Monday, 25 June 2018

Hotel life,

Having spent just over a week in a hotel I feel moved to comment on staff.

We cannot fault the maintenance staff who came put quickly and sorted out our bedroom safe which had blocked itself. And then it turned out that we had put stuff in the safe in such a way that it prevented the spring mechanism on the door! Similarly there was the other branch of maintenance who came promptly when our toilet cistern sprang a very small leak. After some harrumphing that our room had a new installation that he could not get into without taking the thing apart. The older installations, he told me, had a space behind them to allow easy access. As it was he was able to assure me that the leaking water was clean water going into the cistern not rather disgusting stuff waiting to be flushed away. Which is just as well as he could not fix it.

Later in the day reception rang to offer us a change of room so that they could call a plumber. However, as we were leaving next day, we opted to stay in the room and put up with a tiny leak, which fortunately was not going anywhere else.

The ladies who cleaned the rooms deserve medals for patience, especially dealing with the likes of us. We would go down to breakfast, unwilling to put our stuff away so they could sort the room, leaving the do-not-disturb notice on the door. Then we would return to the room and maybe go out for a walk, leaving the do-the-room notice but coming back too quickly. Then Phil would settle down to do some chess preparation and the do-not-disturb notice would go back up.they quickly got used to asking when it would suit to do our room and, failing that, just ask if we needed anything. Such tolerance and patience and always with a smile.

The waiters were the best by far, of course. One of the senior waiters in the dining room was a positively unctuous gentleman, with a very dodgy moustache. He liked to show off his proficiency in a range of languages. At the other end of the experience scale was the very young waiter with the startled eyebrows. He looked little more than sixteen and had eyebrows that went at a 45 degree angle from the edge of his face to the middle. Permanently timid, he seemed half afraid of explaining the day’s menu to us. Unafraid and very chatty was the older waiter who liked to check on the progress of the chess competition. When the chess players were not around he enjoyed joking with us wives that we were undoubtedly having a better time than our menfolk.

Then there was Mr Impatient. The waiters at lunchtime always informed us what the choice of courses were at lunchtime. Mr Impatient rattled them through quickly and grew visibly grumpy if we asked for further clarification. He was equally grumpy when I ordered coffee before the chess matches: a café cortado with cold milk and then two white coffees in the thermos flask. Not really a complicated order!

I ordered a sparkling mineral water from him late one afternoon. As he served it I noticed that nobody seemed to be receiving the usual pots of nuts or crisps or olives that usually accompany drinks at that time of day. Some five or ten minutes later I saw him with a tray of little pots, going round from table to table, delivering them to the beer drinkers. Eventually he had one pot left on his tray. He looked around the room. His glance kind of slid over me. And he returned to the bar with the pot still on his tray. I felt truly discriminated against.

Much better to order stuff from his companion, a round faced black man (Can I say that. Do I have to call him a waiter of colour?) who always twinkled. Also friendly but maybe somewhere on the autistic spectrum was the nervous waiter who repeated the order several times over and sometimes took ages delivering the goods. I overheard one hotel guest refer to him as “un desastre de hombre”, which I thought was rather harsh.

You could get used to living in a hotel like that, where all the staff greet you in a friendly fashion: reception staff, gardeners, cleaners, whoever. Yes, of course it’s down to training to a large extent. That hotel obviously has a very good customer service training programme. And it works.

But it doesn’t totally explain the friendly greeting from the ones who clearly recognise you from last year and the year before. And that includes some of the top management people.

Well done, that hotel staff!

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