Posts Tagged Rant

I am the Key Master

It’s been quite awhile since I last blogged. Sorry about that. Just always seems like there’s something more pressing on my plate recently.

Things have been a little ho-hum at work. Well I guess that isn’t quite accurate. It’s been busy what with staffing issues making my department short-staffed, solid rushes of business and what not, and the expansion plans constantly being re-planned every 30 minutes. Most of it just hasn’t been all that worth mentioning, because for all the busyness, it has been fairly routine busyness. I will have to talk about Very Unsympathetic Cancer Lady at some point, but not now.

Plans for the wedding in January are taking shape. We’re so far behind on some things though! That’s going to start getting more and more stressful. I just want to be on the honeymoon already. Because the fiancée and I have such wildly different work schedules, I’ve used up most of my vacation time on little one and two-day things just so we can have a day off together. While those individual days have always been worth it, it bleeds away the vacation time without realizing that you’ve even used it. Now I have to save every vacation hour I accrue to be able to have the time to go on the honeymoon. That’ll be something like 11 days off work, which will just be a little mind-boggling. It’s hard to picture being away from that place for that much time.

Ray, when someone asks you if you're a god, you say "YES"!

One thing that I am excited about is that the original Ghostbusters movie is being screened in limited locations right now. One of the theaters near me is screening it tomorrow night and I was able to switch my shifts around to be able to go. This has always been one of my favorite movies since I was a little kid. By the way, my Dad and I watched that movie with my youngest sister a few years back (she was 5 at the time) and that movie is WILDLY INAPPROPRIATE for a 5-year-old! But that was how old I was when I started watching those movies! How weird is that to realize? Anyways, I’ll be going to see it tomorrow night. Likely by myself as the fiancée is totally uninterested and all my other friends are busy. Very lame. But considering the movie came out the year I was born, I never got to see it in theaters, so this is something I’m trying to make a priority.

Maybe it’ll recharge my batteries a little? Just feeling a little drained I guess.

Oh…is everyone watching The Walking Dead? If you’re not, you really should be! Because damn that show is amazing! Every minute of that show is just so damn intense. Waiting from week to week is almost as bad as waiting for Game of Thrones when it was on. And it just has this level of depth and realism that bleeds into the rest of my reality. I found myself driving down the road today, it was a beautiful clear blue sky California day, and I couldn’t help but picture rotting corpses shambling down the road. How weird is that? Should I be seeking help or something? Or should I just be taking gun and crossbow lessons? That seems like a far more valuable skill if I’m seeing undead walking down the street.

Meanwhile other shows about the sexier undead (stupid vampires) have been disappointing. I’m going to admit that I’ve been giving the Vampire Diaries a try, mostly because of Nina Dobrev.

I mean, I know the show is meant for chicks, but doesn’t Nina deserve at least a little consideration? The show has actually been a little interesting, but I usually find myself reading comics on my Xoom through about half of each episode. I guess it’s decent for something to have playing in the background because oddly I find the overall story line interesting enough, but on a scene by scene basis, it doesn’t always hold my attention.

It’s still been holding my attention better than True Blood though. I just have not been able to sink my teeth into the latest season. Pun intended. I don’t think it’s just because of the wild divergence from the source material I really don’t care much about that. But let’s face it, half of initial the selling point of that show was Anna Paquin getting naked.

Anna Paquin teasing us all

And since that’s stopped happening and her lovely nakedness hasn’t been significantly or satisfactorily replaced on a regular basis you start to realize that the show is just a little boring. The lesson of this story is that boobs make everything better.

Boobs make everything better. The more you know....

How weird is it that the rotting and disgusting and terrible undead are kicking the asses of the hot and sexy undead? I never would have seen it coming. You suck Vampires! I guess I don’t entirely pick my shows by the hot and sexy women that star in them. Even if it is a large contributing factor. It all still beats reality TV in my opinion. I’ll watch 20 Vampire diaries before I watch a single Real Housewives of Wherever.

As I’ve discussed before, I’m way behind on my comic book reading. I got through The House of M a while back. Started reading the New Avengers which took my straight into The Civil War which I’m in the midst of now. Hot damn that’s a comic event! Mostly worth it. There’s way to much talking and not enough super heroes fighting each other, at least when you’re reading the entire event in chronological order. I’ve had to start skipping some of the issues I really don’t care about. The Official Marvel Comics app finally came to the Android and specifically the Xoom, I’ve used it a little. I still think the entire structure of the digital comics market is fucked up. I can’t really get behind buying digital issues, even older ones at the $1.99 price point. And $3.99 for new releases what they hell are they smoking and where can I get some? I’ll admit that I’ve resorted to illegal downloads to feed my addiction for the most part. I know it’s not right, however, if I was going to be getting back into the hobby it would be by buying back issues from my local shop, not through digital copies. The publisher makes zero dollars on me buying back issues through a shop. I’ve thought of a much better model for them to work from because even a $0.99 price point would be too high for digital comics in my opinion. The collector in me just screams “You’re not getting anything when you buy digital! There’s no hard copy to stick in a box a bury in the closet!” The model that they should use for comics should be much more like Netflix. I should be able to pay a monthly subscription fee to have access to a library of older back issues, let’s say most of what they already have at the $1.99 price point. That way this online service won’t really cut into their monthly new releases terribly much. I would pay as much as $15/month (maybe even $25 depending on the exact specifics of the service), to have that sort of subscription access on my Xoom. I think a lot of collectors would, and I think that’s where the industry really should be heading. They’d get way more money from people like me then they are right now. The thing is I recognize that illegal downloads are wrong and that they hurt the industry that I draw entertainment from. I want creators and artists and the owners of IP to get paid. I really do. I just want the industry to adapt to the real world. My downloading of illegally torrented movies and TV shows has gone down to almost 0 as a direct result of Netflix’s streaming service. A similar comic book service would do the exact same thing for me, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. And there might be entirely legitimate reasons why the industry hasn’t already gone this way, but mostly I bet it’s for the same reason that the movie industry is fighting Netflix. They don’t want to let go of this “golden system” that they don’t consider broken. Well from the consumer side it is. And the comic industry has it even better than the movie industry really. Their back catalog of issues don’t make them a lot of money right now, even with the current digital structure and the trade paperback market, at least I can’t imagine they do, not with comic shops, online retailers, and Ebay out there (and illegal sources). This seems like a much more secure way for them to turn their huge back catalog of comics into a profit generating resource. Because once one of them does it, the other publishers will too, and then it’ll be a race for each one to show who has the biggest offering of comics on their service.

Wow…I hadn’t meant to talk about this idea when I sat down. That happens a lot when I blog. Can you tell that I don’t really plan this shit out? Yeah, probably.

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Disciplinary Action

One of a manager’s biggest responsibilities is to dish out disciplinary actions when necessary. It’s a task that I never really thought much about before I became a manager. I’ve only ever received one written warning in my career, and it was pretty cut and dry, my cash drawer was short $50. It was my assigned drawer, when I wasn’t on duty it was kept in a safe deposit box, and the only time it got opened by anyone but me was when the general cashier and my manager did their monthly audit. The shortage wasn’t discovered by them, it was reported by me. I was pretty good about keeping my drawer locked when I wasn’t at the desk and regardless since the cash was assigned exclusively to me, anything that went wrong with it was my responsibility. I had made a mistake during my day and the hotel lost $50 cash. Automatic write-up according to the handbook. Pretty cut and dry. I took it. I learned from it, and I never had any further issues.

There are a wide variety of disciplinary actions a manager can take, verbal warnings (the ones that still get documented), written warnings, suspensions and eventually even termination. I don’t dish any of those actions out lightly, I recognize that everyone makes mistakes and when possible I try to use those mistakes as opportunities for improvement and instruction. I don’t subscribe to the practice yelling at my staff or chewing them out. I’ll admit in the heat of the moment, I’ve snapped once or twice, and generally that earns an apology from me once I’ve cooled down.

I’ve had to issue a lot of warning notices in my year and a half since I became a department head. It’s never the first tool in my bag, but just because I don’t enjoy handing them out doesn’t mean I’ll shy away from the process. The manager I replaced was well liked by the department, but also shied away from the process and she let a number of small issues fester and grow into much larger ones. I had to clean house to some extent when I got here, because I wasn’t willing to sweep problems under the rug. I hate each write-up or disciplinary action I deliver. I won’t say they’ve gotten easier. Each one is different depending on the circumstances calling for it and the employee that I’m dealing with. Most of them are routine, cut and dry type scenarios which really are indisputable, but every employee handles them differently. And even the ones that seem like they should be routine sometimes result in flaring tempers, arguments, tears and sulking afterwards. For my part I try not to dwell on them overly much after they’ve been issued. I deliver the write-up, always with a witnessing manager, submit it to HR to be filed and then I move on with my day. I don’t hold it against the employee any further unless it continues to be an issue or a pattern develops. It pretty much drops out of my mind as soon as I drop it off with HR.

I know it isn’t always the same for the receiver of the write-up. They have far more tied up in the whole process, not the least of which is their pride and ego over their own perception of their job performance. There’s also the fact that disciplinary notices are usually cumulative in someway, which means when you start collecting them it can lead to more severe consequences like suspension, missing raises or bonuses, and maybe even termination, all of which greatly impacts a person’s sense of security in the world. Who hasn’t been afraid of getting fired at some point? At least on the level of “What if I actually lost my job suddenly? What would I do?” I’ve called for staff members to be terminated before, and when it came down, no matter how justified it was, I felt horrible about it. It’s always my last option.

And let me say as a manager, how you receive disciplinary action really determines how much impact that notice will have on your career ultimately. While I try not to hold something like a write-up against an employee after it is delivered. How they handle it after walking out of my office matters greatly. Do they run off and tell everyone else in their department what happened? Do they pout and sulk all day? Do they let the issue calling for the warning continue to come up? I once had an employee that flat-out refused to sign their write-up or acknowledge it was happening. It was a pretty cut and dry tardiness issue where the facts weren’t in dispute. He did think that he was somewhat irreplaceable. That didn’t go so well for him.

I much prefer to see and employee try to learn from the issue that’s necessitating the action. Do they bounce back stronger? Do they own up to their mistake? I’d rather they not run off and tell everyone about their write-up, but if they do tell co-workers, are they doing it to be the victim and paint us managers as the villains? Or do they use it as motivation to help their colleagues avoid similar pitfalls? All of these ultimately speak loudly to how much I’m going to remember that write-up down the line and how much impact it will ultimately have.

Anyways, I had to hand out a couple write ups today to different employees. Both for the same issue. Both cut and dry situations. Both had wildly different reactions. And it put this topic on my mind. I doubt I said anything new or profound here, but I wanted to say it all the same.

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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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Yesterday was rough on the hotelnerd

Every now and then in this business, a day comes along that just kicks your ass. My Spa Manager colleagues had one of those days last Sunday. Yesterday, Friday, was one of those days for me. I double as the Housekeeping Manager on Fridays because the actual HK manager is off Friday & Saturday. So I’m running around juggling those duties, while still wearing my normal hat. Got yelled at my 3 different guests about entirely different things, 2 of them being fairly small or stupid things.

This was my day...except I don't wear a tie

Guest 1: WiFi Lady who had her expectations met

This guest was staying with us for 2 nights and checked out on Friday. She had brought a load of electronics with her, two laptops and an Android phone of some kind. The whole time she was here none of her 3 devices could access the wireless. When she came to the desk to talk to me about it on Wednesday, I thanked her for letting me know, verified that it wasn’t working with my own Droid(1) then went and reset the router and modem. 10 minutes later, working like a charm on my own wireless device. So I chalked it up to problem fixed and went about my business that day. Friday morning rolls around and she comes up to the desk furious that she hasn’t been able to connect during her entire stay. I apologize, explained that the wireless was working each time I had tested it since her original complaint, and that it was in fact working at this very moment, and demonstrated that to her. I also offered to look at her own device to see if I could get it working, but she didn’t want me touching it. So she wants a discount. In my head I can already see my GM rolling his eyes at this situation, but also unsure as to how far he would go. How much is malfunctioning WiFi worth? Especially when it could very well be the guest’s own technology and not our own? You’d be surprised how often it takes just a very small setting tweak to get everything up and running. It boggles my mind sometimes as a technically literate person that everyone thinks their technology should work exactly the same for them here as it does for them at home or at work. So I let the guest know that I’m going to consult my GM real quick and I step out to call him. He says to throw her a $25 discount on the room, more like $28 after it adjusts tax too, and call it a day. She was even more upset with the $25 discount than she was at the original WiFi issue. The part that really threw me though was that she kept saying “I’ve been coming here for 20 years and since you added WiFi it’s never worked right. But now your rates are so high it should be perfect. And I’ve had to do important business while I’m here!” OK, I see her point on one level, but there’s a logical issue to her argument that I can’t really point out when she’s already this upset. Our rates have gone up over the years, especially over 20 years, but they haven’t gone up dramatically in the last 3 years. This year was the first time we raised our rates even a little (5-10% depending on room and season). And we’ve invested in the WiFi along the way. This time last year, our WiFi only let 10 devices be connected at any one time. Now it’s unlimited. Our speeds are still slow, but we have a T1 line coming.  So, I’m sorry that her technology didn’t pair up with us well, sometimes that happens, it’s really unavoidable. Here’s the logical error I have with her argument, she has had bad experiences with our WiFi in the past and admits that it’s never worked for her here. Then why the frak did she come up here with important business on the line that she was going to need reliable WiFi for? And without a back up plan? I’m not saying our WiFi shouldn’t be reliable or fast. I’m saying that all that happened was we lived up to the expectation she already had coming up here. So she left with her $25 discount furious, and went home to write a 1 star review on Yelp. At least she didn’t call me out by name.

Guest #2: Israeli Guests with too many heads in their beds

These guests were coming up here for a wedding, flew in from Israel today on a 15 – 20 hour flight (they kept changing the number as they yelled at me). Their room had been reserved by a family member in the area who had also booked a number of other rooms. The room they booked for these guests could only sleep 2 people. She had a larger unit reserved which she cancelled on Wednesday just before the cancellation policy expired. Some of our rooms are on the small side, they can safely only sleep 2 guests, putting a roll away bed in the room is considered unsafe in the event of an emergency. Anyways, that didn’t go well when I told these exhausted international travelers that the room they had was too small for them and that I couldn’t let them check-in. The only saving grace is when their local contact called us and I spoke to her and explained what happened, she basically admitted her mistake to me. In the mean time I had found a way to juggle 2 rooms together for her guests and had a solution that would let them stay on property. She was very nice, and I hope she admitted her mistake to her guests, but I doubt it, they had already made other arrangements at that point, so they never came back.

Gust #3: Asshole on the Phone who didn’t get his room cleaned

This guy was just a little nuts and way rude. He was originally scheduled to check-out on Friday morning, but extended at the last minute instead. Word didn’t make it to the housekeeper that he was what we call a “Stay Over”. Housekeeping cleans stay overs first in most hotels you see, and does the check-outs afterwards. She thought he was a check-out all day long and hadn’t come to clean his room by 1:30 when he was calling me. I won’t go into terrible detail about the inane conversation we had, but by the time I had gotten out to his building there was a housekeeper there cleaning.

Pregnant Employee problem: Last minute notice

I have a lot of pregnant ladies on my staff right now. And maternity leave is not the easiest thing to deal with in the high season. One employee (a rock star of an employee) is already out on leave and due back in about a month. The next one was going to leave for her maternity leave in 2 weeks, leaving 4 weeks before her due date, causing 3 weeks in which their leaves would overlap. Not awesome, but I had already mapped it out and had a plan. Then 30 minutes before I leave, I get a voice mail from her saying she just got done with a doctor’s appointment and was approved to go on disability 5 weeks before delivery instead of 4. Frak me sideways Susie! I don’t think I’ve ever cursed so much at work before. Fortunately the office was empty. This just sucks for me because that extra week eats into a schedule that I’ve already released, and people have begun to plan around. Lastly it just raises my ire on a personal level. I’ve been bugging this employee for over a month now to submit her disability paperwork. She’s also told me that she want’s to go out as early as possible because she’s uncomfortable being “this big in this heat” So I have little to no faith that she’s going out for any actual medical reasons. If she is, then absolutely take the leave and we’ll just get through as best we can. But I don’t believe it at this moment, I think she’s just milking the system for all it’s worth and I know she has little to know appreciation for the strain this will put on her team. She’s already a notorious abuser of her sick time, so why should this be any different?

Anyways. That was my FML day. I was worried today would be much worst, but it wasn’t. The revised scheduled went out without a single complaint. And guests have been all easy to deal with today. Knock on wood.

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Staff Power

Looking back, I haven’t written a lot about my staff. I’ve certainly talked a lot about myself, and a good amount about guests in general, but the largest portion of my day is dealing with my staff more than anything else.

I have a department of 14-17 to oversee (it fluctuates over time), usually in a day 7 to 10 of them are actually here and on duty. Most of them are somewhere in their 20’s with a few outliers that are in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. It’s not necessarily typical of this business that a Front Desk team will be so young, however, it is generally considered an entry-level position, and it’s typical for there to be a good amount of turn over. I say an entry-level position, but I and many hiring managers at similar properties usually won’t even consider you without at least some customer service experience under your belt. I definitely won’t even look at someone looking for a first time job right out of high school, unfortunate but true. And yes I realize the paradox. I once got a resume from someone right out of high school once that in place of job history, listed classes he had taken, I didn’t stop laughing for a couple of minutes. I’ll admit, I’m super judgmental of resumes, but having a bad one isn’t going to exclude you from selection, it just works against you. And I’ve found my most successful hires have been those with prior hotel experience, spa experience, and restaurant experience (hospitality generally). A relative of mine accused me of having an age biased, and for the record, that’s entirely false. I’ve interviewed people in a wide range of ages, and offered this job too much older people than what is currently the mean age of my staff. All of those people have turned me down or failed to pass the back ground check we require. I had one lady with a great resume and experience walk out of the interview when we discussed the wage, and we pay on the higher end of the spectrum for hotel front desk in this region. I’ve also had many point out that my staff is entirely female other than our graveyard crew. That’s entirely unintentional. I’ve hired a man for this position, he’s since left when his personal life fell apart and he left the area. And I’ve interviewed and offered the job to men, it just hasn’t worked out so far. And statistically, I get far more qualified resumes from women than men. I’m not sure why that is, but I noticed that there were more women in my degree program then men. Not sure why, if we discussed it in a class, I either missed it or have since forgot it.

Generally, I’m very fond of each member of my staff (even the people I’ve had to terminate). I have some that irritate me from time to time, and some that I pretty much always get along with well. They all have their strengths and weaknesses, and yes some of them are stronger than others. When I look at a situation involving a guest, I take into consideration the people involved when estimating whether or not there was an error made. That isn’t to say that any member of my staff is incapable of making an error, but there is a degree of probability calculation that affects my decisions. I get a good grip on who I can and can’t count on. Most everyone provides very strong customer service, and after getting to know my staff I know that most of them make decisions from that standpoint. That is to say, I think they usually all approach situations from the perspective of “What provides the best service for the guest?” For one thing, when the guest is happy, their jobs become a lot easier.

My fiance and some friends think that I have an immature staff from some of the stories I tell about them. That’s not entirely untrue. Some of them are very immature, and even unprofessional sometimes. I expect to deal with some rough edges, because even though I try to hire for experience, that hasn’t always happened, and like I said before this is an entry-level position. Or at least somewhere along the tier of entry-level. Only 2 or 3 of my staff have any kind of post-high school degree. And most of them just view this as a job, not a career, and are still to young to realize that those two can be related in the long run even if they don’t stay here forever. But it’s easy to spot the ones that think of this as more than a job, either because they want to build something here at this property, or they just know that it’s good to develop good habits and a strong work history now for other employers.

We talked in school about “management theory” “conflict resolution” and “management techniques” but we never really talked about the true day-to-day grudge of managing people. Holding their hands, training them, backing them up, juggling the work schedule of 15 different people while still trying to meet the needs of your property, people sick, incompetent people, malcontents and malingerers, delivering disciplinary actions, and listening to their whining. My LORD THE WHINING SOMETIMES! And writing performance reviews! Holy frak is that awkward sometimes. Because like I said, I generally truly enjoy every member of my staff on some personal level. They’re all people to me, not cogs, they have to be in this environment. At the same time I have to be the boss. My predecessor let a lot of issues in my department fester because she didn’t enjoy confrontation and she was trying to “protect her department”. I’ve never been able to understand that and get behind it. For one thing, they’re performance reflects upon me as their manager. So covering up for slackers really doesn’t help me, it’s much better to go through the process openly, because if it becomes apparent that they’re just not going to work out, I don’t want it to seem strange that I’m cutting them loose. There has to be a foundation for that. And maybe that’s part of why I haven’t stopped hiring since I got here, because there was a lot of dead weight left for me to trim.And I’ve had to terminate people, and I hated it, even when it was justified, even when I gave the person every chance to succeed and I did everything I could to help. I still loss sleep over it. I still agonized over the decision, and never reached it lightly or out of anger. The first person that was terminated on my say-so, I could have avoided the entire process, it was going to happen on my regular day off, and the GM and our HR manager could have handled it without me, but I got up that day, got dressed and came in. I didn’t even really do any talking, I let more experienced hands handle that, but I sat there and watched what I had done unfold. It had ultimately been my decision, and I felt it was important to see it carried out. I probably would have lost more sleep if I hadn’t.

Slowly, I honestly believe this staff has only gotten stronger since I came on board. The biggest thing I took away from my Human Resources class in school was that you can’t train the talent of customer service, and it’s as much talent as skill. You can refine it, absolutely. I know my service is 1000 times better than 5 years ago or 10 years ago. But in the end it’s like hiring a juggler for the circus, ultimately, they either have the talent or they don’t. And customer service, truly great customer service, is a talent as much as a skill, it’s something innate in us that pulls us towards our jobs and makes us successful. Not everyone enjoys giving strangers smiles. And not everyone has an innate empathy for strangers coming in off the street. You have to have both of those things to be truly great at any customer service job. Because it will affect what your first reaction is to any situation. So my biggest goal when hiring is, I hire for customer service as a talent, and realize that a lot of the other skills, the technical stuff, can be trained and even rough service can be refined. That said, given the choice between a polished gem and a diamond in the rough, I’ll almost always take the gem. I’ll let someone else clean up the diamond.

A Hotel can be made or broken on the service of its staff. That’s Staff Power.

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It’s a thin line…

For anyone who cares about the distinction, this will probably be a very nerdy rant type post this time.

I want to talk today about the thin line Nerds often walk between love and hate for the things they nerd-out about, and the possibilities for them to wildly shift with very little provocation. Nerdom (my word for when nerds obsessively love something) has at least contributed to the success of franchises like The X-Men, Spider-Man, Lord of the Rings, Doctor Who, Buffy, The Matrix movies (yeah we messed up on that one, the first movie had such promise!), and let’s face it, it pretty much gives George Lucas a license to print money. It also displays itself in the fanatical way we’ll try to save something, like Firefly (we came so close…), Jericho, Roswell, and Farscape, or any number of comic books (just for example). This brings us to the dark side (pun slightly intended), Nerd Rage and let me say, you wouldn’t like us when we’re angry! It leads to the great divide between fans of Star Trek and Star Wars arguing as to which one’s better (quite heatedly). It leads to page long rants on a forum about Lost and the finale that could never have satisfied us. The boiling fury I feel when I see Hayden Christensen digitally implanted at the end of Return of the Jedi, because as I’m concerned THERE WERE NO PREQUELS! Because who wants to live in a Post-Phantom Menace world? I certainly don’t.

The two can rapidly shift though. Like the valiant, but hopelessly futile efforts to revive Star Trek: Enterprise after 4 years of nerds complaining and whining about the series, only to almost collectively turn a 180 when with a gasp of horror as we realize “What have we done?!? They can’t take Star Trek off the air! KHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAN!!!” Or the gradual festering hatred that some developed for Heroes as it strove to bore us all into an early grave after blowing our minds the first season. I experienced that flip personally with the Stargate franchise, a franchise that for years I categorically ruled as “sucks” until I watched the original film again for the first time in years and thought to myself, I should try out that Stargate SG-1 and other shows. Now it’s over a year later, I’ve watched all three TV series from beginning to end (I’ll miss you most SG:U) and have started back in on Stargate Atlantis as my show that I just randomly watch when there’s nothing else on.  Also the nearly debilitating apprehension I felt when contemplating the new Star Trek film, and it’s reboot of the franchise, something that boiled into Nerd Rage while watching it the first time and gradually reduced itself down to excited Nerdom over the exciting potential of the new timeline (time travel makes my head hurt). It’s been enough to make me reconsider some of my previously drawn conclusions about TV shows and movies.

It is from years of observing this pattern amongst my people, and from experiencing the highs and lows of Nerdom and Nerd Rage myself that I’ve drawn the conclusion that these two forces are the cornerstones of being a Nerd. Sure there are other defining characteristics to the lifestyle, but none of them so universally found in every nerd as these two traits. Whatever it is that you nerd-out about, Nerdom and Nerd Rage are likely somehow essential to your enjoyment of them, because they fuel or are the ultimate expression of the passion you feel for the subject matter. The best thing is when nerds can find a way to channel one or both of these passionate forces into creative endeavors, or even better, use them to be more successful and creative in their daily lives. I first learned to use Excel in school and it was kinda “blah” for me, that is until I realized all the neat things I could use it for in my nerdly interests, especially Dungeons and Dragons. I tweaked and played with Excel endlessly to make the statistics and numbers of the game reveal themselves to me in new and interesting ways. Now I use Excel continuously in my professional life to be more efficient and effective at my job and organizing my own personal finances. Sure, what I self taught myself using it recreationally, I could have learned in a class or learned when I needed it on the job, but I didn’t have to. Not only that but because I “played” with a system that most people think is a boring spreadsheeting program I look at it through a creative lens and think of new and interesting things to do with it, that a lot of people around me with a much different perspective don’t even consider. In my own brain I often relate the day to day operations of a Hotel to life on the Starship Enterprise, an analogy that many find silly. It works for me though, and as a result I find myself looking to my favorite Captains for inspiration on leadership and crisis management. Other people do similar things, and some people have found an even better world, one where they are able to use the actual nerdy things they love to make a living at. Like the guy who is a life long Dungeon Master for his friends that get’s a job a Wizard’s of the Coast to actual work on D&D  source material. How cool would that be? Because when you do what you love, it feels a lot less like work.

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We’re not doing it for our health!

We’re doing it for yours!
When a sign says, “Do Not Enter – Scalding Hot Water”. We really mean it. We really really do. We don’t just go around putting signs up for shits and giggles! We especially mean it when we spot you violating the sign, approach you and ask you not to. I don’t want to be having that conversation anymore than you do. I’d much rather be doing any number of things, but guess what? It really is unsafe! That’s why we put up a sign! It’s not like the sign said “Do Not Enter – Fuzzy Kittens and Rainbows”. So when I walk up to you and ask you not to use that gate, or go somewhere, it’s not because I’m a meany, and arguing with me, whatever your logic, really doesn’t matter. I don’t care if it makes it easier to walk from your room to the pool, it’s unsafe! Not only do I not want anything bad to happen to you (well at least at the beginning of our conversation I didn’t), but I also don’t want myself or my employer to get sued.
“You know the owner?” try not to roll my eyes “Well the owners made the rule, and if they want to make an exception for you, they’ll call me and let me know. If you’d like to call them, please do.” “No I won’t give you their phone number. You should have it. You know them.” Or apparently you don’t.

Moving on with my night….

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Being Flexible

Sunday I experienced an interesting and aggravating guest encounter that it’s taken me till now to be able to write about without turning green and going on a rampage through Northern California until the Avengers can stop me.

A large part of being a manager in this business is deciding when an exception to a rule or policy should be made or when we need to hold hard and firm. We generally do this for one of two reasons, it benefits the business or it benefits the guest.In an ideal world those two concepts aren’t mutually exclusive. Sometimes they are diametrically opposed to one another though.

I’ve sarcastically said to my GM once that, “I just love saying no to guests.” Which couldn’t be further from the truth. OK, sometimes I do enjoy it, but usually because the guest through their own behavior made it easy to dislike them. But generally, I want to say yes to every guest request that is presented to me. I wouldn’t be in this business if I didn’t ultimately enjoy that aspect of the business.

So on Sunday when I got an email and voice mail from a guest driving herself in for a day at the spa saying that she wasn’t going to be able to make her 12:45 PM services because of a road closure on the way from Carmel, I was flexible. Sure we were within the 24 hour “no change or cancellation policy” but ultimately in that situation it was better for both the business and the guest for me to bend a bit and let her push the treatment for later in the day. Good for the guest because she wasn’t going to get charged for a service that she wasn’t going to be able to receive. Good for us because she was joining a large group of day guests and it could have soured all of their days and thus made the day much harder on my staff and probably would have resulted in a bad Yelp review from at least one of them. (Yeah, it’s our dirty little secret that we really do obsess over our online reviews, if only because we have so little control over them).

And here’s my biggest reason for wanting to bend, and not many people know this about the Spa industry, but cancellation policies are really hard to enforce. If a guest never actually gets on the table, or chair, or the mud tub or whatever, to receive their service and they dispute the cancellation charge with their credit card company, they’re more than likely going to win that particular dispute. Even if they have physically arrived at the spa, signed a credit card receipt for the service, gotten in a robe, and their treatment time has begun. If they dispute it, the spa will be hard pressed to win that dispute. It’s the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced, because Hotel No-Show charges hold up through a dispute all the time. Merchants taking credit cards have something akin to a credit score rating, and the more disputed charges you have and loose, the worst your score. Now most consumers don’t know this. And I guess if this blog ever becomes possible I’ll have screwed that up royal. Note to self: remember to come back and redact this paragraph if you become a big famous blogger.

So, in this situation, being flexible and allowing the guest to move her service is really the best thing for everyone. Sure the massage therapist could end up loosing out on a service which is lost money in her pocket. But she’s also not going to get paid if the charge gets disputed and we lose the revenue. So I move the service, cross my fingers that we get some walk-ins in the next 4 hours to replace that time, and make the guest happy because she’ll have time to make her service.

The original therapist ended up re-booking that time slot. Win.

The guest arrived on time for the newly scheduled later service time, checked-in and paid for the service and joined her friends at the pool. Win

That same guest comes down, and at the exact time the service should be starting realizes that the dinner plans that her group made an hour ago is going to just barely bump up against her service time and suddenly she can’t take the service. Lose.

So now it comes down to an argument between this guest and another manager over her literal last second cancellation of a service that she’s already paid for. And she actually says “I don’t understand what the problem is because <HotelNerd> was so flexible with me before”

Actually, I believe what happened was I said in both an email and over the phone. “We are within the 24 hour cancellation policy, but I can make an exception for you as long as we reschedule the service for later in the day and you still take the service” Sure I was flexible, but it’s not like I was unconditionally flexible with her.

Ultimately, after much back and forth, which I wasn’t directly involved in, we let the guest walk away with a full refund. Not so much because we think she’ll dispute the charge and win. We make that gamble all the time and it pays off (90 days later). We let her walk away with a refund mostly because she’s causing a scene and disturbing our other guests.

I’m not saying that to encourage people to make a scene in a customer service situation in order to get their way. Cause it won’t always work, and really that’s just a horrible philosophy for life. Hell, depending on the scene you make it could result in being escorted from the establishment by the police.

So does it end there? Of course not! She was still unhappy that the entire thing took 20 minutes (she says 40 minutes, we say 20) to be resolved and for her to get her refund. So she emails me directly, the person who was so flexible with her before, and says the situation was my fault for not telling her all of our clocks run a number minutes behind (intentionally) in the spa. We do this so that a guest running late, like her, but on a smaller scale can arrive a few minutes late and still get their full service. And if we told people about it in advance it would entirely lose its effectiveness.

It’s insane, irrational, totally mind-boggling behavior like this that makes hospitality professionals not want to bend the rules ever. Sometimes we aren’t the ones who need to be flexible. Sometimes the guest needs to flex or at least just follow through on the commitments they’ve made to the business they’re patronizing. I know that the guest is coming to us and is offering their hard-earned money for our services. However, lots of people are involved in this equation, owners, staff, venders, and of course guests (all of them), and if the guest isn’t willing to meet us half way, we won’t always be around to provide the service that they’ve decided is valuable. There’s an entire subset of people out there always looking to get a discount or compensation for whatever reason, even if nothing tangible has actually gone wrong. Some of them are just cheap, and some of them I think feel like they’re “sticking it to the man” by shaving every penny they give us. In this economy the hospitality industry is getting blasted for cutting back on services and amenities, while in the same breath, many guests are looking for the absolute rock bottom best “deal” or sometimes I think “steal” they can get. And it’s just icky. This guest doesn’t entirely fall into that category, at least she didn’t take the full service and then demand a refund or a discount, but to get her refund and to still say she’s unhappy? What else does she want? Really?The whole thing just makes professionals in this business cynical, and not want to be flexible at all when there are legitimate reasons for it.

Well….this turned into more of a rant than I might have originally intended. It felt good to get it out there, aside from being the source of a couple of bitch sessions at work.

Oh yeah, and if you’re one of those guests that’s looking for the best “steel”. You might get away with it once or twice, but don’t be surprised when we notice the pattern and someone actually calls you one it. You won’t be the first guest we’ve informed that we don’t want their business. And don’t think that we don’t look upon you with a certain amount of ridicule and sometimes even pity.

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