Archive for category hotel

The Night Shift

Hello there bloggity type people! Yup, been a long time. The last two months have just been a flurry of changes and activity that has shattered my fledgling blogging habit. My apologies. So let’s get caught up! This Thursday will be the end of my fourth week at my new job. This last four weeks also involved a pretty major move too a much bigger house. We’re still renters but it still feels very grown up for us.

The new job has been amazing. The first week was a little terrifying. The difference from my last property to my new one is like a minor league ball player getting moved up to the big leagues. I felt a little like I was on an episode of Sliders and I had just slid onto an alternate world. This world looks like my home dimension in most every respect, but there are tinny subtle but sometimes mind bending differences.

The differences from a 41 room independent boutique resort in the country to a 600 room luxury major brand city hotel are enormous, but absolutely what I was looking for. The commute for the first week, before we moved, was a hellish 2 hours on top of the mental strain of all the new information I had to absorb. Since moving I’ve settled in and found my legs. My training is semi complete, but they’ve already thrown me to the wolves, having me work solo manager shifts after about a week, which felt entirely too soon, but I survived.

Our move left us within a 5 minute drive of a BART train station, it’s still a 50ish minute ride from there, but so much better to me then even a 30 minute car ride (mostly). I get to kick back and watch TV shows on Netflix or hulu, or stuff I downloaded. I already caught up on the new series of Sherlock riding the train. Kinda nice. Not Sherlock. Sherlock was fraking amazing! It just leaves me constantly wishing that series was awesome. Totally looking forward to the US CBS remake…no not really! Shut up! Riding BART has been kinda nice. I don’t have to worry about falling asleep behind the wheel, that’s a huge plus. And so far writing this blog post on my Xoom has been nice.

At the moment I’m sitting on BART ridding in for my first of four training graveyard shifts this week. That’s something I’m not looking forward to, but I knew it was going to be a requirement when i took the job. I did one training night audit at my last job, I’m not afraid of the work, if anything at this job I’m looking forward to the potential for crazy guest stories I might get to live through, I’m just not looking forward to the hours. I love my sleep! More importantly I love sleeping next to my wife in our new king sized bed!

My fellow BART riders have been interesting at times. Things I’ve seen have included, a crazy lady screaming at the entire train in some Asian language and English curse words. A wandering street preacher guy walking down the train telling us damnation was coming to us all. And yesterday a four man team running a classic shell con game. I never knew that people still did that, I thought it was just a TV thing now. And what’s amazing is people fell for it! Really!? How is that still possible? Stupid. And St Patrick’s Day night was not a pretty sight. Drunk people everywhere.

Anyways, I hope to make blogging on my commute a more regular practice, since I never have time at work any more…and web filters to worry about. Thanks everyone!

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Dress to Impress

Women go crazy for a sharp dressed man

So in my previous post I mentioned that I had been job interviewing lately. This last Wednesday one of my prospective employers and ask me for my salary requirements. I hate this situation quite frankly. I don’t want to undersell myself, but I also don’t want to spout off some ridiculously big number that’s going to totally turn them off. Put on the spot I gave them a number that was a little bit less than my absolute bottom dollar. They said it was a realistic number and said they would be back in touch later that night or the next day. I figured the one saving grace in this situation is given that the hotel is part of a major management company brand, their corporate HR wouldn’t let them pay me less than what their Standard Operating Procedures say is the “minimum” for the position.

It has to be an important phone call to pull me away from lobster!

Wednesday crawls by for me as I rehash the 45 second conversation over and over again. My wife and I meet up and drive to dinner with her parents to celebrate her mother’s birthday. Shortly after we arrive (late) my beautiful new Droid RAZR starts to vibrate and the sound of the TARDIS coming in for a landing starts to warble from my phone. I whip my phone out at the table and seeing the caller ID know instantly that it’s my prospective employer. I slide my finger across the screen to answer it and nothing happens. The touch screen has frozen! I start to stab my finger at the screen trying to get a response and verbally threaten to throw the damn thing against the wall as the call continues to ring and finally goes to voicemail. By this time I have committed to restarting the phone and as it reboots I excuse myself from the table to go listen to the message and hopefully return the call.

Maybe I should start wearing bow ties. One out of 11 Doctors say that bow ties are cool.

The call was everything I hoped for and more. I had trouble not bursting into giddy laughter when she told me the salary, because it was substantially more than what I asked for. I officially accepted the position on the spot, and happily so. I knew that the other property I had been interviewing with wouldn’t be able to beat the number, because of their size and location. So she spelled out the “offer” for me over the phone while I did a quiet little happy dance outside the Red Lobster.

Finished with the call, I strode back into the restaurant. As I rounded the corner to my family’s table I put on a mock “defeated” look on my face and slumped my shoulders. Just to fake them out. I didn’t let the charade last long and the dinner turned from a pure birthday party to a partial celebration of my new position.

Today my dear wife and I went clothes shopping. My current property is a big resort, and fairly informal in dress code. All the managers where khaki slacks and polo t-shirts. This just won’t fly at my new employer. I had two suits already hanging in my closet, which I had worn on my two interviews, but I’m going to be wearing a suit every day to work now, and I don’t get supplied with a uniform. And my selection of ties and dress shirts was also woefully inadequate. My wife and I share a philosophy that you don’t dress for the job you have, you dress for the next job you want. We put that philosophy to work on this particular trip. This was an investment in our future.

You'll like the way you look. You really will!

Thankfully the Men’s Warehouse was having one of their big sales. Went I bought my last two suits it was “Buy One get one 50% off” this time it was “Buy One get One Free”! It was quite the experience, but it’s fun clothe shopping when you’re buying nice stuff, have the money, and you have someone walking you through the whole process. My wife quite enjoys the sight of me in a suit, so despite the final price tag on the excursion, she thoroughly enjoyed herself. She’s also quite looking forward to the prospect of me wearing a suit to work every day.

In the immediate future we’ll need to move. The commute from where we live is just unmanageable for more than a month or so. Even with the strategic use of mass transit, it’ll be horrendous really. However, we were already thinking about moving as we’ve completely outgrown our old place. This new job just changes where we’re looking, and makes it a bit more pressing.

My new hotel besides being fancier, is more than 10 times bigger than my current employer, it’s part of a massive management company. The salary reflects that, my staff is growing tremendously, it’ll be very challenging and exciting. It’ll finally make it worth going off and getting a BS in Hotel Management! And put me on the right track to further advancements. And considering about 3 months every year I’ll be the graveyard manager on duty and this hotel is in a major metropolitan downtown, it should give me plenty of blogging material. So long as I remain discreet.

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Getting Back on the Wagon

OK...there was no dysentery involved

I’m going to try to not make this another lame post about how I haven’t been posting anything. I meant to write something on Tuesday, but between watching Alcatraz and The Finder, going to lunch with the wife, and the weekly loads of laundry, I just really couldn’t be bothered. Thursday was occupied with other endeavors, I’ll talk about that later.

I have this to say this about Alcatraz. J.J. Abrams is giving us another show with Jorge Garcia, an Island, a narrative tied together with flashback, time travel, AND A GODS DAMNED ISLAND! You’re killing me Smalls! We haven’t seen the big red sphere yet, but just wait it’ll be there. That all being said, I’m enjoying the show quite a bit. Sarah Jones the show’s lead is not only quite attractive.

Exhibit A

But is quite a great actress so far too. The show has called for a good amount of range from her so far and she’s pulled it all off as far as I’m concerned. I also love that they’ve taken pains to set the show in San Francisco which has a very iconic look and feel to it, and they’ve done their best to match that. I hate it when shows are set in places I’m familiar with and are quite obviously filmed nowhere near that place, usually on a sound stage for “generic city block”. I’m looking at you Charmed! THAT IS NOT SAN FRANCISCO! Not only that but I don’t think anyone involved in your set design has ever even been to San Francisco! Aside from the fact that I thought Journeyman would have been an awesome show, I loved it for all the great location work too. I know San Francisco probably isn’t a cheap city to shoot in, but if Nash Bridges could make it work, then I don’t see why others can’t.

The show also has a much heavier procedural element to tie it together than a lot of J.J.’s other shows, except maybe Fringe. Yet the mythology is thick enough that I think it can really grow some legs.

I don’t have too much to say about The Finder yet. It’s a nice twist on your typical crime procedural. I was intrigued after hearing Hart Hanson talk on  the Nerdist Writer’s Panel about it and Bones. It hasn’t evoked a visceral response from me like Alcatraz has though. It certainly has its share of sexy in the show, which helps. Come to think of it, I actually found myself watching more of The Finder than Alcatraz, but I think that’s because, kind of like Bones it’s a light little jolly rancher of entertainment and I can watch it while doing other things. Alcatraz like Lost makes me feel like I really need to be paying attention to what’s going on to catch everything. Sometimes that’s just too much work in my entertainment. Like Hart Hanson said on the panel you gotta try and sum up the show like a little old lady living in a trailer, and “I’m gonna watch that show about the guy that finds stuff.” If I’m not feeling like being intellectually challenged.

Work has been a little nuts. 2 days before I was supposed to leave for 11 days for the wedding and honeymoon, one of the property owners walks in and says “We’re breaking ground on the new pool on Thursday.” It was Monday as he was saying this. And not even early Monday, like Monday afternoon. What ensued was a mad dash for me to get the ball rolling on my staff making all the necessary calls to notify our guests that would be affected by a fairly major endeavor. This is supposed to be a 3 month project. That’s a lot of phone calls people. Not only that, but update the announcements on our website, confirmation letters, Facebook, and send out massive email blasts to our guests as well. Guess who found out that our email server can only send out 500 messages in an hour before crapping out? That’s right, the hotelnerd. Suffice it to say I was still coordinating stuff on Friday morning as I was also at the venue prepping for the wedding.

For this and a variety of reasons, I’m glad that I had already started quietly looking for new employment within the industry. I actually just had my second interviews for two different properties yesterday. I’ve got my fingers and toes firmly crossed that one of them pans out….and also that I don’t break my streak. I’ve never had a second interview for a job and not gotten at least an offer. My wife has been working double time to make sure I don’t get my hopes up too high. Guess what? They’re freaking high.

I still love most of the aspects of my job, my staff (generally), the property (gorgeous), my fellow managers, my immediate boss, and the guests I get to work with (even the crazy ones, they give me blogging material after all), but the strain of working for a complete an utter madman (the property owner not my GM) has finally gotten to me. It’s kind of scary how common jokes about hiring a hit man have become around the office. All of the managers have been suffering together. The pool project is just the easiest to explain example of the madness this man puts us through. Oh, and let’s not forget that shortly after my return he made the 6-year-old daughter of a guest cry. True Story. I’m not the first manager to be jumping ship either, so I don’t feel that bad.

So even if these two prospects don’t pan out, I’ll still be out there looking. Time to get while the getting is good. Besides a new hotel will bring all sorts of new material for all of you reading this. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

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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 – Young Money

These aren't the stairs in this story. There's more cactus, steep falls, and dangerous scalding water.

There are unique benefits and disadvantages to working at an independently run hotel like I do now. I tend to think this story represents both sides of that coin.

One of the nicer units we have available at the hotel is a 2-bedroom full-sized house on the hillside overlooking the property. It’s a gorgeous unit with an even better view that overlooks the property, the pool and the rest of the town. It has a full-blown kitchen, fireplace, and is our most recently and fully remodeled unit. It used to be the owner’s house on property. The one downside of this spectacular unit is that you have to drive down from the hill to access the rest of the property. There is a path that leads down the hillside, but it’s rather precarious and isn’t exactly safe if you’re not familiar with it. That applies extra in the dark, especially if there’s booze involved. We told guest’s as they’re reserving that there’s no direct path from the unit and that you have to drive up and down the hill. When they check-in we told them about the path, but ask them to please not use it. I had been asking the GM and owners to build a locked gate across the head of the path since I got there. That has finally happened, but not before this little incident happened.

I was sitting at my desk answering emails when my phone rings with a call from one of the reservations extensions.

“The guests in the <hilltop> are on the phone. They want to talk to a manager about the path,” said my agent.

“What about it?” I said playing dumb.

Long pause. She’s not sure if I’m kidding or not. “Ummm…the pool told her she can’t use it. She’s been yelling at me for like fifteen minutes on the phone.”

“Yup.” Audible sigh. “Put her through to my desk.”

I have no doubt that she’s been screeching and saying all sorts of mean things to my agent on the phone, but when I answer her voice is all soft and sweet. I let her tell me about how much she enjoyed her massage and they love the room, but that she thinks it’s ridiculous that they can’t use the path down the hill.

I go through my usual lines about all the reasons that the path isn’t safe.

She says she should have been told when she booked the room.

I tell her that’s our standard practice when a guest books over the phone. Then I point out that she booked her room online and that the information about the path restriction is actually in the room description on our website and on her confirmation letter. That should really be check-mate right?

Well she didn’t read her confirmation letter. I apologize and tell her that I’m really sorry, but that I just can’t allow them to use the path.

“Well then I think we might just have to check-out because this is just stressing me out too much.”

Really? You can’t just let it go? Sometimes in life we’re just not allowed to do things. Does it really need to stress you out? Can’t you just let it go and enjoy all the other awesome things going on? Packing up your stuff and moving isn’t going to cause more stress? OK.

“I’m really sorry if that’s the case. Of course if you don’t think you can stay in the room as it is I’ll release you from the rest of your reservation and you can check-out early without penalty.” They had actually checked-in the day before and already spent a night in the room. This is a $500+ unit and I won’t be able to resell them at that rate, but it’s better than having them harp on me the rest of their stay. It’s a compromise where really no one wins.

“And you’ll refund last night too?” She asked.

I wanted to laugh. “I can’t do that. You already stayed last night. The best I can do is release you from the rest of the reservation even though we’re inside the cancellation policy.”

“I don’t think that’s fair.”

I knew I could be opening the door to disaster for myself, but I went ahead and asked “Was there something wrong with the room last night?”

“Well no.” Surprisingly she answered honestly.

“But…” of course “…this entire experience has just ruined my vacation.”

“I’m sorry, but the best I can do is release you from the rest of your reservation without charging you for the remaining nights.”

“Well if we stay will you give us a discount?”

Eye roll on my side of the phone. “I’m not willing to do that. If you decide to stay it would be at the original rate you reserved.”

OK, I probably could have bent a little bit here. Even if I took $100 off each night it’s still more than I would have been able to resell the unit for, and we wouldn’t have had to clean it an extra time. There were legitimate business reasons to do it. I was sticking to principles, probably a mistake, but I also had visions of giving her the discount and then them continuing to fight us on using the path.

“AHHH!” She screamed into the phone. “Fine let me talk to my husband. We’ll get back to you.”

She hung up before I could respond.

Five minutes later my phone is ringing again. This time it’s the Front Desk. “The gentleman from the <hilltop> is here. He wants to talk to you.”

Of course he is. I head up to the Front Desk, put on my best customer service smile and step up to meet the guy. He’s all worked up and goes off about how this experience has ruined their trip and that I need to do something to fix it. This guy is short and greasy looking to be honest. He and his friend both have a trailer park, red neck, white trash look to them. Their massive truck parked out front is new but also lifted with huge off-road tires.

Pretty much one of these.

The guy is loud as he talked to me, and overly casual, calling me “buddy” and “pal”. He also explains to me how they stay with us often (I’d seen their file, they don’t) and that he’s rolling in cash. And mentions several times about how he’s always getting horrible service from people because he’s young and has “new money” and tries to get me to say I have the same problem. I’m pretty sure you get horrible service because you’re a loud obnoxious jerk. This isn’t about money for him he keeps saying. Really? Cause it kind of seems like it’s a little bit about money.

I reiterate the things I’m willing to do for him that I had already told his wife.

“Well then I want to talk to your boss.”

Of course he does.

“Well he’s not here today, but let me see if I can reach him.”

“You do that.”

Great. I step into the back office and then out the back door and whip out my cell phone and call the big guns. I explain everything and he agrees with me 100%. However, he’s willing to give them $50 off their remaining night just so we don’t have to resell the room. That’s the smarter call, and the easier one to make since he hasn’t had to be arguing with the guest.

I step back up and present my offer.

“That just won’t do it. I want a full comp for tonight and a free massage for my wife.” He isn’t quite shouting, but his voice is very loud.

“I just don’t see that happening.”

“Well why don’t you see if your boss sees it happening.”

Great again. I excuse myself and go make the call. The resounding answer is “No way” as I knew it would be. My GM hates to negotiate in these situations, it just rubs him the wrong way.

When I step back up to the desk there’s another guest in the lobby now so I usher the man outside. I tell him that our original offer stands, and that if that doesn’t work for him then they’ll just need to check-out as we originally discussed.

This is when things turn really south.He goes back into the woes of being young with money and getting shit service, as he sits on the tail gate of his lifted F350. Not kidding. He tells me how his wife was upset with him last night and so he didn’t get laid, and that if I don’t give him something to make her happy now, he won’t get laid tonight. This is an entirely inappropriate conversation. Especially at the volume he continually speaks.

He keeps trying to get something out of me. His lowest “offer” being that he wants a free massage for his wife so that she can relax. I stick to my guns and he and his buddy head back up to theto decide whether they would stay or go. When I get to the back deck I find one the members of the owning family waiting for me. At that time he was also the maintenance manager, and he had overheard the guy talking to me out front about his trouble getting laid, and he wanted the rest of the story.

As I’m filling him in, the Front Desk Agent pops her head out to tell me about what happened when I stepped away the first time to call the GM. When I was out back on the phone she answered a call for a reservation and was trying to sell the <hilltop>. He was standing at the desk and heard her mention the unit’s name and started shouting to be heard over the phone, “Don’t do it! It’s not worth it.” repeatedly. She obviously didn’t sell the room.

That was the clincher for the owner. “That’s it. They’re not staying here. I’m kicking them out.”

“Really?” I say a wide smile spreading over my face.

“Yeah. Let’s drive up there.”

We’re just about to get into a work truck when the douche nozzle drives back into the lot in his massive truck. I point him out to the owner, let’s call him Delta for this, and Delta walks up to the guy as he rolls down his window.

“Hi. We were just coming to tell you that we’ll take the $50 discount and stay.” The guy said.

“Hi. I’m Delta one of the owners. We’d actually like you to check-out. We don’t need your business here. Please don’t return.”

“What? Really? Why?” The red neck sputters.

“I don’t appreciate your language in front of our other guests or trying to drive reservations away from us as we’re trying to resolve and issue for you. You have 30 minutes to check out.” Delta explains.

“Fine.” The guy said in what seemed like indignant astonishment.

“Thanks. We’ll bring you the bill for last night.” We turned to walk away.

The douche bag revs his truck and as he pulled out behind us he shouted, “I can’t believe they let fags work here!”

Delta looks at me and says, “If they’re still there in 30 minutes call the cops and have them evicted.”

Now technically I don’t know if we could have gotten away with that, but I didn’t mention that. I could tell Delta was really pissed now. And in that moment, Delta was my hero.

So I drove the bill up. The wife actually said as I handed her the bill, “Why does this always happen to us?”

Because you’re an idiot, and your husband is a huge ass hole. Probably mostly because of your husband though and all his “new money”. Too bad you can’t buy class.

Epilogue

Five months later I get a call from Reservations. It’s the douche bag and his wife once more trying to book a day at the spa. Their file indicates that they’ve been black listed by the owners. So I get to have the awkward conversation with them that they’re not welcome back on the property by the owners.

“So we can’t ever come back?” the wife asked.

“Not after your last visit. I’m sorry. Not as things are now. No.” I replied. I thought it best to make things as blunt as possible. Although I wasn’t really sorry. That’s just a reflex.

“Is there anything we can do?” her husband shouts over the speaker.

“Write the owners and see if they’ll change their minds. I can’t over ride the owners.”

I never found out if they wrote in or not, but last I checked they’re still black listed. Good for them.

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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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Eating a little crow on Thanksgiving

Not exactly the bird I wanted today

Earlier in the week I posted about my encounter with an Internet Troll via email and how I handled him. This post needs a little follow-up.

To be clear, while I somewhat enjoyed engaging in a semantic argument with the superior asshole and not indulging him, I probably should have indulged him. It just wasn’t great customer service, and it has come back to bite me in the ass. The Troll forwarded our email conversation to a property owner and I have since been chastised by my boss, and the owner is making efforts to try to recover his business.

While it felt great at the time to respond to him the way I did, it was a mistake. Not just because I poked the bear and got in trouble for it, but because as a manager in this business I have to represent the interests and reputation of the property owners and not my own all the time. If I was the owner of this property my response still would have been horrible customer service, but at least then it would have been my place to make that decision. To be honest, I might have responded the same way if this was my hotel. But it’s not, and I knew as soon as I hit the send button on that email that it was probably a huge mistake, and I should have known that it wouldn’t end there. Of course it didn’t.

In customer service it just doesn’t pay to respond to superior assholes in kind. No matter how good it might feel in the moment.

People always say, don’t respond to emails or texts angry. I think I’ll listen to those people next time.

You win this round Internet Trolls.

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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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Where I see myself going…

This isn’t exactly a new revelation for me, but I don’t want to be a Front Desk Manager the rest of my life. Only recently though, I’ve started to actively contemplate the myriad of possibilities arrayed before me. Given the climate of today’s job market, I figure I need to have a pretty good idea of what my goals are now and be looking for the next move. I’m still quite happy at my job, I’m not in a position where I’m dying to leave or hate coming to work every day. I still regularly learn new things in my position. However, if I wait to be restless and miserable in my current position, the act of trying to find the next move will be even more torturous, it would also make it much more tempting to leap at the first opportunity and not the best one.

The next logical step for me is a position as Assistant General Manager or a Director position at a property of at least equal, but preferably larger size to the one I’m at currently. I’d be fine with a Director of Rooms or Director of Operations type position, I think those would be a good next step. Also I’d love to get some experience in Revenue Management as that’s becoming an increasingly important position in the hotel world. The ultimate goal there is to end up as a General Manager somewhere. At the moment I prefer working at an independent (non-brand) property, but that could certainly change as advancement opportunities tend to be a bit more obvious if you get in good on the corporate ladder. The goal for me is to stay in high-end resort type properties as I just prefer the atmosphere at destination/vacation properties over city, business or convention hotels.

I’ve already started looking, somewhat passively, for this next move. It started because I took a guest complaint at my current job one day, resolved the issue for the guest, gave him my business card, and the next Monday I had a voice mail from the guest wanting to discuss a GM position with me. He was on the board for another local property that was looking for their next GM and was so impressed by his brief interaction with me that he wanted to see my resume. I got as far as the phone interview. Several weeks later I heard that the property had a new GM which was a bit crushing at the time. The entire scenario had gotten me excited to think I could skip straight off to a GM position from my current position. I knew at the time that it would be a giant leap forward, but the possibility provokes all sorts of dreams for me. I’ve since kept an eye out for other positions. My fiancée and I have discussed relocating to get out of the area that we both grew up in, so I’ve cast my net as far off as Seattle and San Diego at this point. I was briefly being considered for an Assistant GM job in San Diego, but such a massive relocation is somewhat of a deterrent to employers in this job market if they have enough local qualified candidates that can potentially start much sooner with less hassle. It’s still good practice at interviewing (just on the phone) and I feel like my resume is pretty well tuned too.

Beyond looking for my next job, it starts getting a little murkier when looking at the big picture of my career path. There are several options none of them necessarily being mutually exclusive to one another. I could theoretically go after one, two, or all three in some capacity.

I haven’t discussed this a lot here, but my family has a small Inn in the local area that my dad currently runs. My grandpa built and opened the place, and it’s always been a distinct possibility that I could succeed my dad when he’s ready to retire and be the 3rd generation Innkeeper. It’s not a sure thing because my family isn’t the sole owner of the property, but I think by the time that opportunity presents itself my resume and my family will make me a near shoe in. This possibility is fairly distant on the horizon (10 to 15 years) so I have to actively pursue other opportunities in the mean time.

My fiancée and I have already started discussing investment plans for the future, so that hopefully we can reach a point where we have sources of income other than our own labor. Right now the feeling is that we would like to own actual businesses instead of just investing in the stock market. One of the possibilities we’ve discussed is buying a small lodging property of our own, one that I could theoretically go and run if need be, but our first preference would be to hire management staff to handle day-to-day operations while we focus on other investments, our own jobs, or whatever. This is a little pie in the sky at the moment, as we need to develop some capital and likely other investments first, but I think could be a great plan for our long-term future. This could prove to be a really great asset if down the line I end up running my family’s lodging establishment as well, especially since it might allow us to invest in the family property and not just wait on what inheritance I might receive even further down the line.

Another possibility that I’ve been actively considering is developing my own business as a hired consultant for hotel development and management. We’re in the midst of rather hectic expansion plans at my current property, and after sitting in on a number of expansion planning meetings, I’ve realized that this could be a viable path for me. It’s a scary path though. It would at some point leave me being my own boss, which is nice. It would also mean less security and having to really develop my social networking skills and self marketing which I haven’t always been the best at. It could be really fun an exciting though. And to be realistic this could also become a pretty descent side business if I end up running my own property and/or take over at my family property. I know my dad has done some consulting for people and companies, and I could probably turn that into a nice little side business for myself. I like the idea of being able to go to a place and just focus in on particular issues or a particular problem, solve it or finish the project, and then move on to the next challenge.

It feels good to put all these thoughts out into the universe. My fiancée and I have discussed them all quite a bit. I don’t expect the universe to fulfill my hopes and dreams just by putting them out there, I know there’s a lot of hard work ahead. No one is going to make any of these things happen except me. I feel like the more I talk about it, and think about it, and work on it all though, the more likely I am to be prepared when an opportunity presents itself to move forward.

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