Monday, April 21, 2014

5 Little Victories Hotel Employees Had Without you Noticing

Working with the public sucks. Working with a public that's out of their element is even worse. Hotel employees have a distinction from the rest of the food/beverage/hospitality industry where we're stuck with people for an extended period of time, thus have to adapt to their living habits. I, for one, think it's bull shit. They're our guests. Yes, our job is to make people feel comfortable. Yes, people spend a lot of money per night and should be treated accordingly. And yes, the customer is always right.

Though let's face it- for every doughy-eyed, whipping-post putz who takes pride in an excellent guest experience, there's ten others who are just there to get through the day, make their money, and get the fuck out of there without punching somebody in the throat.

I've said it before and I'll say it again- whenever you're acting like a jerk-off to a hotel employee, just remember that you're burning your face into their minds, and the likelihood of getting your way then, or for the rest of your stay, become increasingly slim. We're human beings. We're vindictive and spiteful and jaded and bitter. Don't mistake the big smile and high-pitched, apologetic voice for weakness. We're simply going through the motions to get you the fuck out of there, so we can wait patiently for an opportunity to exact revenge.

One of my favorite pieces of Jacob Tomsky's Head's in Beds, is where he talks about room 1212 in his hotel. It was one of the nicest rooms they had, and he reserved it for the people who treated him the worst. Why reward them for being an asshole, you ask? Because the area code in Manhattan is "212". In almost every hotel you go to, you have to dial "9" to make an outgoing call. If you don't, you'll simply dial numbers till it calls whatever room you've put in. Many, many people, especially foreigners, don't know that.

Now, every time some dude comes back to his room in the middle of the night, shit-canned drunk and in need of Dominoes chicken bites, he would pick up his phone and dial "1-212", and it would go straight to the asshole's room. Any poor schmuck who was the recipient of that room would receive a nightly barrage of wake-up calls due to people not knowing they had to press "9" to dial out. Genius.

So this guy was an asshole to his front desk agent and never had a good night's sleep through his entire stay. And he likely had no idea why.

While his memoir is the ultimate guide on how to treat a front desk agent, there are many more ways to screw yourself after crossing the wrong employee. Like me.

With that, here's my personal list of little victories hotel employees gain that you likely never thought twice about:

1- Refusing Bellman Help, then Getting Lost. 

I occasionally work inside as a bellman. While I have zero tolerance for people not tipping me on the door, I completely understand why many refuse to be taken up to a room by a bellman. The logic for the bellman accompanying the guest up to the rooms (in the industry, we call it a "front"), is that he's there to make sure the keys work, there's no essentials missing (soaps, towels, etc.), and it's the correct room you've booked. Also the obvious - to assist with any luggage.

The guest logic is, for the most part, that if both the reservations and front desk agents are doing their jobs correctly, there would be no reason for this fucking beggar to be taking me up to my room.

Why does he need to come with me if I only have one carry-on suitcase?

To be honest, I'm kind of with the guests on that one. Though a good bellman is able to warmly welcome them to the city, strike up a conversation in the elevator, find out how they can help the guest throughout their stay, and, in the case of there being something wrong with the room, fix the problem without the guest having to go downstairs.

Though most people don't see it that way. It happens all the time - the bell rings, I walk over with a packet of maps, City Guides, and brochures like an imbecile - and the guest looks at me like I'm a piece of garbage, refusing my help.

There's something about that whip-around that they do when the front desk agent dooms them with that sentence, "The bellman has your keys and will show you up to the room to make sure everything is okay."

Guest - "NO! NO! NO!!!! I'VE GOT IT!!! I CAN FIND IT!!! GIVE ME THOSE!!!"

They snatch them out of my hand, grab their suitcase...

And walk towards the wrong elevator.

Most front desk agents will take a bellman's side on this one:

Let them go.

Many hotels, especially in New York City, have several different wings and towers where rooms are located. On my particular property, there are three. So there's a 66% chance that the guest will talk onto the wrong elevator.

They'll take the elevator up to the floor, walk every inch of it trying to find the phantom room, maybe attempt to open the wrong one. Then, they'll have to take the elevator back down to the lobby, find an employee, and ask where their room is located.

My brown eyes light up with glee when I see the sight of some asshole who dismisses me, stupidly walking out of the elevator with a key envelope in one hand and his suitcase in the other.

If you had just let me show you up to the room, thrown me a couple of bucks and treated me with some respect, you'd already be in your room relaxing. Not coming back to me in the lobby with your tail between your legs.

2- Sending a Guest to a Famous Tourist Trap That Sucks 

Tourist traps are called tourist traps for a reason. How do you think they get that name? By putting out a shitty, overpriced product with zero consequence because they know they're going to continue to get gaggles of out-of-towners who don't know any better.

The best example I can give of this is Ray's Pizza, a "famous" pizza chain in New York City. It's funny how you can make something "famous" by simply putting "famous" in the title. In this case, "famous" really means "shitting blood later".

Somehow, word got out that this piece-of-shit slice is a NYC staple. Any decent, pizza-respecting New Yorker wouldn't send his worst enemy walking into one of these joints.

But an angry, spiteful doorman who just got stiffed by a guest would absolutely do so.

Stiff - "Where's the best place to get a slice of pizza around here?"

Doorman - "Oh... well, sir. If you're in New York City, you gotta have Ray's. I mean, it's the quintessential slice around these parts! It's just two blocks down on the right hand side. Enjoy, sir! Enjoy!"

Now you've been completely disappointed in your first NYC slice, and you're going to spend the rest of your days completely misguided, telling everyone at home that you think the pizza in New York is overrated.

I'm going to Texas for the first time in September. The first thing I'm going to do is tip my doorman something nice, and ask where his favorite BBQ joint is located. I'd advise you try this practice.

3- Letting a Guest Explain Where They're Going in a Taxi

Say I'm in the rain trying to get a taxi for your for twenty some-odd minutes, and you scamper into the car with your family without tipping or thanking me.

Instead of sharply telling the driver, "They're going to 28th and 6th", decreasing the odds of his sniffing that you're not from around these parts and taking the scenic route to the destination, I just shut the door and walk away.

Now you're stuck to tell the cabbie, "eehhhhh... 1365... ehhhh... Avenue of the Americas."

Had you given a couple of dollars to the guy who just made an effort to help you out, you wouldn't be spending an extra five on the guy who's now ripping you off.

4- Booking Shuttle Buses for More Money Than It's Worth.

This was one of the first acts of revenge I used to play out while I worked as a concierge. Since I wasn't making any money off car service commissions (or any airport transportation, for that matter), I didn't really give a fuck about how people got to the airport.

So let's say you're an asshole. You're an asshole to the front desk, you're an asshole to the doorman, and you're an asshole to the concierge.

You're an asshole who has three other people in your party and you need to get back to JFK airport:

Asshole - "Hi, I'm a fucking asshole and I need to get my family back to JFK airport. Is there a shuttle service?"

Concierge - "Why, yes there is, sir! The shuttle service we provide is $24 per person. It's a shared ride to the airport, which will pick up at several other hotels, but will take you directly to your terminal when it is your turn. Since it's a shared ride, it will pick you up 4 and a half hours before your flight to allow for delays with other passengers. That will be $96 dollars, please!"

Now let's say you're a nice person who has three other people in your party and you need to go back to JFK airport:

Nice Person- "Hi, I've treated you with dignity and I need to get my family back to JFK airport. Is there a shuttle service?

Concierge- "There is, but I don't recommend it. You see, it's called a shuttle "bus", but in reality it's a 10 pax van, which will be crammed to the brim with other smelly tourists and crying babies. They'll show up 25 minutes late, stop at at least 3 other hotels and every terminal before yours, and will put you in an absolutely wretched mood before you have to spend 5 hours on a plane. I recommend taking a yellow taxi, which is $58 plus tip, or one of our car services, which run between $70 and $95. Both of which are private and take you door to door."

Nice Person- "Wow! That's great advice, concierge! Here's five bucks! Say, can you recommend a good pizza place around here?"

Concierge- "Why, yes! Try this little hidden gem on 46th and 8th called Patzeria. You'll thank me later!"

5- Valet Vengeance 

Most people don't realize this, but there are almost always two people who will ultimately handle your car when you valet it in a garage. And I'll tell you something you've likely never heard before - it's more important to tip the guy on the way inside.

Why?

Because if you give the guy a couple of bucks on the way inside, he won't bury it. He'll keep it as close as he possibly can, so you won't have to wait long to get it out. Most parking garages have multiple levels and elevators that they have to operate, and if you take care of the guy who parks it for you, you'll get out of there that much quicker when you pick it up. What I always try and tell people who park in a garage is that you should tip $5 or $6 total. $3 to the guy parking it, then the rest to the guy picking it up.

Another important reason is that if you give him a tip, he'll be that much more careful when parking the thing. He'll think twice about dinging up the bummer or putting it in a super-tight spot with in between two Ford F-150's.

How does this apply to dealing with a hotel employee?

I'm the guy who reports to the valet on what kind of person you are. I don't particularly expect people to tip me when I'm just simply accepting the car without handling luggage. In a perfect world, I'd get $2-$5 for every time I take a vehicle, but let's not get all sillypants. If I carry all of your shit inside and you don't give me anything, I simply inform the valet that it's a stiff. He, in turn, will bury it as deeply into the garage as he can to make room for the generous people.

What also burns me, is when people smugly make requests that requires me to bend the rules, then don't take care of me.

One quick example:

In my hotel and most others, it's a flat rate for up to 24 hours of parking. Once you exceed the 24 hours, even by a minute, you get charged for the entire second day. For instance, there are times where someone will come at 4pm and tell me that they need to take it out at around 5pm the next day. I'll explain the rules in a very meticulous, obvious way, letting them know that I can hold off on calling the garage to come pick it up.

Nine times out of ten, the guest catches my drift and gives me anywhere between $5-$10 to hold off as long as they need to. That avoids the second-day charge, saving them $25-$30. I'm happy, they're happy. It's a win-win.

Then there's the one idiot who doesn't get it. The guy who looks at me like I shouldn't be breathing his air, and cockily smirks and says, "Why don't you hold off on calling it in for a couple of hours, okay chief?"

Doorman - "Yes, sir!"

He goes inside. I call immediately. Tell the garage the exact time to the minute when he pulled up. Tell the garage to bury it so he has to wait an extra 10-15 minutes longer.

Then, the next day when he has a $70 charge and has to wait 45 minutes for his car to come, he doesn't tip me anyway.

But the tip is peanuts compared to the sheer joy and entertainment I will get from listening angrily rant and rave about how life isn't fair and blah blah blah go fuck yourself.

But it all could have been avoided with a couple of bucks and a little respect.

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