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Watched the Gordon Ramsay show "Hotel Hell" for the first time, and was amazed at how the entire 1-hour show revolved around pointing out the defects in the hotel owner's character:

  • He was an incompetent manager, running the hotel into the ground
  • He was struggling with severe alcoholism
  • He was dating an unattractive, much older woman who the show also humiliated
  • He was so cheap he used his residences' old mattresses as the mattresses in the hotel rooms, and Gordon Ramsay -- in front of not just cameras but entire hotel staff -- used a black light on one of the mattresses to point out a large stain, saying it was from the owner ejaculating

I am ashamed to say I watched the entire episode, which was obviously geared to appeal toward viewers who get off on "look how messed up this person is." (Based on commercials for other Ramsay shows, this aggressive humiliation seems to be a key premise of all of Ramsay's productions.)

I couldn't help but wonder: why on earth would anyone agree to go on Hotel Hell or similar Ramsay shows? "Humiliate me on national television? Sounds great!" Why would anyone sign up for that?

edit to add link to episode summary

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There are a few things you need to consider:

  1. As the saying goes, no publicity is really bad publicity. Sure some people might be turned off by the individual, but at the same time others may find it fascinating and actually want to go there or try it out. They may look bad for a moment on national TV, but if they actually do manage to turn things around by the end of the show, they've received virtually free publicity for their service, even if they had to look bad on national television to make it happen.

  2. They may genuinely want help. Clearly there's dysfunction with their business, and clearly Gordon Ramsay seems to have an idea of how things are run as he's been responsible for several top notch hospitality services over his career. Sure they may face some humiliation on TV in front of millions of people, but if they're really serious about changing things and turning their business around, with the aid of a famous celebrity and the financial backing of a TV show to help them out at practically no expense to themselves other than a bruised ego, and the alternative is to face their service closing anyway, what's to lose? In the case of one of his other shows, Kitchen Nightmares, they often get a completely remodeled restaurant out of the deal, likely at no expense to them.

  3. Reality TV is often edited and distorted to appease the target audience. Sometimes events will be edited out of order, or certain lines of dialog will be dropped to add drama to a situation. Even the subtle use of the right kind of music can change the entire feel of a scene. In the case of shows that were started in a foreign country, certain aspects of the show may change to appease general audiences of the new country as well. See this question regarding another Gordon Ramsay show for further details.

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    3b. And some of them didn't know they'll be portrayed so negatively. This is a relatively new show, after all. And if we want to be nasty, 4. These are allegedly people who ran their business into the ground with really bad judgement calls. So what's one more? :P – Walt Aug 11 '14 at 21:17
  • All fair points. I'm painting in fairly broad strokes here, though, and trying to avoid seeming opinionated. – MattD Aug 11 '14 at 21:19
  • Of course. Hence the 'allegedly'; Ramsay can afford the lawsuits, but we can't. ;) – Walt Aug 11 '14 at 21:42
  • At this point, I'd believe the first 2 but not the 3rd. If you know enough to send in your tape to be considered for the show, you know how the show is going to be edited. Or you're a fool. And if you're in the position to own/run a hotel, my money is on the former. – Johnny Bones Aug 11 '14 at 22:07
  • @JohnnyBones Those from season 1 could at least claim ignorance since it hadn't aired yet. Plus, they might be so desperate they don't care. – Walt Aug 12 '14 at 3:33
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In addition to MattD's excellent answer, Gordon Ramsay often evaluates the hotel restaurant and menu. Ramsay is an internationally known chef, so having his advice on your restaurant and serving a menu designed by Ramsay has a great deal of value by itself.

The show also spends tens of thousands of dollars to help refurbish the interior of participating hotels, in a few cases over a hundred thousand dollars. That's all provided at no cost to the hotel owners.

Many reality shows also pay compensation to their participants, but I don't know if Hotel Hell does that for their hotel owners. In any case, the renovations are valuable in themselves.

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Owners that go on the show, 'Hotel Hell' usually have severe issues within the business whether that is:

  • A Dysfunctional Family Business
  • Seriously in debt
  • Or even just that the owner is far too stubborn!

I am not sure whether this show is set up however if it is not, it seems that people genuinely want help or others recognise that a business needs help. Plus, being in hundreds of thousands pounds debt probably isn't fun so going on the television to inevitably improve would seem like the better option especially if you have unlimited liability.

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