Wednesday, June 23, 2021

WEDNESDAY WISDOM: That's Unacceptable


"Doing nothing meant leaving things exactly the way they were, and that was unacceptable." Caroline Goode

Marcie and I recently had a staycation in Orlando. We enjoyed a great morning and a lovely lunch, and then we checked in around 3 p.m. at a large, well-known Orlando resort hotel

In making the reservation, I had taken special care to reserve a room with a king-size bed and a no-threshold shower to accommodate Marcie’s wheelchair. I even passed up other desirable hotels because they couldn’t commit to that configuration. A few days before our get-away, wanting to avoid any mix-ups, I made certain to confirm “king bed, roll-in shower” with the hotel’s “Social Media Concierge” IN WRITING.

What a surprise, then, when we got to our room to find a bathtub instead of a no-threshold shower. The tub didn’t even have grab bars.

I immediately called the front desk to let them know of their mistake. A nice employee listened to my concerns, put me on hold, and then came back to report they had a room with a no-threshold shower and two queen-size beds.

I told them that wouldn’t work.

“But that’s all that we have available,” the front-desk person said. 

“No, we need a room with a king-size bed and a roll-in shower. That’s what I reserved, and confirmed in writing, and nothing else is acceptable.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s all there is,” she insisted.

I replied, “This hotel has over 1,500 rooms, and you’re telling me you don’t have a room with a king-size bed and a no-threshold shower? That’s not possible.”

The conversation went nowhere from there.

Once it became obvious that talking with the check-in clerk was fruitless, I asked to speak to her manager. 

The manager listened kindly and patiently, and repeated the earlier proposal of “two queens and a roll-in shower,” because “that’s all we have available.”

I insisted that her answer was unacceptable, whereupon she said “well, let me check.”

She returned to the call a minute or two later to say, “Yes, we have a room with a king-size bed and a roll-in shower, but it needs to be cleaned up. I will have housekeeping expedite the cleaning and let you know when it’s ready.” She took my cell number, but unfortunately, I did not write down her name.

The bellman showed up with our luggage, but we explained the situation and asked him to hold on to it because we didn’t want to schlepp the luggage and our two wheelchairs, etc. when we were reassigned rooms. We were okay just waiting in the mis-assigned room without our luggage. 

Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

We never dreamed we’d wait almost two hours without hearing anything from anyone. By then, my patience had expired. I called the front desk, where I continued to get the runaround. I asked again for the manager. The manager picked up and I repeated my story.

She interrupted me and said she was the same person I had spoken with earlier, and that our room was still not ready. I then asked to speak to her manager, because obviously she didn’t have the clout to get an “expeditious” room cleaning after nearly two hours. At that point, she acknowledged she was actually the manager for the whole hotel. 

Flabbergasted, I proceeded to suggest that her hotel’s procedures needed revamping because two hours was clearly too long to keep paying guests waiting for their room, especially with “expedited” room clean-up. I told her my wife was tired of all the nonsense and was ready to find somewhere else to stay, or just go home. I made a passing reference to the Americans with Disabilities Act, since our request was all about accommodating a guest with disabilities, and reiterated that the hotel’s response was UNACCEPTABLE.

She said to give her 10 minutes and she would fix the problem, and asked if she could treat us to dinner at any of the hotel’s fine restaurants? Which one would be your preference?

I said, “Get us into our room and then we can talk about dinner.”

She hung up and within a minute, she called back to say our room was ready, and the bellman would take us and our luggage there momentarily. She recommended their world-class steak restaurant for a complimentary dinner. 

In no time, we were whisked to our new room with a king-size bed and roll-in shower. The bellman gave us the hotel manager’s card, the restaurant manager’s name, and an early reservation where we could order anything on the menu, at their expense.

Our dining experience was exceptional. The food was fantastic and the wait staff swarmed around us the whole time, making sure our every whim was satisfied promptly and cordially. When I asked for the check, our server waived us off. “It’s on the house.”

Nice recovery, hotel manager.

But important questions remain:  Why did it take so long for her to actually address my request, and why did I have to express serious unhappiness before any meaningful response? Why were we sent to the wrong room in the first place, and why did they continue to offer me something (a queen-bed room) when I repeatedly told them that was UNACCEPTABLE? Why was the correct room suddenly available in less than a minute after my second call? Why didn’t they call me when it was first ready, instead of leaving us to cool our heels for nearly two hours?

In the end, their mistake, neglect, inaction, and attempt to smooth things over cost them an expensive dinner, and made us question ever wanting to stay there again. They definitely ruined our plans for the evening.

Five years ago, I wrote a Wednesday Wisdom article summarizing a rule of thumb from Frank Day, the Chairman and CEO of Trustmark National Bank. It seems relevant in this situation.

Back in the 1980s, I was Vice-President and Trust Officer at Trustmark National Bank. The CEO, Frank Day, was a great champion of integrity and attentive customer service. He taught that, given the nature of humans and machines, things will sometimes go awry. But when they do, it’s imperative that we spring into action to address the problem and redress any harm done as soon as possible. Call today, not tomorrow. Go to your customer, tell him the truth, and figure out how to make him whole. Mr. Day’s mantra still rings in my ears: "Mistakes happen. It’s okay to be wrong. JUST DON’T BE WRONG LONG!” 

I hope I can remember his advice when I’m the one who makes the mistake. The old saying that “a stitch in time saves nine” is factually and mathematically correct, especially when it comes to personal and business relationships. Postponing reconciliation increases the infection and allows the wound to fester, making it nine or ten times harder to eventually heal. The sooner we own our mistake, reach out to the person aggrieved, and search for ways to make things right, the easier and less costly it is to patch things up. 

We’re grateful for the complimentary dinner, but we’re sorry it had to come to that. We wish the hotel and their staff lived by Frank Day’s advice: Don’t be wrong long. 


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