Sunday, April 25, 2010

Chapter 2 - Man Your Stations!

For most people, staying at a hotel is a symbol of the "better things in life", especially when you're on vacation. Knowing that you have somewhere to rest your head when the sun goes down is something that many people take for granted. (pause) Wait, what? Being able to partake of the wonderousness (is that a word?) of spending the night in a nice, upscale hotel or motel is one of those things that people don't get to do very often but do it as often as they can. At times, unfortunately, things can happen during your stay and things can outright go completely wrong. Here are a few words of advice if something should, (knock on wood), go wrong.

Be calm. Things happen. Even the most perfect of planned getaways get snagged with a few problems here and there and the key is to keep your cool and know how to handle the situation. And I'm referring to after you have checked in. A) Know that the personnel down at the front desk are trained to do their jobs (and do them well, I pray) and can handle any situation that may occur during your stay. There are things that can go awry, from the air conditioning or plumbing, to the television and pay-per-view (if the hotel you are staying provides it). The Key to leaving the hotel content even when something goes wrong is to let someone know right away! The hotel desk clerks, and management, and engineering, and housekeeping are all there to make your stay more comfortable. They are there to help, but we won't know if something is wrong unless you tell us. A/C not working? Call the desk at the first sign of problem so it can be handled right away. Your TV missing channels or not operating properly? Let someone know so the television can be looked at. If all else fails, the desk may offer to move you to another room. The mission is for you to get the most out of your stay.

People in the next room making way too much noise on a Saturday night at 2 AM? The desk won't know unless you let them know. And we can't take care of the problem unless we know what's going on. Remember, we're at the desk and aren't always one hundred percent aware of what may be going on within the property. Many people that I've spoken to over the years who have had complaints such as this always say the same thing, "I didn't want to bother anyone." Yet, you're telling me that someone was bothering you all night? The desk is there to help you in any way they can. Believe me, being a night auditor for so long, I jump at the chance to knock on someone's door and tell them to drink a nice hot cup of shut the hell up - especially late at night. Yes, they are paying for a room, as well. But one thing people seem to overlook: People come to a hotel to sleep. Well, that's the number two reason. But seriously, if people within the hotel near you are not letting you sleep, have someone come and shut them up for you. Usually, [noise violators] are given two warnings and then escorted off the property if they continue. If they must be escorted out by police, then it will be done. My rule of thumb as a red-boned auditor is that everyone who pays for a room can do what they want behind the privacy of their closed front door. But once those people start bothering my other guests, then I must take issue. And know that most auditors would share that opinion with me.

One thing that I do advise, and I'll say it over and over again: If you're experiencing a problem your best bet is to let the desk know right away so something can be done about it. I spoke to an older couple the other morning as I checked them out and when I asked how everything was in their room, they immediately began to make a list of all the problem that were abound in the hotel. I stood there and listened to them talking about the air conditioning not working properly, that the shower head had unsatisfactory water pressure and that there were only two towels in their room for the entire length of their stay. While I do sympathize with what they went through - and after apologizing for it - I did pose this question to them: Why didn't you let us know right away? We could have sent someone to check on the A/C, fix the shower head, and happily sent up more towels for you. The stood there aghast as they couldn't think of any reason why they hadn't. Looking at it from a realistic point of view, could I really do anything for them at this point? What's the use of letting me know now that you are checking out? Especially during the day when you not only have desk clerks on duty, but you have management, engineering and housekeeping that all could have helped out to make your stay a better one.

And if there was a problem with your room, please don't call several days later after you have checked out to inform a supervisor that your stay was unsatisfactory. Especially when the problem(s) could have been fixed when you were our guest. There is not much the hotel can do for you (if anything at all) once you've checked out - especially days after having done so. And if you are one of those types of people that "hate to be a bother", let me remind of you of two things: 1) You are probably paying good money to stay where you are staying. and 2) That's why the staff is there. If you don't take advantage of a helpful crew who is willing to go to lengths to make your stay comfortable, then you're pretty much on your own.

Chapter 1 - The Check In!

Welcome to my little hotel blog, a small collection of notes to live by if you're venturing out into the world of hotel-staying, which for me, is one of my favorite things. Sorry for the Martha Stewart reference. I've been in the industry for ten years now (May 20 will be my anniversary). I am a master and guru of the night audit and just recently I've stepped up to the glamorous world of the AM and PM shift(s).

Let's cut to the chase, shall we?

I believe my first posting will be about the common hotel procedure known to all as the check-in. As easy as it sounds, it can sometimes prove to be difficult, as many people aren't aware of what's behind the actual process of checking in. For one thing, I advise anyone who is making any sort of reservation at any property to take the extra time and ask the person on the other end of the telephone what their specific check-in policies and times are. Some hotels have check-in times of 3 PM (which is commonplace in the industry) while others have a more lenient time of 2 PM. I've seen countless cases of people who have reservations at a particular location who attempt to want to check-in as early as 10 AM.

Let me explain how this actually works. For starters, there is an actual reason behind those posted check-in and check-out times around the front desk area. The reason for hotels checking you in at that time of the afternoon is for one reason only: to allow housekeeping enough time to have rooms cleaned and prepared. That's it. There will be instances where the hotel you are staying at is recovering from a sold-out night, something that isn't uncommon - especially on weekends or periods where there may be a special event or events held in the area. When this particular sell-out night occurs (or if the hotel comes close), the hotel needs to be allowed time to have rooms cleaned, made up, and re-entered into their systems to be given out later on that day.

Housekeeping usually begins their day around the same time common office personnel would: 8 AM. On weekends, that may be 9 AM. With check-in being at 2 or 3 PM, this only gives a handful of employees six hours or so to not only clean rooms that are checking out that day, but clean what are known as "stay overs" (which is pretty much self-explanatory). Sure, people are checking out but remember that people are still staying there, as well. If a particular night you are wanting to stay isn't all that busy, the hotel will extend you the courtesy of allowing you to check in as early as possible. But, let me expand on that last sentence. Please note that this is a "courtesy" - meaning that the hotel does not, in any way shape of form, have to allow you to check in early. Keeping that in mind, if you arrive at your point of rest and the desk kindly informs you that they have nothing available yet to check you into, or, if they go as far as to actually tell you, "we cannot check you in until 2 (or 3) PM", I ask that you do not give the desk a hard time. As I previously stated, there is a reason why they are not allowing you to check in. If the desk personnel go as far as to inform you that they sold out the night before, be assured that you are not being lied to. Trust me, for a property to tell you that they sold every room the night before, they did. It's not one of those excuses or reasons that management throws around lightly.

Another factor that most people don't realize (or are even aware of) is that not everyone who is checking out checks out all at one or at the same time. Some people check out at 9 or 10 AM, some wait until the very last second. Others check out as early as 5AM while others get what's known as a "late check out" (whose rules vary from brand to brand) and do not leave until 12 or 1PM. Take into consideration that housekeeping does have to honor these requests and if a whole floor decides to inform the desk that they are checking out at 1 PM, think about the hard-working housekeepers who not only have to clean all those rooms, but will be pressed for time in doing so.

If you do approach the desk before check-in time and you are asked to wait, please to not get upset nor decide to give the front desk personnel a hard time. This will get you absolutely nowhere. This morning while I was on AM duty, I had a gentleman in full-out biker regalia walk into the hotel at just after noon to check into his room. We'd sold out last night and housekeeping had not been down to report their vacant and clean rooms so I had nothing to give anyone as of yet. When I kindly informed this gentleman that we had sold out the night before and that we didn't have anything to give him at the moment, he proceeded to literally flip out, raise his voice at me, and talk down to me like I was some elementary school child. I did apologize for not having anything ready yet (which technically, I didn't have to) and asked that if he could wait just a few minutes, I could check with housekeeping to see if anything was, in fact, available. That apparently made things worse. Needless to say that he became so upset and dissatisfied with my answer(s) that he cancelled his reservation and stormed out of the hotel lobby - all because he couldn't wait just a few minutes. I didn't say that I was not going to check him in, but I stated that I didn't have anything at moment to check him in to. If I would have had my list of vacant and clean rooms at hand, I can assure you that he would have been accommodated right away. Which, conversely, there were rooms available at the time, but for his lack of patience and couth, mind you, he decided to take his business elsewhere.

The point of the story? Simple. If a hotel has rooms ready by the time you come in, there is a more than certain chance that you will be allowed to enjoy your room earlier than the standard check-in time. Being a jerk to the desk won't help your cause any. Trying to argue with them won't make things better, either. Demanding to talk to a supervisor or manager isn't going to change anything as they will tell you what you've already been told. Believe me when I say that whichever brand you've decided to stay at is more than grateful for your business. But, they have to have the rooms on hand and ready to do such. What's the rush, anyway? Go have some lunch, see a movie, see the sights! By the time you're ready to come back, your room will be ready and waiting for you and thus, your mini getaway will begin on a happy, and more importantly, a relaxing note.