Lottery Balls & In-Room Dining
Cars & Bars is a storytelling series compiling specific moments, mundane and exotic, from my work as a valet and bartender.
To re-phrase the great American novelist Mark Twain: those reports detailing the death of Customer Service have been greatly exaggerated.
Take, for instance, and I'm speaking proudly here, my attempt to help those pitiable hotel guests who have experienced a considerable amount of confusion or expectation-loss during their stay with us. Not to mention, those guests who are—sadly; it's true—just plain confused or really, really lost.
As a Valet Attendant, yes, I am aware that my primary focus should remain on that first-impression and last-impression exchange between the hotel, the arriving or departing guest, and his or her automobile. Tip or no tip, parking and retrieving cars in an organized, efficient, cheerful, drug-free and (for the most part) scratch-free way is hard enough.
But, the truth is, I cannot suppress this primal urge to help the human species evolve.
Like winter, the Customer Service situation has turned exceptionally bleak. Everyone in the hospitality industry must do his or her part to slow this descent into a veritable service-economy hell—where in-room dining orders go unfulfilled (without explanation); where coats get left behind by Minnesotans, who then feel extremely cold in Minnesota without their coats; where genuinely nice people, including bartenders, keep mistaking white wine varieties.
Recently, I emailed one such guest who took the time to express his confusion and/or expectation-loss via Medallia.
Several nights ago, Douglas Stephens [not his real name] commented in Medallia:
I ordered In Room Breakfast by hanging the request on my door. It never arrived nor did I get a call for clarification. I do not recall placing a time on the request, but all other info was included.
Dear Mr. Stephens,
I hope San Francisco is treating you well. Thanks for visiting our fair city.
As you may know, Customer Service is truly on the brink. But do not be alarmed: it is not entirely dead; it is—to channel that zany 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail—only "mostly dead." (By the way, if you do anything else today, you must watch this hilarious clip; after you read this letter, of course.)
You also may know that unless it includes yogurt or cantaloupe, breakfast is always best served hot. Even with barely above-average intentions, it is extremely difficult to serve up a hot breakfast when a specific date or time is not included on the request. Please understand that we needed to prioritize guests that did not forget to indicate an actual date or time. The reason for this is most likely obvious to 99% of the world's hotel-visiting population.
Notwithstanding, I wanted to assure you that your breakfast is indeed coming. We mean it when we say: we cannot wait to serve you.
In these instances it is our unique policy to leave unspecified date/time requests to the vagaries of chance. And as fate would have it, one of the Assistant Managers on the Food & Beverage team has a homemade lottery-ball machine. Each lottery ball has a random future date printed on it, and each date corresponds to an F & B staff-person's favorite futuristic film. (F & B continually score the highest—way higher than, say, housekeeping or maintenance or even the sales team—when it comes to creative problem-solving.)
Good news: the lottery drawing pertaining to your unfulfilled In-Room Dining request occurred this week. In an effort to coordinate your hotel stay with us, we wanted to inform you that you can expect a delicious, full-course, chef-inspired breakfast on the following date: June 21, 2029. This particular date corresponds to one of Ronnie's favorite futuristic films: The Terminator, featuring the former governor of your state.
Although Ronnie may or may not be alive to enjoy this breakfast with you, and although it may seem like a ridiculously long time to wait, you can count your lucky stars that Milton's lottery ball wasn't chosen: December 2, 2263. This date corresponds to the wildly imaginative setting of The Fifth Element, starring Bruce Willis. (Milton says he mostly likes the film for the Ukrainian-American actress who appears, pure and unclothed, as the would-be savior of the world! Milton is honest like that.)
Anyway, upon your next visit, we can print out your In-Room Dining voucher. You might want to keep it in a place you'll remember in 13 years' time.
All the best,
The Guest Services Team