury Secretary Paulson.
“It’s very much accepted practice in the insurance business, especially to reward high-performing individual agents,” said AIG spokesperson Nicholas Ashooh to ABC News. “It’s still painful and it’s been very distressing to our employees.”
(I guess that’s why employees needed the company to buy them massages. They are distressed.)
Even more horrible is that up until Wednesday of this week, Mr. Ashooh was defending AIG’s plans to hold a second event to “motivate and educate” about 200 company employees and independent agents. This event was scheduled to be held at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Half Moon Bay, Calif.
Um, this was the very same day AIG was asking the federal government for an additional $37.8 billion loan.
After pressure mounted, Mr. Ashooh later announced that the second event was being cancelled.
ABC News quoted Mr. Ashooh lamenting the cancellation fees the company would have to pay: “We’ll certainly lose some money in cancellation fees, but it’s just beyond the point of trying to conduct these meetings given the uncertainty that’s taking place,” said Ashooh.
Wouldn’t it have been better for Mr. Ashooh to have said right up front that to hold this previously planned trip to the St. Regis was wrong and that the company would be repaying the $440,000 of their $85 billion loan immediately? Oh, and also you will be canceling all future trips of this type.
Or maybe it would have been better, if your bosses won’t let you do the stand up thing, simply to not comment at all.
For defending the indefensible, this week’s Dumbest Spokesperson of the Week is Nicholas Ashooh of AIG.