Here's a tip on hotel etiquette: Tip
Many years ago when I was about to be married, my father, giddy with the relief of no longer being responsible for me, wrote to his insurance company, USAA, “you’ll be happy to hear that Nancy is no longer on my policy.” Sure, just a few weeks earlier I had failed to put my Plymouth VIP in park, causing it to follow me down the incline and smash into my apartment building, creating a big enough hole in the wall so that you could see inside. But I had never been ticketed for any of my traffic transgressions.
USAA, which provides insurance for military families, wrote back: “We like Nancy. Please give us her forwarding address.”
Over the years I’ve never regretted the decision to go with their coverage, although they probably did. When my kids were in elementary school, I had a pale yellow squareback car that was hit three times while it was parked — while I was sitting in the car! One time I was stopped at a red light; once I was waiting in front of the school for my kids; and another time I was parked in a parking lot. Each time the damage didn’t seem so noticeable until I got home, sans other-driver information. And yes, it was daylight, so I really don’t have a decent excuse for not noticing, except that I don’t like conflict. On occasion I had accidents that were my fault, but all those drivers made me hand over my insurance card. Why can’t more people follow my example and turn a blind eye to dents?
Just recently, I was in another accident—this time I was moving and it wasn’t my fault. USAA referred me to the local Abra Auto Body and Glass. Within 30 minutes, they had taken my information, determined my car couldn’t be driven until repaired and called Enterprise to drive over a rental car. I don’t often use franchises that aren’t providing food or shelter, so I don’t know firsthand if this level of service is the norm, but I’m guessing it is not. Every day my car was in the shop, I got a text message letting me know its repair status. I started to imagine my car was away at camp, and couldn’t wait to hear about its next adventure.
I’ve heard so much over the years about how difficult it is to convince franchisees or employees to treat customers the way headquarters mandates. I think the executives at Abra can pat themselves on the back. The Roseville shop did a flawless job and my car enjoyed its stay. I know, because one of the texts said, “Your Volkswagen is happy here.” I just hope it doesn’t want to visit again soon.
• • • • •
I have a confession to make. In the past when I’ve done business book reviews, I mostly skim the book. But for the review of “Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles and So-Called Hospitality” in this issue, I read the entire book, only skimming occasionally.
I was hooked from the beginning. I am not the kind of person who will ever use any of the methods the author Jacob Tomsky describes, but I loved learning about them.
For instance, he claims, the best way to get everything in the mini-bar for free is to ask for a nonsmoking room. Once you’re upstairs sit on the bed, smoke a cigarette and empty the contents of the mini-bar into your suitcase. Then call down to the front desk and complain your nonsmoking room smells like smoke. You’ll be immediately moved to another room and there will be no record of your first room. Housekeeping will assume the mini-bar wasn’t restocked after the last guest. Apparently, some people do clean out the mini-bar and pay for it. Mini-bar charges, he says, can always be disputed, along with claiming you accidentally clicked on a movie you didn’t watch and couldn’t turn off.
To my chagrin I discovered I am the type of guest hotel staff hates. I always insist I can take my luggage up to my room by myself. Yes, I’m cheap, but it’s also because I’m a strong independent woman who is cheap. Now I find out that my assertiveness is actually selfishness because I’m taking food out of the bellman’s baby’s mouth.
I’m also feeling guilty about how messy I am in hotels. Tomsky claims the cleaning crew hates slobs like me. I’m not sure how they feel about people who insist on having their towels laundered every day, even when there is ample signage about water conservation. I bet we’re hated for that little bit of selfishness also. (I’m not sure if everyone who works at a hotel is as full of hate as Tomsky makes them out to be. I’ve never personally witnessed it, but exaggeration is a writer’s best friend.)
Another technique I may employ myself some day is how a savvy desk clerk can diffuse an escalating situation. Tomsky described a man yelling at the front desk clerk about his room not being cleaned. After a couple of minutes of the man in his face, the clerk reacted in kind. “Oh, my gawd,” he yelled back, “I can’t believe your room wasn’t cleaned. Someone is definitely going to lose their job over this. I can’t believe your room wasn’t cleaned!!!! What room are you in? I’ll make sure the person responsible is fired.” The guest then will back down and admit it really wasn’t that big a deal and slink away.
Maybe because the author was a philosophy major in college, he’s a bit excessive in his comment about why he stayed in the business so long: “After a certain amount of years in the hotel business, you’re just too useless and used up to do anything else.”
I wish I had a profession that had an interesting back story. Want to know how to get your ad an FOB (front of the book) placement? Pay the premium. Want to know how to get a writer to cover your concept? Have an interesting, unique story to tell.
Somehow I can’t see that as titillating reading. Guess I better stick to reading books about the hospitality industry. I hear restaurants have a lot of interesting back of the house stories, too.