This morning, I decided against writing a post about an unpleasant exchange that took place at my hotel in New York last weekend. Just then, R.E.M.'s Leaving New York started to play and changed my mind.
I arrived at the hotel and was surprised to hear that the specific room I'd reserved was not available. I'd confirmed it was warm and waiting mere days earlier. The girl at the desk called over a colleague and advised him of the situation briefly.
The gentleman didn't bother to look up at me but rather, went to work on his computer and said Let me check and see if there's any other rooms that's available. I asked him why if my reservation had been confirmed was it no longer available. He looked up and said:
You know what? When you make a reservation, there's no guarantees. Like what if the hotel burned down? We wouldn't be able to give you the room you reserved you know?
And did the hotel burn down?
You're getting sarcastic with me.
Yes, you're offering an example that while true makes no sense in this situation. If you can explain why you're rescinding my reservation and if you have an alternative or option you can tell me about, I'll be more understanding.
Now you're just trying to get something and that's not going to work.
I asked him for his name and he gave me his card which identified him as the VIP/Events Co-ordinator.
Are you sure this is your card? I find it hard to believe that the title is correct considering the way you're talking to me.
Although I could tell he wanted to, the one part of his customer service training that stayed with him stopped him from punching me in the face.
There's another room I can show you and it's upgraded and that's all that's available. I followed him, he showed me the room and I told him it was lovely and would be fine.
As soon as I said this, he said it'll be an extra $300 because of the upgrades.
I won't be paying for upgrades based on a mistake your hotel made.
Well, I'll check on that and let you know.
I got a call within minutes saying that I could have the room without additional charges and later, a letter of profuse apology was slipped under the door with vouchers for free meals in the hotel restaurant.
On the flight home, I read an article in the New York magazine I'd picked up of at all places, the hotel. It dealt with the finer points of hospitality delivered by restaurant owner Danny Meyer.
Following a reservation mishap involving the restaurant the interview took place in, Meyer had this to say:
That's a service error, not to honor the commitment of a reservation. Hospitality could have overcome that. It's an important distinction. Service is delivering on your promise. Hospitality is making people feel good while you're delivering on your promise. I would want our team to say it sounds like we made a mistake.
What if he knew they didn't, if the customer was simply a crackpot?
I would still say it sounds like we may have dropped the ball on your reservation.
I've now torn the article from the magazine and put it in an envelope addressed to my favourite VIP coordinator. I'm not convinced he can read but maybe someone can explain it to him. That doesn't make me too much of a crackpot I hope.