Two American Asian Men Denied Hotel Check-in Because They Could Be Chinese, And Coronavirus

Two Hmong men were turned away from the Super 8 hotel in Plymouth, Indiana. Then they tried the nearby Days Inn and were turned away there too. In both cases the front desk employee was afraid they might be Chinese, and therefore a coronavirus risk. They wound up sleeping in their car.

Kaopra Lor videotaped the incidents and posted them to Facebook. The Super 8 clerk asked if he was from China. When Lor objected, the man responded “You haven’t heard of the coronavirus? It’s a major problem at hotels right now. We’re trying to keep the stuff from spreading.”

  • They refuse rooms to people who might have coronavirus.

  • If they’re Chinese they might have coronavirus.

  • And if they look Asian, they might be Chinese.

Here they are trying to check in to the Super 8, being questioned about whether they’re Chinese because all Chinese have to be ‘picked up and quarantined’.

Both hotels are franchises of Wyndham brands, and the chain says they “re deeply saddened and embarrassed by the action of our employee.”

I’m not surprised at all, though, because the problem here was described 23 years ago during the first season of King of the Hill. The men are Asian, and there are two kinds of Asians people in some parts of America are familiar with: Chinese and Japanese.

Hank meets [his new neighbor] Kahn for the first time.

Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?

Kahn Souphanousinphone: I live in California last twenty year, but, ah… first come from Laos.

Hank Hill: Huh?

Kahn Souphanousinphone: Laos. We Laotian.

Bill Dauterive: The ocean? What ocean?

Kahn Souphanousinphone: We are Laotian–from Laos, stupid! It’s a landlocked country in southeast Asia. It’s between Vietnam and Thailand, OK? Population 4.7 million.

Hank ponders this for a few seconds.

Hank Hill: So are you Chinese or Japanese?

Kahn Souphanousinphone: [groans]

Hank Hill: He thinks just ’cause I’m from Texas that means I’m a redneck. Chinese people and their stupid stereotypes!

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Sadly, this is becoming a worldwide issue. One case it Australia involved a landlord kicking out a tenant ( Malaysian ) for fear of the virus, although it’s a bit astonishing to see it in hotels.
    On the other hand, last weekend a government minister in Thailand threatened to kick western tourists out of the country for failing to wear (the totally ineffective) face masks.

  2. As an Asian, I also think if the protagonist said “I’m not from China. I’m Hmong” would have helped the situation rather than asking “why does it matter.” This is like pouring gasoline on fire rather than using fire retardant. Is it more important to be right that it is to be kind?

  3. Clear racism. Call out the offenders and make them responsible.
    Where’s the public apology from the hotels?

  4. Shame on the video shooter, can not answer a simple question if he is a CHINESE or from China while checking in at 2 am. how can he be respected by the hotel staff? Nothing wrong at all for the hotel staff

  5. @JQ, there are public accommodation laws in the United States that forbid discrimination based on country of ancestry. The fact that they have Asian ancestry does not allow you to deny them accommodations. I think there should and will be a lawsuit that will result in a significant settlement for them.

  6. @Jake: I sincerely doubt that some idiots from the middle of nowhere, Indiana, will be swayed by your argument, but you keep thinking that logic and reason will actually be effective on racist morons.

  7. The hotel would probably be within their rights to ask guests whether they have traveled to China within the past two weeks. They would have to do so without regard to ethnicity, after all the virus doesn’t discriminate based on ethnicity. But they are out of line in asking “are you from China” (which is a question about ethnic origin, not travel history), and doubly so as they’re surely only asking this question of guests who appear to be of Chinese or other Asian ethnicity.

    I wish we could “pick up and quarantine” all the ignorant and/or racist people, but sadly they only need to get “elected” to White House or Congress.

  8. Racism is a product of experience and observation. If we know that 99.9% of those with Coronavirus are Chinese then obviously those who are Chinese in the U.S. or other countries are more likely to have been to China recently or interacted with a family member or friend who has been. Statistically the chances are extremely low for Chinese in the U.S. to have it because of containment protocols and suspension of flights. It is an elevated risk to interact with Chinese although minimally so. A lot of people don’t know that and aren’t aware of the effectiveness of containment protocols. They hear about the 120 people on the Diamond Princess in Japan with the virus. They are afraid and they have a right to protect their lives and businesses from a deadly virus. Of course it is unfortunate these men were turned away when there haven’t been any reports of the virus spreading to the U.S. aside from a couple of isolated cases. Still, even with this awareness I don’t order Chinese food which I used to do 3 times a week. It is not worth the risk. The incubation period is long, we don’t know who came back through other Asian countries and I am not going to risk it even if it is a minute risk. Turn the roles around and imagine if the virus originated in the U.S. Would you blame rural Chinese or Japanese front desk clerks if they were hesitant to book white foreigners into their motels?

  9. It would have been simple to answer the hotel employee’s valid question – yes or no.

    What was the point of trying to make an argument?

    Last week I took a flight to South America – NOT CHINA. I am Caucasian. When I went online to check-in, a large notice appeared on the screen – “Have you traveled to China during the past fourteen days?”

    I merely checked – no.

    What purpose would be served if I had been argumentative like the person in the video and asked why the airline wanted to know.

    There are too many difficult people in this world.

  10. @John Rogers – over 10,000 white people have died this flu season in the US. So I hope you’re also avoiding all restaurants where white people work and eat. Simply not worth the risk.

  11. Let me get this straight:
    –Kaopra Lor appears to be an activist. He went to at least two hotels with cell phone camera trying to find turned away. He got one minimum wage white guy (probably trying to support a family) and got him fired.
    –Now this is turning into a global rage mob (otherwise, it would not be on Gary’s blog).
    –Paolo pointed out that “Sadly, this is becoming a worldwide issue.”
    –Gene blamed it on “FoxNews.”
    –02nz “I wish we could “pick up and quarantine” all the ignorant and/or racist people, but sadly they only need to get “elected” to White House or Congress.” In other words, all quarantine all Trump supporters, whether they are racist or not.
    –Mike suggested that people in Indiana were “racist morons.”
    –DavidS thinks there should be a “significant settlement” from the evil hotel chain.

    Seriously, this is not a good look for the woke folk above.

  12. If the desk clerk is only asking “Asian” looking people, It’s racist. Harvard Grad or Hillbilly, ignorance coupled with racism is rampant in America.

  13. The manager is obviously a Trump supporter who’s ant immigrant !

    I love how he can’t “find0 the alleged policy

  14. @Shawn

    The difference between the flu and corona is the flu has a death rate of .05% of those infected while Corona Virus so far has a death rate between 2-5%. Flu has been studied for decades, people who are most vulnerable get flu shots for the most likely strain and usually only the old or people with health conditions die from it. Corona seems to kill a lot of healthy people and a much higher rate. The 2-5% figure is based on Chinese reports from various cities and should be taken with a grain of salt because this virus has been studied for 50 days and not 50 years.

    There is good reason to be concerned. Sure in this case the reactions were overblown. I’m sure though that 30 days ago these guys would get a room no problem. That was before the virus concerns. I’m not going to look at someone harshly for being afraid and wanting to protect themselves from a serious health crisis. They don’t want to lose business like many airlines and cruise lines have done. 14 day incubation period is what’s scary.

  15. @OJS,
    Frankly, if Kaopra Lor is indeed an “activist”, I’d say good on him. The type ignorance & intransigence displayed by the desk clerk deserves to be rooted out and exposed.

    The woe-be-gone desk clerk wasn’t able to produce a copy of an alleged corporate policy. Since apparently a hard copy wasn’t available, you’d think just maybe that clerk would search his computer a l-i-t-t-l-e harder for what likely would’ve have been an email transmittal of said policy.

    @dmg9,
    Too bad you can’t see the distinction between being asked if you’ve been somewhere, versus being asked if you’re of that somewhere.

  16. Seriously. Why can’t they answer the question instead of pulling out their little camera and filming a guy and getting in a confrontation and refusing to answer a simple question. Must be racism right? Really weird that they can’t simply say they are American or that they are not coming from China. Don’t hotels require some kind of id? I understand this hotel employee isn’t the brightest bulb but to film him and try to paint him as a racist for the entire world to see makes these guys look like total scumbags. The guy is just uneducated. I went to chinatown last week with my girlfriend from China. She started coughing a few days later and was worried she got the coronavirus from chinese people in chinatown even though there are no positive cases there. Is she racist? A lot of chinese people are avoiding chinese restaurants in the US in their communities. Are they all racist? They didn’t have to sleep in their car they could have simply answered the damn question. I highly doubt Gary can identify every asian group just by looking at them. Just another tabloid article.

  17. @John Rogers – do you also sit in your backyard looking for black helicopters. Not ordering Chinese food due to the possible risk of the Coronavirus – give me a break!!!

    God help all the paranoid people that live in fear of this, even if there have been ZERO cases in the US (or for that matter North/South America, Europe or Africa) that aren’t DIRECTLY tied to someone infected in China. Now there are quarantine procedures and China has basically locked down most of their country. Meanwhile it is warming up which usually weakens viruses and practically all the pharma companies (along with the CDC and WHO) are working overtime on vaccines and treatments.

    Finally, you quoted the percentage of deaths from Coronavirus versus the flu. You do understand that the flu is much more likely to kill someone in the US (regardless of your statistics) right?! Almost all the deaths are in China, with an overstained and underdeveloped healthcare system.

    The worry about Coronavirus doesn’t impact my life AT ALL with respect to what I eat, where I travel (Europe next month) or how I interact with people. Frankly if I got it (as rare a possibility as that may be) I have no doubt the US healthcare system would get me well with no major problem since I don’t have any of the underlying medical conditions almost always connected to the deaths (again except in China which doesn’t have the healthcare system that exists in the US or o most of the rest of the developed world).

    There are plenty of things to worry about but this isn’t one of them!

  18. @ John Rogers
    You’re absolutely right – getting infected with the Coronavirus is clearly worse than getting infected with one of the common flu strains. But the flu, in aggregate, is still far more dangerous here in the US. You are infinitely more likely to die from the flu caught from a worker at a restaurant (any restaurant) than you are to die from CoV caught from a worker at a Chinese restaurant simply because the flu is so prevalent. But the chances of either (assuming you’re healthy) is very rare. I understand the desire to prevent catching CoV, but avoiding Chinese restaurants (which you clearly like) is irrational. I find that funny given how rational you otherwise seem to be. That said, we’re all allowed our irrational behavior. I just feel bad for all the Chinese restaurant owners (and workers!) as I suspect your strategy isn’t a unique one.
    And thanks for the reasoned discussion – a fresh break from typical online comment section 😉

  19. There will be a lawyer who hunts these fellas down and there will be a large settlement from Wyndham. Ignorant employees once again.

  20. @AC

    The flu kills more people over all in the U.S. right now because it is more widespread. But if Corona spread like the flu the death toll overall would be 100 times more. That’s what many people are trying to prevent by staying away from Chinese restaurants and other businesses. A western tourist can have come back and infected anyone but I can’t avoid everyone. I can avoid the Chinese who have a concentration of risk because they are more likely than the average person to have been in close contact with someone who was in China recently visiting family. If the virus originated in Ireland I would avoid the Irish bakeries and restaurants in my area. The likelihood of contagion in the U.S. is very low but it is still a risk. Countries didn’t start locking down entry from China until 10 days ago. The incubation period has proven to be at least 14 days (it is a new disease and with mutations may be more). In a month there should be more clarity than there is now. After SARS and also because of pollution, many Chinese people where masks in China and abroad. That reduces rates of transmission. In the U.S. like NYC where I live very few people where masks. I hope you are right. The administration got it right by quarantining so quickly and airlines did the right thing by stopping flights for two months. But it is not irrational to take safeguards here in NYC.

  21. We just spent 4 days in San Francisco. Our hotel was on the boundary of Chinatown so we ended up spending most of 3 days walking around, eating and shopping in Chinatown. It was pretty festive due to new year festivities.

    Not once did it occur to us that we should not be there due to corona virus.

  22. @Jake – do you really think someone that ignorant who was told “I’m Hmong” in answer to a question “Are you Chinese” would know any difference????

  23. @Other Just Saying: “ Mike suggested that people in Indiana were “racist morons.””

    I suggested that the desk clerks in Indiana who denied accommodations in this instance are racist morons, but way to shove words into my mouth.

    Stay classy.

  24. @Mike. You are running around virtue signalling by calling people “racist morons.” Not very classy, no matter how much you prevaricate about your actual intent.

  25. My family member was denied a hotel room in Illinois due to being from NYS and there being corona virus in the state.

  26. This is crazy. Some people make it appear if you are concerned enough to ask questions about something that they must be racist. I am a Southerner. I am not racist. I was a firefighter emt for over 17 years. I have dealt with all kinds of people. How do we know that this employee was not asking the same thing to other guests? Just because this guy can’t answer a question about China, he seems to be the instigator but without all the facts don’t jump to conclusions. TRUMP 2020

  27. In America 2 Asian guys get turned away and everyone loses their minds.
    In Asia westerners by the thousands are getting turned away for exactly the same reason (fear of the virus) and no one bats an eye.

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