Monday, October 22, 2012

Oh, You Wrote a TripAdvisor Review? You Must Be Really Smart

I was killing time and thumbing through TripAdvisor reviews on my iPhone, when I came across a particular one that made me laugh like a bastard.

This person complained that the doorman would frequently slam the door in their face in favor of speaking to attractive women on the street. It made me laugh, because I do that all the time. What, the doorman can't do a little harmless flirting? Are you that important that you can't open your own door while I chat up a nice young lady?

The funny thing about the review was that this person thought I was being discriminatory. I can guarantee you that wasn't the case at all. Without knowing exactly who this person was, I can tell you why I blew them off:

I greeted them at their shuttle or taxi, carried their heavy fucking bags to the door, opened the door, carried their heavy fucking bags up the steps, lead the way to reception, placed the heavy fucking bags next to them, and said "enjoy your stay" with a smile.

They walked right to reception without a tip or a thank you.

I'm reasonably okay with not getting that tip. Unless I'm carrying in 20 bags, I can usually deal with someone not tipping me on the way in. The doorman usually gets taken care of on the way out. It's the lack of manners that kills me. I understand that I'm a doorman, and, to most people, not worthy of your time. But I just performed a half-dozen duties that deserved a little acknowledgment.

When you perpetually perform a task for people with no thanks in return, you become uninspired to do so. When I open the door for ten people in a row without a thank you, I'm going to be conditioned to expect that the 11th will blow me off as well, so they may be the unfortunate recipient of my frustrations. And when you didn't give me the time of day when I greeted you, don't expect me to go out of my way to help you later on.

I find that the people who complain about the attitude of the service staff are usually the people who mistreat them right off the bat. I've gone to restaurants and stayed in hotels with people who are absolutely awful to the help, then complain when it isn't four-star service. When you speak to someone like an animal, then why the fuck would they want to go out of their way for you? And for us folks who rely on tips, why would we want to please someone who ultimately won't be paying for your services?

Do you know how many reviews I've read about the "bell boys that let us walk right by them down the steps without any help?" You want to know why? It's because they know you're not going to give them a fucking dime. In my hotel, and I'm sure every bellhop-service one in the country, we have a code that we can yell across the lobby, letting the other bellmen and doormen know that helping this person is a thankless task.

So if you want to stiff your doorman and treat him like a piece of shit, just remember that before you get your room key, the rest of the staff, which can be a essential cog in truly experiencing the city, is made aware.

For example, when I see a guest stiff their taxi driver, help them inside, then get nothing, I walk past the bellman and say "Kevin, the Mets won." Kevin then hides on the toilet when it comes time to take the guest up to the room.

It's the same reason an NFL coach pulls his star QB during a blowout. Why risk getting hurt when there's nothing left to gain?

Why am I going to put strain on my body, risk a hernia or neck injury, for free?

Some more TripAdvisor grievances to take with a grain of salt:

"We got there early, but we had to wait till 3pm to check in. But we saw people who came after us get their room keys early."

People don't know how fucking hard a hotel maid works. Whenever I complain about lifting a bag without at tip, I need to remind myself of the college kid that took a dump behind the television, and the maid that had to make that room livable before 3pm.

I've been through the hallways of plenty of hotels between the hours of Noon and 3pm. It's like an ant farm. Countless maids working frantically like dogs to clean the messes of these animals while collecting chump change for days worth of hard work. It takes a lot to make a room look as good as new after a weekend of partying.

There are many kind of rooms- King, Queen, Double, Twin, Suite, Smoking, Non-Smoking, etc. The rooms are cleaned as people exit them. If everyone with a King bed decides to wait till 12:30pm to vacate the room, then it'll fuck things up for everyone who reserved a King bed for that evening.

You know how to make sure you get your room at 3pm when the hotel is busy? Come on, you know god damn well what.

"Front desk agent was rude and didn't smile."

Front desk agents are trained to talk like robots. This is because many people are stupid and need to be spoken to as such. Another reason many guest service agents are disgruntled is because they deal with all of the problems without reaping any of the benefits that a concierge or bellman will get (i.e. restaurant, car commissions). It's another thankless job. Particularly in a foreign-tourist-heavy hotel like mine, they deal with many people who haven't traveled to the states before. It's exceedingly frustrating just to tell them how to walk to the gift shop- now try and explain holding $50 from their credit card for incidentals.

Like any industry position, you get into your fair share of altercations. Have you ever had a blow-up with another person, then had to keep yourself completely calm, cool, and collected afterwards? It's difficult, isn't? When a front desk agent is belittled and mistreated, they'll be on their guard for it to happen again with the next guest, which will certainly affect most people's tone of voice and composure. Don't take it personally. Approach your front desk agent with a smile. Let them know that you're going to make it easy on them. It'll put them at ease, in case they're fresh off a nightmarish guest, and will make for a smoother check-in.

Any outlandish unsanitary incident. 

I was friendly with a front office manager in a hotel that I used to work at. She used to tell me all sorts of stories about guests threatening to write reviews about cleanliness on TripAdvisor. My favorite was a man who wanted an upgrade to a suite on a Saturday night: he threatened to take a picture of a used condom, post the picture on the website, and say that it was there in the room when they checked in.

He got what he wanted.

Just because someone snaps a pic of dried blood on the sink on their iPhone, doesn't mean that there's a hooker's corpse rotting underneath every bed. People can post whatever they damn-well please on this site, and if they didn't get what they wanted, or a staff member was rude, or even gotten themselves thrown out for whatever reason, they can get a little revenge by telling a story.

Don't get me wrong, maids can sometimes overlook something gross. Things happen. But if you don't see many reviews regarding the poor hygiene of the hotel, then one isolated incident shouldn't be anything to worry about. If you see a hotel and every other review is about something disgusting, then it's very likely to be a hellhole.

"This hotel has bed bugs."

Bed bugs in hotels is like HPV in human beings- it's passed through all of us at some point.

"The room didn't look like it did on the website!"

Oh, come on. When was the last time you ordered a Big Mac and it looked like the one in the picture?

"The elevators took a long time."

Well, yeah, it's a fucking hotel. There are lots of people in it, going out and doing things. Do you think you're the only one on vacation?

Do's and Don'ts

If you feel compelled to write a review about a hotel, make sure you do the following things:

- Be specific.

If you want to sing the praises of staff members, include their name. Saying "bell boys were helpful" won't help anyone. If a staff member goes out of their way for you, then make sure you're giving credit where it's actually due. We wear name tags for a reason. If you just generalize the whole staff, management won't give a shit. A lot of hotels have reward programs for their employees when they get positive feedback from guests. If you want to help the person who made your vacation a great one, then make sure you single them out from the rest of the staff, or it will go unnoticed.

Same goes for when you want to complain about someone.

You know why I didn't get in trouble for the "talking to hot girls" incident? Because there's ten other guys that could've been working the door at any given time. If you don't specify who they are and what they did to offend you, then it will fall on deaf ears, guaranteed.  Worst case scenario, a memo will be put on the bulletin board in the break room about "professionalism and courtesy". That's not going to scare anyone.

If someone treated you poorly, and it was unjustified, then by all means, use their name. If you don't remember the name, then make sure you include the day and time in which it happened. Just keep in mind that you're going back to your real life, out of vacation mode, and the attitude of the front desk agent will be a distant memory once you resume dealing with your real-life problems. Maybe they were having a bad day. Maybe they deserve the benefit of the doubt. You're never going to see them again, so who gives a shit? Consider that what you say on TripAdvisor could get them fired. Ask yourself if they truly deserve that. 

- Don't tell a story. 

Don't put bullshit in the subject line like "Dad's 50th". If you want to show off your awesome storytelling skills, then write a blog. No one wants to read a fucking narrative about the big, bad, city and all of the things that went wrong. No one is going on TripAdvisor to read a twenty paragraph saga about your adventures on the subway and how you accidentally ended up in Brooklyn. Get to the point, and keep it short. Remember the important details, keep it under two paragraphs, and get the fuck out. 

- Grammar. 

Dude, if you can't read and write, no one is going to take your review seriously. If you write a review that looks like this: 

"my experience at the hotel with my family was bad no towels in the bathroom the cafe was overpriced and busy and the waitress was nice but overall location was brilliant only 5 moon walk to times square and central park yaaaaayayyyaaaayyyy fart" 

I don't care about your opinion. 

In the end, when you're looking through TripAdvisor in search of the perfect place, you need to know what it is you're looking for in a hotel. What's most important to you? Is it top-notch service? Is it the location? Is it cleanliness? Unless you're springing a hefty penny for the Ritz Carlton, every hotel is going to have it's pros and cons. Figure out what pros are essential to your trip, and be prepared to make a few sacrifices in other areas. 

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