Posts Tagged Spa

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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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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Checking-In

We had a great weekend at my property. We’re a resort destination, and so you can probably imagine that Memorial Weekend is a big one for us. Saturday was a bit of a let down, we stayed busy, but there was rain in our area so it put a tamper on the experience. Sunday though was the perfect storm of awesomeness! The weather was perfect, we had a therapist for every treatment room and we booked the spa as full as it could get! We pulled down what we hope will be record-setting revenue, and there was $0 in discounts or comps given out, in both the Hotel and the Spa. That’s really amazing, overall the day ran very smooth, and it means what few speed bumps we did encounter didn’t affect guest service to any large extent. I’m super proud of my staff, both those that worked it, and those that didn’t but played an instrumental role in the reservations process that helped make the day go so perfectly. The other departments of the property (spa attendants, spa providers, housekeeping, and maintenance) were all on it too!

So, I feel like it’s time for some “Behind the Scenes Hotel Information” about Credit Card Authorizations. People who travel a lot aren’t caught so off guard by this, especially if they’re usually on a corporate credit card. Hotels among other businesses take an authorization on your credit or debit card. Hotels will do it at check-in time at the hotel. This is for some predetermined amount that generally at the very least covers your room & tax for the length of your stay, but generally there’s something else on top to guarantee any incidental charges you might have (spa services, retail items, in room movies, food & beverage anything). My hotel only does room & tax for the stay plus $100/night which is really a very small amount. I’ve worked at a resort that charge $300/night on top of their room & tax. Rental Car agencies do something similar depending on your package. At a restaurant, when they take away your card, they authorize for your bill plus about 15%-20% so that when they bring it back to get your signature, any amount you’re likely to tip will already be authorized. This protects the business from the customer walking away and the card declining after they’ve left. The merchant is basically asking the bank if you’re approved for a certain dollar value. The bank gives them an approval code, which is a promise from the bank to cover any single charge up to that maximum value. This process was originally designed for credit cards only, and in my opinion the bank industry has failed to adapt it well to the use of debit cards. The way they do it works great for banks, but it’s horrible for merchants and customers.

Here’s where it gets tricky, debit cards don’t work the same as credit cards. It boils down to this very simple principle, credit cards represent a hypothetical sum of money which some institution has agreed to loan you should you need it. Debit cards, because they go to your checking account, are tied directly to cold hard (well cold electronic) cash that you actually own. So the banks treat these two similar looking pieces of plastic in very different ways. I really like this article from Yahoo: Debit or Credit: Which Card to Use? Here’s what you need to know when you’re traveling. When you get to the Hotel check-in desk, they’re likely to ask you for a credit card at that point. If they don’t tell you, ask them how much they’re authorizing your card for (we believe in transparency and write it on our check-in slips for the guest). It should be a pretty automatic answer. If you’re using an actual credit card you just want to make sure this amount won’t max out your card at that time, because anything released from the authorization will go back onto your card nearly instantly and you’ll never even notice the authorization from the final charge unless the value hits your credit limit to begin with.

Debit cards are more tricky. Since debit cards are tied to “real money” not just money that someone says you can have if you need it, the banks are a lot more cautious with it. So when a hotel, or gas station, or restaurant, or rental car agency authorizes your card, there’s 2 things you have to worry about. The first is the same as a credit card, is there enough money on your daily limit or in your account to cover the amount being authorized for. I’ve run into this at gas stations before, I swipe my card at the pump and it declines because they’ve tried to authorize me for $80 or more dollars and I was needing a pay-day real bad. Go inside and it’ll approve for just the $40 I wanted to pump anyways. The second factor you have to consider, is even if you have enough in your account to cover the authorization, how soon are you going to need that money back when any unused amount is released? Because once the merchant releases it, the money can take 3 to 5 business days for your bank to put it back in your account. This especially happens when the merchant’s final sale is less than the amount authorized for. Say the hotel authorized for $100, and they put through a final charge of $75, your bank can legally take 3 to 5 business days to reflect the release of that additional $25. Sometimes this process can be cut down to 24 hours if you call your bank and ask for it to be released, it depends on your history with them. Another way to speed up this process, that I’ve found through years of experience, is the amount gets released a lot quicker if the entire preauthorized amount is released not just a portion, once again you’re looking at around 24 hours depending on the speed of your bank (instantaneously is rare). Here’s the catch to this one though, the merchant has to call their merchant service provider, and manually release the amount with them. You’re money is still going to be tied up for a time, but these are the two quickest ways of getting them released. Either one will involve someone making a phone call usually.

So here’s the advice I give to my guests, friends and family. If you’re traveling use your credit card for any preauthorization purpose that you can. For fraud and theft reasons use a credit card whenever you can for restaurants too (in school we talked about restaurants being one of the #1 industries for credit card thieves). Heck, if you can afford to do it, leave your debit card at home when traveling, your theft and fraud protection is much higher on almost any credit card then on your debit card if it’s lost or stolen. If you’re using a debit card, be cautious and be aware, just be educated about how it’ll effect your money.  If you want to pay with a debit card at check-out, that’s fine, use a credit card to check-in and preauthorize your stay. Let the Front Desk know that you plan to come back at check-out and pay with your debit card or cash or a check or whatever. That way the final charge doesn’t go on your credit card where it might collect interest, but you won’t tie up your “real money” in your checking account.

A lot of hotels are adapting to increase their transparency on this issue, since the banks have been very unresponsive, because it leads to upset and disgruntled guests very often. Some use a signed waiver form (which I’m pushing for us to use). We check for cards marked as debit and try to have a very frank conversation with them at check-in time. Some people really need to know before they even get to that point, however, and I just got my GM to approve my proposed redraft of our confirmation letter to include this policy. Not everyone will see it, but at least we’ll be able to say we tried. Not every hotel does this though, I often hear “I’ve never had any hotel do this before.” Well the truth is, they probably did it and never told you, and if you were using a credit card (especially a corporate card or a card with a large limit) then you probably never noticed the process. It’s just as the use of debit cards have become so incredibly common place that this has become a real issue for the industry and the guest. But most of the “big box” hotels (Fairmont, Marriott, Hilton, etc) have been doing it for at least the last decade, and even they are struggling to deal with guests that want to use a debit card for their stay. Any hotel that has more to offer then just the room (food, retail, spa, whatever) should be trying to take a preauthorization. It’s the safest thing for them and allows them to more securely offer extra services and amenities, and safer for the educated cardholder, it allows fraud to be more easily detected sometimes. Ultimately, I don’t like seeing this fairly common business practice ruin people’s relaxing vacations when it catches them unprepared. And I wish more consumer travel magazines would talk about it.

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Feedback part 2

I think some of my guests must be reading this….3 guest issues today all of them resolved reasonably and with 0 insane outbursts. And guess what! They all got more then what they were asking for! The universe rules today!

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Feedback

I don’t think it’s any secret that customer feedback, good and bad, is essential in any customer service field, especially hospitality. Generally staff, managers, and owners don’t get to spend the night in their rooms terribly often or partake of the other facilities. Sure, someone is generally walking around the place a lot and that should catch a lot of things, but sometimes you just don’t know that there’s a sag in the mattress or a certain light is out until someone tells you. Or any number of things. On top of that, managers, like myself, try to be out on the floor and try to observe their own staff in action, but we’re biased in any number of ways when trying to observe interactions.

I can look at one of my staff and think to myself that they provide really good service from my side of the equation, but it’s hard to know that unless guests stop to give me their own input. Maybe I’m overlooking a flaw in their presentation, because I see that person in action so much, or because it’s not something that particularly bothers me, or any number of things. Similarly, I might miss something particularly great that my staff does. In fact it’s a lot easier to miss the great things they do, because far fewer people stop to express their appreciation for great service, then they do for bad or disappointing service, so often we only hear about bad things.

I have a friend who also works in the industry, and when we go out for a meal, if our server is particularly great, we’ll try to find some way of conveying that to the management (on top of leaving an appropriate gratuity). We know how difficult it can be for word of good service to get back to the people in charge. Sometimes managers just have to assume someone is giving good or adequate service because they don’t get complaints (not a great barometer for success) . And when someone stops, takes time away from their day, to give a manager positive feedback it’s always appreciated, and sometimes surprising. The person you’re complementing is likely to have a much better day because of it, and that only serves to improve their service further.

That said, negative feedback is just as important, and though I dislike taking guest complaints, when they’re valid and reasonable I truly appreciate them. We can’t improve without that negative feedback and any manager or customer service provider that doesn’t welcome the good and bad feedback it is asking for failure.

What does irk me, are the people who assume that just because something went wrong, or wasn’t to their exact liking that they’re automatically entitled to something more than a thank you. I’m not saying that negative experiences don’t sometimes warrant compensation, because there are certainly situations that call for exactly that. We also deserve a chance to fix it for you, the guest has to meet us half way. For instance, complaining that your heat didn’t work at check-out after a 2 night stay. I agree the heater should have been working when you got in the room, but sometimes things break and we need a chance to fix them for you. I’ll grant that if you realize the problem at 1 AM on your first night that you might feel it’s too late to fix it, but to not inform us the next day and to wait until you’re about to pay the bill. Honestly, it just looks cheap and grubby from my side of the counter, and I’m inclined to do very little for you at that stage other than apologize. On top of that, have a reasonable expectation of what I might offer you, not every situation calls for a complimentary night, or a 50% discount. If 95% of your visit was enjoyable, then why should you only have to pay for 50% of the stay because of that last 5%? Granted a hotel stay or a spa service can always be broken down into percentages very easily, but when you’re evaluating your stay try and evaluate the entire picture and not dwell on just the negative things. Was it all horrible? And was any of it because maybe we just weren’t the right resort for you? Sometimes that does happen, not every destination (especially in leisure travel) is the right fit for every person or every vacation.

This all brings me, in a round-about way back to feedback. I admit that we need it. We want it. And good or bad I try to welcome it and see it from your perspective. Generally people in my industry are very empathetic individuals who enjoy providing good service, especially when you start dealing with the managers of establishments.If they’re not those kinds of people, this business will eat them alive until they’re a dark, hollow, bitter husk….or they run away from it.

Also, just because someone says “No” to you in service position, doesn’t mean they’re providing bad service. Generally we always want to say “Yes” It’s much easier to say “Yes” to every request. If we’re saying “No” it’s not bad service, at least not always, sometimes it’s just reality clashing with your hopes or expectations.

So when you’re out there receiving customer service, and it’s good or great, stop and take a moment if you can. Tell the clerk helping you that you really appreciate they’re service. Speak to a manager and tell them about a pleasant experience you had. Fill out a comment card. Write a letter or and email to management or the owners. Write an online review (I check Yelp and TripAdviser for my property daily). Call and leave the manager or owner a voice mail. Guess what? We’ll appreciate it more than I think you’ll realize. Not only that, but we’re far more likely to remember you if you come back and you’ll get even better service the next time. And oh yeah, gratuities are almost always appreciated if you have the inclination and/or means.

When something goes wrong, if something breaks, doesn’t work, bothers you, or you have a negative experience. Stop and tell us about that too, and the more immediately you do the better our reaction should be. Give us a chance to fix it and to make things right. Don’t put your hand out right away. Stop to think if compensation is going to really fix anything, is it going to enable you to let it go and feel better? Will you not be a customer again regardless of what the establishment does for you. And is what happened so bad that it warrants something punitive? I’ll admit that those situations do arise. And if you don’t stop to talk to us, then you can do those other things, call and speak to us later, fill out a comment card, write a letter, send an email, and yes if necessary write an online review for the public. Just consider that the more direct and discreet you are with us, the more appreciative (and sometimes generous) we’ll be with you. Aggressive, loud, abusive, or nasty approaches are far less likely to get the desired result for you. Honey and vinegar and flies and all that jazz.

As good old Wil Wheaton says “Don’t be a dick”

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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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