Easier Said Than Done
Long weekends. Family time. Sunshine and smiles. All the things that make a vacation such an amazing experience. A hotel stay is sometimes exactly what you need. Unless you are at hotels most days, working behind the desk. The hotel receptionist sees all the good and the bad during a vacationer’s stay at the hotel. They are the front line for problem-solving and making sure everything goes smoothly for the guests. And part of their job is to create the atmosphere of a fun, enjoyable time while they are the face of the hotel.
This is easier said than done. Guests aren’t always peachy keen and there are times when they don’t use their listening ears. Not everyone is willing to go with the flow when something disturbs their vacation experience; even if it’s their own fault. Put on a smile because we are stepping into the shoes of, “Joanna,” a full-time front desk worker at a hotel.
Joanna had been in the business long enough to know her way around the hotel and its guests. She knew the ins and outs, the dos and don’ts. She figured she could handle almost anything at this point. It’s always when you think you have a grip on something when life decides to shake things up a bit. And she was about to be shaken up alright. Although she had plenty of experience, there are some things you can’t be prepared for.
This hotel was a middle-tier chain hotel in a booming city. It was popular with families. It was a Spring holiday weekend, which meant even more family fun. Jo had the morning shift and took her job fairly seriously. She took the time to “get to know most of the guests pretty well,” and made sure to make everything go as smoothly as possible. Other than the normal front desk duties of checking folks in, making reservations, and answering the phone, she also responded to the general needs of the guests. Obviously, some were needier than others.
The stars of our show are the “Corbetts.” Mr. Corbett had booked one of the “Family Suites,” for him, his wife, and their three little ones. During their stay over this holiday weekend, Jo helped them with several things. She “let them into [the] pool, brought them extra towels, and filled water bottles for them.” Of course, her job was to make the guests happy, so she did all of this and more to create a happy environment for the family. Joanna liked to stay optimistic during her shifts. She was always kind and helpful, so she knew that her interactions with Mr. C hadn’t been anything but “accommodating and welcoming.” And Mr. C had been “relatively pleasant to talk to” so Jo felt good about the occurrences. Unfortunately, that would all be changing as Mr. C had other things in mind.
After everything she had done to make their stay more pleasant, Jo felt like she had done her job well and there was no better feeling. However, the next morning rolled around and it was check-out time for the Corbetts, however, 45 minutes had already passed since their check-out time. Jo spotted the family “chatting with some other guests who were on their way out.” She double-checked the computer and notes from the other desk workers. Jo didn’t see any mention of a late check-out for Mr. Corbett. She had been doing this job for a while though, seen almost everything.
Joanna caught Mr. C’s attention over the desk, smiled, and said, “Hello Sir, I just want to clarify that you guys are leaving today? It’s a little after checkout here, but if you’d like to stay I can extend you.”
She had practiced this line over and over so it sounded sweet and not pushy.
“Yeah we’re leaving, I have a late checkout,” Mr. C replied.
That’s interesting, didn’t Jo just check for a late check-out note? Joanna took it in stride and tried to strategize the best way to handle this. She had a “philosophy” about when guests didn’t like to follow the check-out rules. She believed that “guests [were] less likely to be pricks about leaving if you’re not as pushy as you want to be.” It was almost noon at this point and they were already late for check-out, but that wasn’t the only conflict. Due to the recent events, there were new rules for check-outs. Guests had to be out by noon. The hotel couldn’t offer a late check-out later than noon, “except for in very rare and specific circumstances.” This was necessary because of the “strain on [the] housekeeping department.”
The hotel was trying to make sure the rooms were cleaned properly for guests, even more so with the illness scare. Guests didn’t always care about the new rules. Welcome to customer service! Jo left room for the possibility Mr. C had been given a late check-out and she just didn’t know about it for some reason. She was going to see if Mr. C was going to push the limits and sat looking out for the family as the clock ticked closer and closer to 12:00 pm.
Mr. Jekyll And Mr. C
It was now half past noon and the Corbetts were nowhere to be seen. There was going to be a new family coming in to stay in the suite. Housekeeping needed to clean the room and they were asking Jo when the Corbetts would be leaving. Everyone was anxious to keep things moving as usual since the room was a larger room and took longer to sanitize. Joanna picked up the front desk phone and called up to the Corbetts suite. The conversations weren’t too reassuring.
Jo used her best customer service voice, “Hello Mr. C, I was just wondering if you needed a bell cart up to your room?”
“No, it’s okay. We’re just getting our things together,” Mr. C replied.
Joanna had to be very clear when she informed him, “Alright sir. I should let you know that we do charge a late checkout fee for anyone after one pm.”
Mr. Corbett was not impressed, “Seriously? That sounds ridiculous.”
Unfortunately, Jo had no control over the ridiculousness of the rules, so she replied, “It is our policy, sir.”
“Okay, fine. I guess we’ll be out by one,” he responded not too kindly.
Joanna wasn’t sure whether to believe him or not. And considering the fact that he was already so late, she couldn’t have much hope that he and his family would be leaving in a timely fashion after their chat. There was a time constraint and housekeeping needed access to the room. Joanna had to take a deep breath and call again. It was already 1:15 pm now and there was no sign of them.
“Hello again, Mr. G. I’m very sorry to rush you but we do need you out of that room so that housekeeping can get in there to clean it,” Jo tried to reason with him and still keep her cool.
“This is Joanna, right,?” Mr. C asked.
“Yes, sir,” she confirmed.
“Well you know what, Joanna? You’re really starting to tick me off,” Mr. Corbett snapped.
Joanna was speechless, she could not get a single word out she was so surprised. Why was he so upset? How had this gone this far? What could she even say to that? She was shocked at the “sheer speed with which he had switched from nice to absolutely fuming.” She felt like she had whiplash. Since she couldn’t think of what to say, Mr. Corbett had the chance to continue his attack on Jo.
“I Demand To Speak To The Manager”
“I had a late checkout. Now you’re gonna call us five times in a half an hour, harass me, and threaten us with a charge if we don’t get out. I demand to speak to the manager,” Mr. C shouted over the phone.
Jo was still shocked at his attitude but at least she had an answer to this demand. It was a holiday weekend and things should have been fine, so the managers had the day off.
“I’m afraid there is no manager on the property sir. She’s off, as it is a holiday,” Jo said to angry Mr. C.
“Well, a supervisor then,” He whined.
“There is also no supervisor here,” Joanna replied, keeping calm. She knew this was the only way the conversation could go.
“Well, when are they in?” Mr. Corbett demanded to know.
“Tomorrow, sir,” Jo informed him to his dismay.
Mr. C was not having it, he was irate, and shouted, “Well that’s ridiculous! Who’s in charge when they’re not here then?”
Joanna knew he wasn’t going to like what she was about to say. And she was actually happy about it.
“That would be me, sir,” she said, polite as could be.
Mr. C flipped out and shouted, “Well that’s just not acceptable. Call her.”
Joanna was not going to back down. This man had no right to talk to her this way. She knew he was upset, but it was his own fault. He should have checked out on time. They wouldn’t have had to have this tense conversation. It was all completely unnecessary. Joanna was biting her tongue at this point.
“No, sir. I will not be disturbing either my manager or my supervisor on their hard-earned days off over this. If you would like, I can give you her card when you come down to the desk to check out,” Joanna replied.
“Then what you’re going to do is take my cell phone number on file there and send it to your manager. Have her call me,” Mr. Corbett snapped. He was not backing down either.
Joanna was shocked at how far this was going, and stated, “I will not be doing that, sir.”
“Well, I’m taking this as far up as possible,” Mr. C claimed as if he was king of the castle.
Joanna was fed up with this man’s attitude. She was “tired of this insane back and forth.” She assured him he could do as he pleased and he hung up. Imagine him slamming the phone down in a huff, thinking he deserved to stay as long as he wanted. After getting angry it seemed like he wanted to push things as far as he possibly could. “They ended up not leaving the property until almost 2:30 pm.” They did know this had consequences, right?
Laugh It Off
Joanna charged their account a fee for the late check-out. And the family decided they were so upset that they left a “massively entertaining review online.” Obviously, they felt as though they had gone through the wringer and deserved recognition for the grievances Joanna had caused them. The review “insisted that [she] was the type of person to talk behind guests’ backs, denied them water, kicked them out of the room after telling them they could stay and insulted them.” Joanna could laugh it all off because her manager had seen the review and heard the story. They all knew the family was overreacting and were just butt sore Joanna wouldn’t give in to their demands.
The manager left a reply on the review that was polite, but not apologetic. Even after leaving the review they consistently emailed the general manager demanding Jo lose her job. They emailed the manager for three weeks before finally giving up. Jo didn’t lose her job and luckily never had to hear from them again. She would never get over the shock of hearing how quickly the father got angry with her though. She would never forget how quickly he escalated to fury and she would add this ordeal to her experiences as a front desk worker at a mid-tier hotel. One day at a time Jo. You’ve got this.