Archive for category Guests

Don’t be a Scrooge This Holiday Season

No one wants a Scrooge staying at their Hotel

I’ve talked a lot about tipping before. Specifically about tipping the hospitality professionals that service you when you’re at a hotel. That’s an important word “professionals” we don’t do it for fun. OK…not just for fun. We do it to get paid as much as because we find some enjoyment from it (those of us that aren’t twisted bitter Gollum like creatures). I’m of the firm belief that tipping is one of the smaller expenses you encounter while traveling, but that doesn’t mean it should be ignored. Far from it, and the nicer of a place you’re staying at, the less of a cheap bastard you should be.

A fellow blogger and hotel worker, The Hook, had a recent post on this exact matter. Here is his post: The Hook’s Definitive Guide to Tipping and Service I recommend you read it if you travel even a little. Even if you’re staying at a Motel6 you should tip your housekeeper at least.

I left a comment on his post that I felt like highlighting here.

Don’t forget that tipping your Housekeeper, Concierge and the Valet is just as important as the Bellman. And the 55 cents you had at the bottom of your pocket and you dumped on the dresser and didn’t feel like picking back up before leaving doesn’t count as a tip for housekeeping, it should just count as littering you cheap douchebag. How much did your car cost? Or how much will it cost if the valet dings up your rental? Throw the guy a tip or park your own car. And you know how the Concierge knows about that really awesome restaurant they sent you to? They went and eat there, and only occasionally did they get some sort of “industry deal” to do it, and the hotel likely didn’t pick up the tab. They likely paid for it out of their own pocket, so that they could experience it, recommend it to you, and improve your vacation, throw a few bucks into the cause. If you don’t have cash hit the ATM. If you’re not willing to tip, then stay at a Motel 6 or stay home.
And I can’t agree more that you need to actually express to the Front Desk what your expectations and needs are. And it’s so much easier to accommodate those requests if you ask while you’re at the desk, before you get into the room. We’re not mind readers. But we are very good listeners.

It’s nothing I haven’t said before. But I think it bared repeating.

Lastly, I wanted to share these two pictures I snapped from my phone while checking rooms a couple of weeks ago. These rooms were right next door to one another, are identical in size and layout, and yet one was noticeably messier than the other, there was also one other noticeable difference.

You're a bad person if you do this.

All the piles put together added to a little under $4, which for the size of the room is descent. If everyone left $4 I wouldn’t have anything to complain about. This was just insulting because they don’t know that I’m going to come along, find this crap, scoop it up, and turn it into dollar bills for my housekeepers. I can’t even tell if they were trying to send a literal message or not. It doesn’t seem to spell anything to me. Seems more like coins stacked into a giant middle finger, or at least that was the message I received. It’s not like they were too lazy to go out, get dollar bills, and leave a real tip, this probably too more energy than that. And this wasn’t just the bottom change in their pocket that they dumped out the night before and decided they didn’t want to bother picking up. This was someone’s idea of a joke. One of my female staff said “That would be like a guy offering to buy me a drink at a bar and ordering a water!”

You're a rock star

This is far and above what they needed to leave. This person probably has worked in some sort of service industry in the past. Either that or has money and doesn’t mind sharing it around. Either way they’re awesome in my book. That’s a tip that says “I know there are some cheap bastards out there. I’m going to make up for it.”

Now does anyone want to guess which room was a bigger mess? The stacks of change or the $20 bill?

I won’t even dignify that with an answer. I think we all know what the truth is.

Good day to you.

I SAID GOOD DAY!

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Crazy Hotel Guest Story – The Naked Superman

I’m exposed to far too much nudity in my line of work, and it’s never been enjoyable. In fact it’s been entirely male nudity as far as I recall. This is especially true at my current property where I’m as much involved in Spa Operations as Hotel Operations. Usually it’s because someone has passed out from one of our heat intensive bath treatments. Extreme heat and booze just don’t mix people.

This particular incident happened this last summer or spring. I know the weather was particularly nice, but hell it’s California, so that doesn’t really narrow it down.

I was just sitting down for lunch at my desk, deli sandwich and emails yum! When my cell phone started ringing. Being a manager I never really “clock out” ever. I’ve also been a line employee and had manager that were horrible about answering their phones whether they were on a break or not, so I take pride in the fact that generally my staff can count on reaching me by phone. I checked the caller ID and saw that it was a fellow manager, our Spa Supervisor who I will call Jelly Bean for a reason that only really makes sense to me and her. She would be quite annoyed if she knew that was her pseudonym actually. Perfect.

I answer the call. “Hi Jelly Bean,” I say with a forced smile in my voice.

“<Hotelnerd> there is a naked man lounging by the pond,” she whispers into her phone. For the record we are no a clothing optional facility.

“Ooookay…” Chuckle. Jelly Bean was still a relatively newly minted manager, in fact this might have been 2 summers ago now that I think of it. “Would you like me to come talk to him?”

“No….I can do it….” there’s strong reluctance and uncomfortableness in her voice though.

I take pity on her. I start standing from my chair. “I’ll be right there.”

It’s about a 30 second walk from my desk to her location. I get out there to find a gentleman sprawled out on a chaise lounge chair, his robe draped across the chair next to him basking in the radiance of the sun. Four chairs down from him sits a lone woman reading a book with a hand up to the side of her face to shield her peripheral vision from the site. Jelly Bean is on the other end of the pond so I give her a little wave as I approach the gentleman. As I approach, I can’t help but get the Full Monty as it were. I really didn’t need to know that this guy believed in waxing….everywhere.

I come up beside him and bend down to speak softly but firmly to him. “Sir. I don’t mean to disturb you, but we’re not a clothing optional facility. I’m going to have to ask you to put your robe back on. Please.”

He opened his eyes and looked at me, “Really?”

“Yeah, I’m afraid so.”

“Fine.” He sighed and rolled his eyes at me.

“Thank you. I appreciate it. Sorry to bother you.” I said and turned to walk away as he got up to put his robe back on.

Jelly Bean circled around her end of the pond and we met out of sight. “Thank you. I really didn’t want to get that close to him.”

I shrugged at her, “Not a problem.”

I walked back to my desk and had just taken a bite of my sandwich when my phone started ringing again. I glared at it accusingly where it sat on my desk. Jelly Bean showed up on my caller ID again. Great.

“Hotelnerd, he has the robe on now, but he has his legs spread straddling the chair and every time the wind blows a little the robe moves and exposes him again.”

Sigh. “I’ll be right there.” I was already out the door.

I repeat the trip over. Approach the gentleman again, but he’s readjusted himself before I could get there so that his legs are stretched out straight now, not spread and his robe is completely folded over him. I just keep walking past him, circle the pond and meet up with Jelly Bean.

“Did you go talk to him?” I ask.

“No he repositioned right after you hung up.”

“Alright well I’ll hang out for a minute to see if he acts up again.” I tell her and we step around the pond so that that it’s less obvious that we’re watching him. He must have felt our eyes on him, because he sat up, swung his legs to the ground and stood.

His robe sash WAS NOT tied shut. A gust of wind blew and his robe flew open, flashing the lady still 4 chairs down trying to read her book. I see her hand fly up again to shield her view. He could have quite easily gotten up the other direction, or tied his robe shut, or done any number of other things, but that obviously wasn’t his goal. He starts walking off down the boardwalk towards the rest of the spa, robe sash still untied and robe billowing out behind him like a cape.

“What’s he doing?” Jelly Bean says in outrage.

I’m wincing as I say, “I think he just gave us the Full Superman.”

I took off at a brisk walk after him. I have long legs and the distance disappeared fast. Yep, still not a single hair on this guy except on his head. Joy.

“Sir.” I’ve lost most of my pleasant courtesy at this point. “I need to ask you to tie you robe closed. You’re exposing yourself.”

“Fine. Fine.” He waves his hand at be before snatching up the ends of his robe sash and tying it closed.

“Thank you.” I say as he walks away.

You’d think his nakedness would end there. It didn’t.

I come up to the Spa Front Desk later and hear my staff there talking about a naked man.

“Oh you mean the one out at the pond that Jelly Bean and I dealt with?” I ask.

“He was naked in the lobby!” They tell me.

Apparently after interacting with me for the final time, he made his way all the way back to the locker room, disrobed, then came out into the lobby to ask the Front Desk where the bathroom was. You know….the one he walked right past to reach the locker room. Shocked they quickly directed him to the right door. After using the restroom, he returned to the locker room and put all of his clothes back on. I later found out that he came out into the lobby and was complaining to his friends about how he was trying to relax at the pond but we wouldn’t let him.

Really? Really!?! REALLY!??? I was more than happy to let you relax at the pond. You just had to keep your junk out of sight!

But from now until the end of time Jelly Bean and I will refer to a naked man at the pond as a “Code Superman”

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Crazy Hotel Guest Story – Slaying The Email Troll

The Internet Troll: A vile creature that lurks in dark dank rooms, using the internet to say nasty things that he just can't say in real life.

This one barely qualifies as “Crazy Guest Story” because the guy never actually ended up being a guest, just some jack hole that booked and room, cancelled it and then emailed me to be an Internet Troll. I sat on these emails for over a week now, mostly because this guy pissed me off so much at the time I didn’t even want to consider dealing with this shit. Below you’ll find his original email to me, my response, and then this response to my response. I admit, I probably shouldn’t have responded to his original email at all, at least not in the mindset that it originally left me in. It’s bad to email ticked off. However, I also don’t think there was anything all that out of line in my email. Compared to his initial message I think I was pretty gracious, at least not the condescending ass that his original message made him out to be. In the end my message also had the desired effect I think, it cemented the guy’s desire to never stay with us in the future which if his email is any indication of his actual personality, I don’t want his business anyways.

Here we go. This is his original email to me.

I’ve just canceled a reservation at <my hotel> for April 20th. On your website you notify people you’ll charge a deposit at time of booking. I was surprised to discover I was charged for the full amount 6 months in advance. On calling your front desk, I was told this behavior was part of a new policy and therefore totally normal. It isn’t. Pre-payment happens in the hotel industry, and it’s called just that. The term deposit in the english language means part payment held as security. If you don’t believe me, look it up here http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/deposit. I was also told when canceling my reservation that my deposit would be turned. Apparently no-one you employ understands what that terms means. Unimpressed. Very unimpressed.

This was a straight copy and paste with just one little redaction. The part that irked me the most was his link to the dictionary, especially because he’s reading the definition wrong. And I think it fairly perfectly fits the definition of Internet Troll provided by the Urban Dictionary. Also, when you’re starting an argument like this, maybe you should do some proof reading before you hit send. Even little typos undercut your argument when you’re arguing pure semantics.

Here’s my response.

Hello <Jack Hole>,

I’m sorry there was a misunderstanding over the term “deposit” and if the amount caught you by surprise. The announcement on our website and in the email confirmation both clarify the amount will be for the “room and tax for the entire stay”. We didn’t construct our verbiage to be deliberately misleading or deceptive. Deposit is a commonly used term throughout the industry and we chose to use it over pre-payment. Your own definition from dictionary.com says “to give as security or in part payment.” As I read it, that doesn’t rule out the deposit being the entire amount because it says “as security or in part payment”. Throughout my career and years of travel I’ve seen the two terms used interchangeably at many different hotels. And I believe the agent on the phone was saying that your deposit would be “returned” not “turned”. I’m sorry you won’t be enjoying a stay with us in April.

Best wishes,

<hotelnerd>

I’ll admit I could have handled his initial email a number of different ways. I could have even ignored it all together. If he had been a return guest with a positive track record of staying with us (and not being a pain in the ass) I might have even waved the deposit policy for him. If he’d just been a little more gracious and less of an Internet Troll I might have still bent the policy for him. In the end, I just didn’t see the point in trying to recover his business. I know that isn’t necessarily “superior customer service” but he’s hardly a “superior customer” he’s just a “superior ass hole.” I enjoy giving my guests great customer service and making them happy. I really do. But when I’m dealing with people who are just miserable S.O.B.s sometimes it’s nice to handle things in a way that hopefully keeps them from ever being a headache for me or my staff in the future.

Sometimes being an asshole just doesn't get you what you want.

The final email in our exchange.

Really? You’re in customer service and that’s your response.

I didn’t respond to him after that. His response told me that my original response had accomplished its mission, and I had better things to do with my day. But what I really wanted to say was,

Yeah. Really. That’s my response. Goodbye.

I know this is a fairly tame story, but I haven’t gotten to share this exchange with much of anyone and I thought this was a descent format to do that in since I could just post pretty much the exact text of our exchange.

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A Day in the Life of a Hotel Front Desk Manager

I wish I could say this was an exageration of what can actually happen. It's not....

I was listening to the Nerdist Podcast Episode 139 with Neil deGrasse Tyson and one of the questions that Chris Hardwick tossed at Neil deGrasse Tyson was “Tell me about a day in the life of a scientist” or something to that effect. Neil kind of chuckled, much how I do when considering that question, because he doesn’t have such a thing as a “typical day”. By and large I can say the same thing, every day I show up to work, and outside of some basic responsibilities that go along with whatever shift I’m working that day I don’t ever really know what the day is going to throw at me.

Typically I get here, and if nothing else is immediately more pressing I check my voice mail and do my initial scan of my email inbox. In a day I receive 15 to 40 emails in a day that require varying degrees of my attention. For the record I hate voice mail, I hate voice mail at work and I hate it at home. Email and text is such a better way to get a hold of me. As I’m scanning email or immediately afterwards I try to touch base with any other managers that are around, especially my fellow operational managers. Often times they have some critical piece of information that is going to shape the rest of my day from staff being out sick, issues from the night audit shift, upset guests I might encounter, maintenance issues, or one of the owners running amok around the property.

Next up is my first walk around the property for the day (assuming that nothing more pressing jumps in my path). I’ve talked about this before, but I think I would go crazy if I was stuck at my desk or in meetings all day. I love going out to walk around the property and see it with my own eyes, it certainly doesn’t hurt that I work on a particularly beautiful property. On this walk I try to hit as much of the property as I can, not just my department, but the pool, guest areas, the spa, laundry, everything I have the time for. There are times that I can’t help but think of myself as Admiral Kirk touring the Enterprise at the beginning of The Wrath of Kahn. I shared this particular image with on of my staff one time and now she calls me “Captain” whenever she feeling like humoring me, or is buttering me up for something. On this first walk I try to survey as much of the property as I can and in particular I’m looking for anything that might be amiss, maintenance issues, staff (specifically uniforms), and littering (I pick up garbage all day long). More than looking for things that might be wrong, I’m also mentally settling into my day.

It’s after this point that I usually can’t tell what the day will hold for me next. Here’s just a sampling of what I had to deal with today.

  • People not staying in the hotel or visiting the spa that thought it would be nice to picnic on our front lawn with their massive dog (we don’t allow pets).
  • Relocating some guests that tried to sneak their 7-year-old into a room in a part of our lodging that is 18 and older.
  • Former guest upset about our $10 charge to ship some lost & found home to her. Apparently places she’s stayed always do it for free. Right. Sure they do.
  • Broken heater in a guest room after maintenance has left.
  • Guest that wanted to complain about the couple that brought their 7-year-old and we relocated. Wanted a discount even though we made them leave.
  • Guests with both glass and alcohol at the pool. Our pool is hot.
  • Two staff members missing their name tags.
  • It’s a holiday weekend and we’re running low on change.
  • Multiple people who want to talk to me about why their case is special and they should get an exception to one policy or another. Some got their exception and some didn’t.
  • Motorized housekeeping cart with a dead battery that we have to push back to base. Those things are solid metal and loaded with shit.

And some of those bullet points become a little routine, but even the routine ones are somewhat unpredictable. Every guest interaction is different and a bit unpredictable even if you’ve dealt with the same issue a thousand times. You just can’t tell how it’s going to go until you’re in it. That’s about it for today, but I still have about an hour and a half left. Along with that I’m answering questions from my staff and the staff of other departments, pitching in on phones, pitching in at the desk, slogging through my emails, doing more property walk around, staying in touch with the other managers. I can also be composing memos, designing procedures, writing employee evaluations or written warnings. And the property owners weren’t even here today to heap random projects on me. I only take short breaks to blog at work so that I can vent some steam quietly and not explode on people.

And I wouldn’t give it up for the world. I love working in hotel operations, and even when I’m a GM someday or if I become an owner even, I hope to at least have a couple of toes in the daily operations. At least I feel that way now, if it ever stops being fun then it’ll be time to run as fast as I can away from operations.

 

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Crazy Hotel Guest Story – The 30 Year Old Baby

This is another old story, but a favorite.

Once again, it was back in my days as a lowly Front Desk Agent. I was working at a mid-range high-end big brand resort. It was a pretty busy day with check-ins for a large corporate group we had in-house. The group was spread throughout the property in various room types depending on where they ranked in the corporate hierarchy.

I don’t even remember checking this woman in, it could have been another agent, but I was the one who caught her when she stormed back up to the Front Desk. She threw her key packet down on the counter and said, “This isn’t right. I should be in a suite.”

In my head I groaned. We were pretty much at capacity, and at the moment I just assumed that the Sales Office had oversold us on suites and downgraded this lady without giving the Front Desk a heads up. It wouldn’t have been the first time. I knew we were at capacity for suites. I never let my stage smile falter though. I recovered her keys from the counter and said, “Alright. I have the group’s contract in the back. If you can wait just a moment I can check the room assignments from your group. I’m sure we can sort it out.”

“No,” she snapped. “You’re going to give me a suite right now.”

Looking back, this is when I should have known that something wasn’t quite above-board.

“I’m afraid I have to check the contract before I can make any changes to your reservation.” I tried to sound as sympathetic as I could, she wasn’t making it easy though. “I promise I’ll be right back. Thank you.”

I turned up my stage smile to 11 and ducked in the back before she could say anything else. My Assistant Manager had been listening and already had the paperwork pulled. We used her room number on the key packet to pull up her reservation and went to work. Change log showed she was always in the standard room type that she was already in – I miss having a PMS that keeps a detailed change log – and marvel of marvels we had a group rooming list that was signed by the group contact (the person in her corporation that booked the group and assigned the room types). It actually looked like the Sales Office hadn’t screwed the pooch, but just to be safe we called the group contact on her cell phone. She verified that the room assignment was right.

I walked back up front with a look that I hoped was sympathetic. “I’m sorry Ms. <GrownUpBaby>, but according to the contract with your company, this is the room you’re supposed to be in. We verified it with Ms. <GroupContact> and she said it was the right assignment. Even if she approved an upgrade, I’m fully reserved for tonight. I don’t have an upgrade to offer unfortunately.”

That really should have been the end of it. All the i’s were dotted and t’s were crossed.

It wasn’t though. I guess here is a good time to somewhat describe this woman. Tall, blonde, moderately attractive, and somewhere in her early to mid 30’s. Definitely too old to act the way she was about to.

“You don’t understand,” she sputtered. “My father is in a suite. I want one like he has.”

“You really need to discuss this with your company’s group contact. She assigned all the rooms.” I replied.

Her nostrils flared and her eyes narrowed at me. “I hope you don’t like she job,” she snarled. Then she whipped out her cell phone like a Bond villain about to detonate her Armageddon machine. I was quaking in my boots. No! Not even close!

Why do they always threaten my job? And as a manager, why do people insist on someone being fired when they complain to me? Does anyone even realize how horrible the affront would have to be for that to happen? I guess reasonable people do. You lose sane person points when you make a demand like that.

She placed the call while staring daggers at me. Meanwhile a line had developed, so I used my secret help button to ring for help and my Ass.Man. came up to work the other station.

I was about to ask her to step to the side so that I could assist the other guest when her call was answered.

“Daddy!” she whined into the phone. “They won’t give me a suite like yours. Make them give me a suite.”

I don’t know how he responded, but she made her dissatisfaction with the response apparent by screaming into the phone and slamming it down on the counter of the Front Desk several times. I’ve only rarely experienced that “record screech” moment that you see on TV and movies. You know where the record screeched to a halt and everyone in the room stops and just stares at some poor bafoon that has just done something totally embarrassing. Yeah, that happened here.

After slamming the ph0ne down repeatedly. She picked it up and screamed into the thing again, totally oblivious to the eyes on her. At that point my Ass.Man. slid up beside me with her cheerful guest smile on and quite pleasantly asked her to please step aside so that we could assist other guests.

She glared at my Ass.Man. but stepped aside from the direct line of the desk. For whatever reason she didn’t leave. My Ass.Man. and I got the line that had developed, and witness the episode moving again and within relatively short order we were once again left with just the prissy little adult baby staring daggers at us. I could tell my Ass.Man. was about to say something to her when a group of men in suits walked into the lobby. One of the men, and older gentleman, tall in a well made suite and an affable look to him, detached himself from his associates and came over to us. He had an entirely unperturbed and pleasant expression on his face until he reached the desk.

He turned to the spoiled little princess leaned in close to her his smile gone, and hissed just loud enough for us on the other side of the desk to hear. “Listen to me you little brat. You’re not getting a suite. Don’t you think if they had one they would have given it to you by now just to get you the fuck away from their desk after the scene you just made.”

Spoiled Brat’s mouth dropped open in what seemed to be genuine astonishment. Then the man turned around, reaching into his pocket and drew out his wallet. My Ass.Man. stepped forward, and with only a hint of the anger and contempt he has just unleashed on the Brat, he pulled out a Platinum Amex and said to my manager in a very calm and almost pleasant voice, “Can you please find make a reservation for her at another hotel tonight. I don’t care where you find her a room tonight, but she’s not staying here.”

He handed my Ass.Man. his Amex, she copied down the number as well as the man’s cell phone number and promised to make her an alternate reservation. He turned around and began to escort her by the arm away, but stopped just a few steps away, turned and said, “Make sure it’s not a suite.”

There was a squeak of protest from the woman before he hauled her back into motion and shot her another withering glare. My Ass.Man. and I were grinning somewhat vindictively as they walked up the stairs in the direction of her current room.

I couldn’t help but think that it was probably her “Daddy’s” fault that she turned out the way she did. I wonder if he ever realized that too?

We made her a reservation on daddies card, across town, in their most basic room, at a resort that was just a step below us. She’s lucky we didn’t just call the Best Western and leave it at that. We didn’t even have to resell her room after she checked out, the group was already paying for it whether we sold it or not.

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Guest Loyalty Programs. Do They Work?

One of the owners of my property is a very creative and passionate man. He wouldn’t have been able to build the property I work at, with its unique flair and style without such a grand big picture already in his mind. He also has a tendency to make sweeping statements on goals and projects that he wants to tackle without much understanding of the nuts and bolts that goes into execution. When he does get involved in execution, things tend to get frustrating when the realities of business operations conflict with his personal vision. The other day in a meeting he tasked the GM and I with developing some system for tacking, recognizing, and rewarding repeat guests. We have a system in place now for tracking and recognizing, but I’m the first to admit that it’s not really accurate, and the “reward” portion is fairly lacking. The bigger boxes in the industry have developed intricate Guest Loyalty Programs, and I have mixed feelings about the big box solutions out there.

Guest Loyalty Programs swept through the “chain” side of the industry some time ago. Most every major brand (Marriott, Fairmont, Hilton, Four Seasons, etc) has some sort of Guest Loyalty Program. You know that club that you sign up for at the Front Desk or two days before you get there because it gives you some little perk like free Wi-Fi or whatever. Ostensibly the program makes it easier for the hotel to recognize repeat customers, track their preferences, track issues or problems the guest has had/caused, and offer them rewards for repeat business. The programs represent two important factors to the Hospitality industry. The first is that guest loyalty is truly essential, a guest who enjoys your product and comes back over and over again is worth their weight in gold, not only for the actual dollars they spend, but for all the other people they refer our way. The second is that information is power. These programs allow us to build massive databases of information about our guests and when used appropriately they let you keep repeat guests happier, but also allow you to better market directly to them. In order to profit from this large database of information and cover the administrative costs, less scrupulous companies will also sell this information to “partners” like Frequent Flyer programs, sister brands, and other affiliates. I’m not saying everyone does this, but some of them do. If I signed up for a program I always use my Junk Mail email address (Yes, I have like 3 personal email addresses each one with its own purpose).

The programs do all of that, however, there’s also much doubt in the industry that these programs actually foster guest loyalty. Most of these programs are tiered in some way and the basic membership is free to join. Many frequent travelers belong to every “loyalty program” out there just to have the basic membership benefits. At a certain point, they don’t care if you’re a Fairmont or a Hilton so long as your rooms are within their price range and they get a bed to rest their head on. They carry cards for every loyalty program and offer zero loyalty in return. I won’t say this is the case for every member of a loyalty program and for those that reach the upper levels of membership, many of them have demonstrated that they have at least a strong preference for your brand. The majority of Loyalty Program members are in that bottom category of occasional visitors that generally just signed up to get the initial perks.

For smaller properties a formal sort of program can be a double-edged sword. The software for Customer Relations Management (CRM), to correctly manage these programs is expensive. Sometimes it’s just easier to try to do it through your existing Property Management Software (PMS), but most PMS’s aren’t designed to track the same level of detail that dedicated CRM software can. For instance I can see in my PMS that a guest has stayed with us 12 times before, but my PMS doesn’t really track whether you told us you prefer feather or foam pillows on your last visit. Unless I remember the guest’s name, it also isn’t great at letting me know if this guest had a major issue and screamed in the lobby about something on their last visit. Being a smaller stand alone property, we have to be a lot more careful about what “free perks” we give away. If we’re going to give stuff away or offer discounts to repeat guests does that mean we have to nickel and dime or raise prices for new guests to make up for it? Or do we just hope that the guest “loyalty” this expensive software has helped us earn will make up for itself in repeat business. And isn’t the best thing about repeat guests supposed to be that they’re basically free? You’ve already attracted them once, if you did your job right the first time they should just come back all on their own regardless of marketing efforts. I know that’s not entirely accurate, but we all would like it to be.

I’ve worked at a smaller independent property before where we offered a 15% discount on the room rate to any return guest, that was easy to implement if the guest’s name was in our system. We were a trusting property, so if a guest asked about the discount and said they had stayed before, but we couldn’t find a computer record for them we just took them at their word and gave it to them. As a promotion we would offer the 15% discount to anyone that said they were referred by a repeat guest. Once again we were very trusting about this. This was a lean and relatively efficient method of promoting guest loyalty and occasionally encouraging them to refer friends and family. And I have no idea what that does to your ADR or RevPAR in the long run. It also doesn’t allow for distinguishing between the guest that’s been back twice and the guest that’s been coming back for 20 years and spends several thousand dollars each time. Should both of them be equally rewarded? Or should there be an extra perk for the guest that spends lots more money? At the smaller property most of those truly long-term guests ended having a relationship with the Front Desk manager and she made sure they got their extra attention. My current property is already too big for that level of relationship with our guests and we’re about to more than triple in size.

I have a feeling our Loyalty Program at my current property will end up falling somewhere in between the “big box” solution and the smaller independent property solution. Mostly because I doubt I’ll be able to sell the owners and the GM on the likely fairly expensive CRM software I was looking at online today, but pretty soon we’re going to be considerably larger than my small property solution can handle. I smell entirely too complex spreadsheets in my future trying to do something they were never intended for.

I am curious, if any of you have similar mixed feeling about Hotel Loyalty Programs? Do you sign up for the free perks wherever you’re staying? Or do you only sign up at properties that you really like and want to stay at all the time? Will a club membership help you decide between staying at one property over the other? Especially if both offer similar programs? Will a repeat business perk, like a 15% discount on your room, heavily affect your decision to return? OK, I know that was a lot of questions. You can answer none, one, all or just some of them. This is an issue we discussed at great length during my academic program for Hotel Management, but I haven’t discussed with most people outside of the industry or outside of an academic setting really.

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Travelling tips and stuff…

So I’ve already talked in the past about some important travel tips, like not using your debit card whenever possible while traveling. But my recent trip to Vegas reminded me of some additional tips that I’ve been meaning to pass on and some observations as well.

buzzzzzz beep beep CLICK!

Your Room Key and Room Number

First of all, I feel compelled to dispel a particular myth. If you’re at a property with electronic locks and key cards, you don’t have to destroy your key or take it with your when you leave. Somehow a nasty rumor got started that hotel key cards store all your personal information, including credit card number, on your magnetic key card. It was probably Michelle Bachman that started it. The magnetic strip on your key card doesn’t store any information, all it stores is a randomly generated code (usually) which will match up to the lock on your door and allow you access. Please don’t destroy them, the hotel can reuse those. It’s just wasteful. And stupid.

The security of your room key and room number are especially important areas of concern though, the more so the larger the property is. A security minded hotel will train its staff not to say your room number allowed or ask you to say it when other people are in ear shot. When I was at the desk, I usually wrote the room number down on the key envelope and would point to it and say “You’re room number is written here for you.” That being said, not every hotel is as security conscious at others, at least not until something bad happens and they get sued. Once you receive your keys, try to memorize the room number and then separate your key cards from the envelope, preferably just leave it in your room. If you can’t memorize the number, then keep the key card and the key envelope in separate pockets. Otherwise if you lose you key and the envelope together you’ve just given whoever finds it full access to your room. If you lose your key go to the Front Desk and have them cut you new ones. Let them know that the old keys were lost and that you need a fresh set to overwrite the old keys. If you’re traveling with someone else, this will overwrite their key as well so keep that in mind if you aren’t together when you get the fresh set.

List the Names of Everyone Staying in the Room on your Reservation

This step serves two purposes. The first is any hotel that is half way conscious of their key control, won’t issue keys to a person unless their name is listed on the reservation as an occupant. Most people don’t think of this, but it can turn into a major headache. If you’re traveling partner isn’t listed on the reservation and gets locked out without you, they can’t just go to the Front Desk and get a new key. Even if you’re husband and wife and have the same last name. Even if that same last name is really weird and uncommon. So list all occupants on the room. At a property that has incidentals that can be charged to the room (like restaurant and spa charges) only people listed on the reservation should be able to charge things to your room. You might even have to think about this before you arrive to check-in. I’ve had to deal with more than one pissed off spouse or partner that arrived before their partner and couldn’t check in to the room because their name wasn’t on the reservation. Sometimes that lead to hours of having to wait for contact from the primary guest to give us authorization.

And if you run into this wall, getting pissed off at the Front Desk won’t really help. Besides, think about it this way, they’re trying to keep you and the people in your room safe, and all your stuff.

This also includes if you’re having someone come to visit you at the hotel and you want the Front Desk to tell them your room number. A good Front Desk won’t just give it out to whoever walks up without prior permission. I hate it when TV Shows and Movies show characters just walking up to a hotel front desk and asking “Can I get Mr. Johnson’s room number?” the correct answer is “No you can’t!” but most of the time that’s not relevant to their story so they skip over that detail.

Also, most security minded places are going to want you to have ID of some sort if you get locked out and need a new key. So it’s a good idea to keep some form of ID on you at all times. Although, if you leave it in the room and get locked out, likely they can have a manager or security let you into the room, but they’re going to insist on you showing them your ID once the door is open. Once again, I know this seems tedious and can be frustrating, but it’s in the interest of protecting you and your belongings.

If you’re traveling with kids or teens that are old enough to be apart from you but young enough to not have some form of ID (or don’t carry it with them) then ask the Front Desk if you can designate a “password” with them that can be used to have a new key issued. I don’t know if that’s a standard practice out there, but I’ve used it before to great effect for the guest and hotel.

Colored Bedspreads UCK!

Fail

I hate it when hotels have a cheap colored bed spread on their beds. This is a hold over from another age, and I don’t understand why any property above the Motel 6 category still does it. Sure it’s cost-effective on laundry, but it’s just gross. Because here’s the big clue in, in case you didn’t know already, those bed spreads get washed every 6 months MAYBE. In the mean time, think about all the other people who have likely used it while sleeping…and other bed related activities far more messy. When I get into a room that has some colored bed spread, the first thing I do is strip it off, toss it in a corner and wash my hands. I won’t use it during my stay. The only time this doesn’t apply is when the hotel has a nice duvet cover with a changeable (preferably white) sheet cover. This is a relatively new introduction in the hotel industry, but almost every luxury brand has already adopted it. Sure the duvet gets used from one guest to another, but the cover is changed regularly, and that’s the most important part.

Winning

That all being said, I’m not one of those travelers that won’t walk barefoot in my room and wipes down every surface with Clorox wipes that I brought from home. Or that asks for 10 extra bath towels so that they can make a path on the carpet for everywhere they plan to walk. I know the carpets aren’t more than vacuumed on a regular basis. Sure there’s probably some germ stuff or dirt left behind from the previous guests. Think about everything else you touched in your travels, especially the airport. If I was going to worry that much about germs, I’d just live in a bubble and never leave my home. Whatever doesn’t kill me just makes me stronger. I just don’t want to be sleeping draped in a bed spread covered in someone elses cum.

Yes Please!

Shower Curtains

This isn’t wide-spread yet, but I believe glass shower doors are the wave of the future for hotels. Or at least they should be. That shower curtain hanging in your hotel bathroom shower is worst than your bedspreads, sure, it “probably” got sprayed with some form of disinfectant by housekeeping, but how sure can you be? Glass shower doors are more green because they don’t need replacing as often, more hygienic and easier to clean between guests, and it’s a lot harder for a stupid guest to cause water damage to your hotel by not applying the shower curtain properly (seriously you’d be surprised how often this comes up). As far as I can see, that’s all win for the guest and the hotel. Sure they cost more to install then a cheap curtain rod and flimsy curtain. That call saying “There’s water dripping from my bathroom ceiling” because the guest upstairs didn’t know that the curtain belongs on the INSIDE of the tub rim is a lot worst than that initial set up cost though. So to the hoteliers out there, Glass Shower Doors are the way to go people! Seriously.

Using Your Privacy Sign

This is a real easy one, you’re “Privacy Sign” or your “Do Not Disturb Sign” means just that to most hotel staff. So if you order room service or ask for the bellman to come shine your shoes or if you want housekeeping to give you turn down service or fresh towels during your stay, remember to take it down. And if you forget to take it down, don’t be surprised if everything takes a little longer or that housekeeping didn’t tidy up. However, leaving your privacy sign up does not entitle you to an automatic late check out either. Ask for one if you need a late check out, if it’s not available then try to check out on time. Don’t try to just take one.

In Conclusion

Well that about wraps things up. Hope this post was more insightful than a rant. Safe travels out there. May the Force be with you, always.

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There and back again….

Alright so the only thing Hobbit like about me is my somewhat hairy feet, but I still love that title.

Last weekend my lovely fiancée and I went on our much-anticipated trip to Las Vegas. It was her third or fourth time, and my first. Over all it was an astounding experience. The two greatest highlights being, watching my fiancée win a $2,200 jackpot on the penny slots and the absolutely mind-blowing experience of seeing Garth Brooks live. I have some notes at home on my Xoom of some traveling/Hotel stuff that I’d like to talk about in a later post. I don’t have them with me at the moment, so I thought I would just talk about the trip tonight.

We flew out last Thursday night, and that brought a certain degree of madness with it, because of the power outage in San Diego which had cancelled a number of flights and people were running around trying to find new flights that would bring them close enough to San Diego to drive the rest of the way. The flight to Vegas was one of the louder more boisterous ones I’ve ever been on. I guess that’s to be expected right? I got to blow my fiancée’s mind though when I insisted that we sit in the Emergency Escape row. This was a South West flight and we had pretty good A priority boarding so we actually had the option. She had never sat in the emergency row before, but I’m quite tall, so it’s something I do whenever I get the chance. She hadn’t realized just how much more space there was. So much so that she snapped a picture with her iPhone and uploaded it to Facebook before our departure. We got into Vegas around 11:30 at night. We checked-in to our room, ran upstairs and dumped our carry on bags and went back downstairs to the casino to start our gambling.

I love Vegas

We stayed at New York New York, and over all the best part of the casino was the Party Pit, the little area of tables (mostly Black Jack) where they have a stage in the middle and hot cage dancers up on it. I knew at that moment, that despite the ever-present cigarette smoke, I was going to like Vegas! I didn’t snap the picture above, but that’s a pretty accurate representation of what I found. And I only have a mild case of whiplash from all the girls on bachelorette parties running around in low and short cut dressed. Apparently Halloween is the holiday when every girl gets permission to Ho it up, but Vegas is the city where ever girl gets the same permission. I’m not complaining. I love that city now!

The fiancée showed me how to play the penny slots. And by the end of the evening I was $80 up, which was nice. Too bad it didn’t stay that way. Vegas ended up keeping $240ish from my bank account, but that’s what I had gone into it being comfortable loosing.

We had massages the next more which were so-so. Honestly, New York New York isn’t exactly known for their spa, but the Spa facilities set my expectations pretty high for the massage itself, and it just didn’t live up to the expectation. Nothing worst in a masseuse then cold hands. And I know they’re in the middle of a dessert and it’s fraking hot outside (it was 90 degrees when we got off the plane at 11:30!), but the room doesn’t need to be freezing cold either, that probably contributed to the masseuse’s cold hands. Over all the whole service was just very rushed, her hands were moving at a frantic pace. And I couldn’t tell if that was just her “style” if she was phoning it in or what. I was talking to the Spa Director at my property and he said that there are a lot of half assed massage schools in Vegas where they just crank out massage therapists like any other trade school. It was a very weird experience for me, because I’ve had so many great massages where I work, and from a large variety of therapists. At first I just thought that maybe I wasn’t shutting off my manager brain and I was being too analytical about it. In the end, I did ask to speak with the spa manager after my massage. She came down and not wanting to be one of “those guests” I prefaced the conversation with my business card and saying “I’m in the industry, you don’t have to do anything for me, but I feel like you need this feedback.” I told her how the facilities were spotless, the Reception staff and Locker Room attendants were great, and then I gave her my big but about the massage itself. I prefaced the whole thing by saying she didn’t have to do anything for me, and so she didn’t do anything but thank me for taking the time to give her the feedback. It was a very practiced and easy customer service response on her part. And afterwards I felt better for having at least gotten it off my chest. Next time we’re in Vegas I want to try the spa at one of the places that are more known for having a mind-blowing spa. I already have some suggestions from my Spa Director who says his favorite place in the world is Vegas.

The fiancée and I spent out afternoon gambling and getting lunch. At one point I topped out at about $125 up after hitting the black jack tables (minus the dancers because of the time of day), but that all got sucked back away. I was across the casino watching another $20 drain away into a penny slot when the fiancée called me. I could barely hear her over the noise of the casino finally she’s like “Can you just come here. I don’t know, but there’s something wrong with the machine I think.” I got there to find flashing lights, and her machine’s screen announcing her $2220 jackpot and asking her to please wait for an attendant to come give her her money! It was a really cool experience even though it didn’t happen to me. We drew the attention of a couple of onlookers, the general sentiment being “I didn’t know a penny slot could give out that much!” and “How did you do that?” Really? Like we can replicate it with an exact series of steps? I’m pretty sure if we could, we’d never ever leave Vegas. We’d be professional penny slot players!

Once we had her money firmly in hand (she let me hold it a little bit). We went off to a bar for a celebratory drink. Then up to the rooms to get ready for the concert.

I’ll say more, but I’ll just preface the story by saying, Best. Concert. EVAR.

Garth Brooks is a consummate show man and entertainer and from the very moment he walked out on that stage he was electric. I didn’t do very much research into the show before we went, but it’s literally a one man show. He doesn’t have a band out there with him. It’s just Garth, a guitar, and a couple of bottles of water. The theater is incredibly tinny (maybe 1,500 people?) which is an incredibly intimate experience when you’re dealing with such a seasoned performer. Before he “retired” he was playing packed stadiums and blowing people away. In a space that small, you could just feel every body in the theater quiver at the same frequency as his guitar strings. And he’s out there incredibly casually, just some black boots, jeans, a checkered button up shirt with a T-shirt underneath, and a ball cap. It’s like he came out to play the stage at his favorite dive bar. The first half of the show is Garth talking about his life and growing up and the music that influenced him most on his path to becoming a performer. He sprinkles the show with stories and little covers of songs that were meaningful to him from other artists or highlight the story he’s telling, and you laugh a lot throughout the show. It’s almost stand up comedy between his little bits of music, but it’s more like you have a good friend who’s great a captivating a room with funny anecdotes. Then about half way through the show, he dives into his own catalog of music and it just cranks up to 11 from there. At least half the audience is singing along, either out loud or just under their breaths. And then comes the most amazing part, he turns up the house lights and takes audience requests and questions. He only took about 4, but that’s mostly because every song has a whole story around it for him to tell. I’m not ashamed to say that when considering all the songs of his that I just love, that I froze in a moment of pure overload and couldn’t even attempt to stand up to be one of those 4 requests because I had no idea what I would say if he called on me. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know about that part of the show before hand because I would have been contemplating it for the last 2 months since we bought the tickets.

Anyways, it was an amazing experience. If you even half way like Garth Brooks, go and see the show because you will not be disappointed.

The rest of our trip was kind of a whirl wind. We went out for a very late dinner with one of my fiancée’s friends from high school. He lives in Vegas now and he showed us around a little bit. We wandered around the Venetian and Palazzo Hotels. The concert was in the Wynn and that was an absolutely beautiful hotel. All 3 of them impressed me far more than New York New York which I just found a little cheesy. How can you even compare the New York New York to the Venetian especially the freaking canals through the hotel? Really? Although the price probably reflects that….

I think that just about wraps up our trip. The flight home was quiet and uneventful. We got back exhausted and a little forlorn to not be away somewhere adventurous together. We’re already plotting our possible return trips. I want to see David Copperfield next!

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What happens in Vegas…

Vegas! HERE I COME!

So, I’m practically ready to bounce out of my skin right now. A couple of months ago my fiancee suggested that we go to Vegas to see Garth Brooks in concert for my birthday. I’m a rarity in the Nerd population in that I like Country music. Weird I know. Anyways, I never got to see Garth Brooks when he was touring, and I’ve never been to Vegas before! We fly out Thursday night and it can’t get here soon enough!

I’m also going to try and use it as a chance to generate some blog post material. I’ve talked about this a little before, but traveling is an interesting experience for me being “in the industry”. I think I analyze things a bit different than the typical traveler, when it comes to flying, hotel stays, restaurants, everything. And I’ve been feeling a little tapped on Hotel related posts lately. Things have been relatively quiet at work. I’ve covered a lot of the major topics I wanted to cover when I started this blog, and new ones haven’t occurred to me. So aside from having an awesome weekend with my beautiful fiancee and seeing an amazing musical performance. I’m going to try and share some of my thoughts and insights I have as a Hotel Guest and traveler from this weekend.

I guess this is a great time to say, if people have questions about this business or industry, I’d love to hear them. Just comment on this post if you do. I might have to create a separate gmail account for the blog though….hmmm… Anyways, I’ve been in this business for most of my life now, I grew up in this business, so maybe I can’t pick out everything that an outsider needs to or wants to hear about the Hotel business. So the hotelnerd is taking questions from anyone that wants to throw them out there at me! I might not have the answer that applies across the board to every hotel, but I should be able to speak in generalities about most aspects of the business.

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Crazy Hotel Guest Story – One Week Later

So it’s been over a week since the crazy hotel guest I previously blogged about, came, stayed, and checked out. And I’ve been trying to figure out how to blog about her. Honestly, I don’t know if there’s a real way to do it. Was she just as crazy as her previous phone call indicated? You betcha. Maybe even more so. It’s hard to relate the story of her stay in any coherent fashion. That’s just how crazy this woman was. You can’t hold all the crazy stuff she said in your brain for very long because it made so little sense, and it just flies out of your mind as fast as it comes in. There’s just no way to process it. Did you know that if you let someone else slide your credit card through a machine, that the CIA can then change one or two of the numbers on your card through necromancy? I saw her talking to the license plate on a car. And she had trouble spending money that someone else had given her as change, because that person that gave her the change might wish her ill will. And it’s a bad omen that we have a statue of a seahorse in the same line of sight as the statue of a mermaid. All of this and much much more.

However, for the most part she was a very nice person. She did create a small scene in the spa and disrupt other guests. But in the grand scheme of things she’s just a very nice lady who’s subjective reality is just totally different from the one that the rest of us live in. I just had to feel bad for her in the end. She was a very sweet lady. A lot of her madness was centered around not bringing bad mojo down on herself or others. At the same time, it was tedious and tiring dealing with her, and I’m ultimately glad that she didn’t stay more than 24 hours on property. She will go down in my personal history as one of the craziest individuals I’ve ever had to deal with though. And those of us that worked with her will have several inside jokes to share for the rest of our time together.

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