Rocking it! How a Texas Hotel Company is Using Pet Rocks to Engage Guests and Build Employee Morale

If you've not thought about Pet Rocks in a few decades, you're not alone. The craze had its heyday in the 1970s when the idea was invented by Gary Ross Dahl, who said of the movement he created in the Oakland Tribune, “I packaged a sense of humor for a very bored public.” Fast forward to 2021, Pet Rock Painting Stations are bringing joy to hotel guests and employees across the portfolio managed by Pathfinder Development in Texas.

 Christina Berglan (“Chris”) and Brittany Tillman, rocking it at the Staybridge Suites managed by Pathfinder Development
(L to R) Christina Berglan (“Chris”) and Brittany Tillman, rocking it at the Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas managed by Pathfinder Development

It all came about when Brittany "Britt" Tillman, the Sales & Service Supervisor, and Christina "Chris" Berglan, Sales & Supervisor Associate / Night Auditor at the 90-room Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas stumbled upon Pet Rocks during a "brainstorming meeting" (aka a glass of wine and snacks) to fill the monthly activity calendar the hotel uses to engage Platinum guests and employees.


According to Pathfinder's Marketing & Business Development Director, Mel Miller, they researched the National Holiday Calendar for inspo––FYI there is literally a "National Day" for everything from selfies (really??) to chocolate (can get on board!!)––and ran with the Pet Rock idea as they knew it would be easy and inexpensive to implement. Britt and Chris took rocks from outside the property and created a "decompress corner/rock painting station in the back where team members could take breaks throughout their shifts." The painted rocks were displayed at the Front Desk and guests were offered to take the painted rocks souvenirs. It took off!

Employees "pet rock" painting break at the Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas
Employees "Pet Rock" painting break at the Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas

According to Chris, “The corner allows us to relax and blow off steam after dealing with difficult or challenging situations it's therapeutic and rewarding the smiles the guests have leaving it makes us so happy.”


Britt added, “Employees get to bond with the guests, learn them and create something special for them to take home. These rocks are conversation pieces and they foster a closeness that we haven’t been able to have with the guests since Covid. A tangible hug “

Pet Rocks at the Front Desk of the Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas
Pet Rocks at the Front Desk of the Staybridge Suites in Humble, Texas

According to both Brittany and Chris, "Guests love them. They often request certain things on the rocks for us to make for them before checkout. And not to mention we sign the rocks with our name just in case they forget which Staybridge suites they stayed at."


Now, pet rock painting stations can be found at Pathfinder's other hotels: Residence Inn Austin Southwest, Best Western Plus & Suites Pflugerville, Holiday Inn Express & Suites Austin NW Arboretum Area, and Staybridge Suites NASA/Clear Lake.


According to Mel, Marketing & Business Development Director, "the Pet Rock stations now live in our break rooms and back offices. Employees are equipped with all the creative tools to make pet rocks that showcase their personalities and it gives them time to take a breath and exercise those creative muscles they sometimes don’t get to use in their jobs".


Creativity is something Pathfinder has embraced as a core value for the company. Using the "3 Key Benefits of fostering creativity in the workplace" as a guide, the company has put these tenets offered by leadership coach Cheryl Viola into practice.

  • Creativity Builds Better Teamwork

  • Creativity inspires employees to work with each other. The creative process encourages collaboration.

  • Businesses need to encourage the mindset of continuous learning encouraging employees to seek new information, knowledge and new ways to do things.

  • Many unique ideas come from just one person but they are molded by a team to become fully formed.

  • Creativity Improves the Ability to Attract and Retain Employees

  • When creativity is encouraged employees are more content with their jobs and are committed to remaining loyal to the company.

  • Creativity Increases Problem-Solving

  • With the ability to think creatively and outside of the box, employees are more likely to come up with unique and innovative solutions to obstacles they encounter. This eagerness to solve problems can lead to new ways to accomplish tasks and adds to a more efficiently run business.”

"In the face of the labor shortage the industry is facing as a whole, we want to foster a workplace where creative ideas are not just heard, but put into practice," continued Mel. "We've seen results in retention when you create a safe place for ideas to flow."