As incendiary headlines go, this one is tough to beat. Apparently, the owner of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas has filed a lawsuit against more than 1,000 victims of the mass shooting that took the lives of 58 people and wounded many more at a concert back in 2017.
Reaction to the headline, as it made the rounds on social media, was swift and vitriolic. People reacted with rage, directed against the Mandalay, the ownership, and, in general, the class of people assumed to own such establishments. That anger and criticism continued even as representatives of the hotel sought to explain the point of the legal action.
According to MGM Resorts International, the lawsuit is “does not seek money” and is intended to avoid liability and dismiss claims against the hotel, which has been named in several lawsuits as partly responsible for allowing Stephen Paddock, who was staying at the hotel, to use one of its rooms as his sniper’s nest. He had, reportedly, brought 23 weapons into the hotel.
So, a fair reading of the legal action offers at least some understanding of why it was undertaken, as well as why the ownership felt it was necessary. However, consumers, in many cases, are not really interested in offering sympathy for wealthy hotel owners when many people they can identify with – i.e. “regular folks” – suffered so greatly for just trying to have a good time at a concert.
Attorneys for some of the victims dismissed the hotel’s perspective as “outrageous” as well as “unethical.” And that sentiment was certainly popular among the countless millions who reacted in horror to the news of a gunman opening fire on a peaceful concert from his hotel room.
So, as far as tough audiences go, this is a prime example. That’s not to say the Mandalay ownership can’t successfully argue their case, either in court or in the court of public opinion. They just need to be patient with people who don’t understand their reasons or their motivations, but do understand what it feels like to be afraid just to go out in public, afraid that their next good time will be their last… that some “crazed gunman” will target their movie, their concert, or their vacation.
Because consumers tend to more easily identify with the victims in the case, rather than the hotel ownership, that’s a bias the ownership will have to address if they hope to position their messaging in a way that gains sympathy in the general public. So far, they aren’t scoring many points in that regard.
Ronn Torossian, 5WPR CEO.