Sunday, August 14, 2011

Adventures in the Hospitality Business

The Hampton Inn Team 1999 (I am the second from the right in the back)

As regular readers of this blog know, I work part-time at a local boutique hotel.  Since retired from my chosen career in the banking business (manager, trust operations) I have worked in the hospitality business.  You ask "hospitality business, what is that?"  That my friends is that I am that person behind the front desk when you check into a hotel.

Me with Barbara and Bonnie, two New York City Jewish lesbians
See those smiles?  Guests don't get any tougher than these two ladies.
All my other front desk co-workers were scared to death of these two women.
Not me.  I bring out the smiles.  Not for nothing did I get the Best Guest Service Award (not that I'm bragging or anything I actually am because I am DAMN GOOD!)



In 1998 I began work as a part-time night auditor at the Hampton Inn in Lionville, Pennsylvania.  When I got out of the Army in 1963 my first job was a night auditor at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel.  After getting fired from my job at the Downingtown Bank (I was fired because I was an out gay man, a subject worthy of a book), I was collecting unemployment.  Bored with collecting unemployment and unable to find another trust operations banking job, I saw an ad for a weekend night auditor at the local Hampton Inn.  I applied and was hired immediately.  Then the Adventure began.

With my co-worker Angelo Vasquez at the Hampton Inn
We had a lot of fun working together (can you tell?)


I worked at the Hampton Inn for four years.  I eventually left the night auditor job (an awful job by the way) to full time at the front desk.  I was also an associate sales clerk which meant that I took the sales director's place on weekends because she didn't want to work weekend (she was a princess.)

Me, Mickey and my Aunt Mabel at Disney World April 2000

I was successful at my job eventually winning a Best Guest Service Representative Award and a trip to Disney World for two.  Yes, I actually could say "I'm going to Disney World!"


Me with the vice president of Hilton Hotels Corp at the Epcot Center, Disney World accepting my award as Best Guest Service Representative 2000 
During my four year run at the Hampton Inn I thought I encountered every situation there was possible as a front desk clerk. Little did I know.  One of my goals is to write a book (a la Dave Barry) about my experiences at the Hampton Inn.  That task is still on my back burner.

Me taking a load off of my feet at the Hampton Inn

I left the Hampton Inn in February 2001 and worked full-time for a local bank (in the trust department again).  For a short time I worked at the Marriott Residence Inn but left after a month because of the reason stated below.

In November of 2006 I sold our house in Pennsylvania and moved to Delaware for my retirement and to save what little money I had left after the Great Stock Market Rip-Off.  Three months after I got settled down I felt like I needed to get out.  So what did I do?  You got it, I looked for a hotel job.

I got my list of hotels and made the rounds and put in my application.  The last hotel (and the one nearest my home) hired me.  That hotel is where I have been working the past 3 1/2 years.

This morning I read a very funny blog posting by a good (and very talented writer) friend of mine about his past week's experience as a restaurant host in downtown Rehoboth.  I almost fell off my chair laughing reading of his encounters with the restaurant customers and the tourists (aka The Horde) who are replenishing our local coffers with their money this summer season. That brought to mind that I have similar experiences in my job as hotel front desk clerk.

I won't identify where I work to protect the innocent (and me) but here are just some of the questions I got in my job working the front desk:


  • The phone rings and the question again is:  "Do you have any rooms this weekend?" 
  • My answer is "No."  Then the next question is "Do you know anyone who has rooms?"
  • Now this is a trick question because if I answer "Yes" they then ask "What are their rooms like?  Are they nice?"   
  • Now, what do you think I'm going to say?  Lewes is a small town.  Do they really think I'm going to say "No, they're awful and I wouldn't send my worst enemy there!
  • If I fall into the trap of saying their rooms are nice then they ask "How much are they? Do they have a pool?"  This last question "Do you have a pool?" drives me crazy.  If I had a quarter every time someone asked me "Do you have a pool?"  You know what that question means don't you?  That means they have kids and want to unload them in the pool, the little darlings. 
  • Now, while I'm on the phone with this person who is too damn lazy to look up the hotel and call then directly, I have guests waiting to check in and the other line is ringing, probably from someone else wanting to know "Do you have rooms this weekend?"
  • So what I do now is make the suggestion to the person on the phone that PERHAPS she (almost always it's a "she") call the hotel DIRECTLY.  Do you think?  
  • The response I get to this suggestion is usually "Oh.......Okay."  Sometimes I get "Can't you tell me?"  I explain to them that I have guests I have to checkin MY hotel and I have another line ringing.  This explanation never is satisfactory to the person on the other end of the line.  After all, it is ALL ABOUT THEM.
Now, this is just one "experience" as a hotel front desk clerk at the height of the summer season at a seaside resort.  And mind you, I work in a small, laid back town.  I don't work in Crazy Town (aka Rehoboth Beach) where there are true horror stories that would dwarf my little frustrations at the front desk.  

Every day I go to work I never know what to expect.  What truly surprises me is the new questions that I've never had to answer before and the response when I don't have the answer.  For instance last week a man (not a guest of the hotel) came into the front desk.  He wanted to know where the office was to the condo complex that is located next to the hotel.  I told him I didn't know (I found out later there is none).  He wasn't satisfied with that answer.  He then asked "How much do those condos cost?"  I told him I didn't know.  With a disgusted smirk on his face  he then said "Why don't you know?  You work right next to 
them?" Now understand I work mightily not to be one of those smart assed guys who work in the customer service business.  But, I admit sometimes it is very hard to remain professional especially when confronted by an arrogant bastard gentleman like this.  I answer "No sir, I don't know."  Of course this isn't the answer he wants to hear so then he asks "Well, do you know WHO DOES KNOW?"  Hey, how about the Lewes Realty Association?  I give him that advice which is none to happy to receive because he wants an answer NOW.    

Believe it nor not that that wasn't the first time I got that question.  So I made it my business to find out if there was an office and how much those condos cost.  I found out.  There is NO OFFICE and the condos cost A MILLION DOLLARS ON AVERAGE!  Also there is NO TURNOVER unless one of the occupants dies.  So the next time I got the question I gave this answer. You should have seen the look on his face.  I LOVED IT!  

So there are just a couple of the fun things that happen at the front desk at the delightful local boutique hotel where I work part-time.  One thing I want to make clear though, most of the guests and the folks I encounter every day are pleasant, polite and respectful folks.  It's that 1% that are rude, disrespectful and ignorant  But you know what? I see them as a challenge which I welcome.  I love my job, there is always something unexpected.  Keeps me on my toes.  Keeps me alive.

Me today, ready for business


11 comments:

  1. Ron,

    Funny what people do. I am trying to remember if I ever went into a hotel where I wasn't staying to ask a question. Maybe somewhere along the lie I might have to ask directions, but I really don't remember ever doing that either. I have asked directions in service stations, convenience stores and realty offices.

    I would never go somewhere and ask them about other businesses, especially their competitors. I have on a couple occasions had a hotel that was full TELL ME where I might find a room.

    The question about where the office is to the building next door, I can understand asking that. You might hope someone in a nearby business might know, but to persist and ask those other questions? Really!

    This is why I don't want a job dealing with the public directly. I can deal with people very well up to a point, but if someone is rude or acting stupid I know I'll come out with some sarcastic remark. I just can't help it. More power to you.

    Lar

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  2. However do you resist the temptation to do this:

    Tell Jerk #1 that you will find out and have the agency call him if he gives you his business card.

    Give Jerk #2 Jerk #1's business card.

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  3. You make me laugh, even when once in a while you have a depressing post, you always bring a smile to my face.
    You are very wise to "prepare" yourself to questions that are not related to the hotel... You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Why be nasty when you can be nicer (smarter) than the guests.
    Makes your life easier. And always remember that you are retired, the guests are not; they are probably struggling at work and cannot wait to retire.
    I love the last picture. Nice working environment, air conditionned...

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  4. Nadege,

    I'm glad you picked up on my "tongue in cheek" postings about the (sometimes) annoying folks I encounter in my job. Oh occasionally I do run into the really rude people but they are such a rarity that I can easily handle them. I wouldn't be in the hospitality business if I couldn't "handle" those folks. I always strive to be different than what one would expect of someone in my job. I almost always succeed which is a lot more interesting than being a typical, smart assed person dealing with the public.

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  5. Will,

    I love the challenge of dealing with the public. It's the best job I've ever had. I should have done this a lot earlier in my career instead of back office operations.

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  6. Larry,

    Some hotel guests can't stay away from the front desk. They see the person standing there as something "free" that they have to take advantage of or else they "lose." Most hotel guests do as you (and I) do, we rent a room, check in and then go about our business, only occasionally requiring the help or information from the front desk. Some though, simply cannot stay away from the front desk. They are what we call "high maintenance guests."

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  7. anne marie in philly3:44 PM

    gah, you have more patience with stupid ignorant people than I would if I worked a job like yours. my mouth would be telling them loudly to "go eff yourself", then I would be fired! (full disclosure: I have an AAS degree in travel/tourism from Northern Va Comm College [1998]; never used it)

    I sometimes get one like this on the phone at work, but I can pass them on to either sales or engineering.

    stupid ignorant people deserve to die before the good ones do!

    BTW, I popped in over at the other blog you mentioned...funny post. next time I get down your way, we must plan a meetup with him!

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  8. Anne Marie,
    The next time you're in town we definitely have to have lunch where The Cajun (Wayne) works. You would like him.

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  9. anne marie in philly6:33 PM

    you got it, baybee! and I will hold you to that promise!

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  10. I fully expect you to write this book.

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  11. That I will do Dr. Spo, writing a book is Number One on my Bucket List.

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