Sadly Paul, you're probably close to the truth. I worked in a motel in WI, and the new franchise company decided to require a 1600 watt hairdryer in each and every room. We got that one negotiated down though to just bringing the bathroom electrical up to code. This kind of thing is likely to happen when large franchise companies give unreasonable timescales for such work at a time when there is little money.
No excuse for this kind of thing, but I think you're right about "get it done". The guy was probably also told "or you're fired"