Readers React to "Confessions Of... A Front-Desk Clerk"

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We've gotten some passionate letters in reaction to our recent article, Confessions Of...A Front-Desk Clerk. Here's a sampling:

I was appalled by Anne Szeker's "Confessions of a Front-Desk Clerk" (November 2006). She says, "The folks who reserve through discount sites are at the bottom of the food chain" because "the hotel barely makes a profit on the booking." Nobody is forcing any hotel to participate in third-party booking sites, such as Expedia and Priceline. But if a property does choose to release rooms to those sites, it has a responsibility to treat all guests equally. What Ms. Szeker is really advocating is a two-tier system: The guests who have lots of money get treated like royalty, and everyone else gets the shaft. Did it ever occur to Ms. Szeker that some people simply can't afford the outrageous prices charged by most hotels? In my experience, $200 a night buys a room with stained carpet, ugly furniture, paper-thin towels, scratchy bed linens and one-ply toilet paper. Guests are nickel-and-dimed for everything, including Internet access fees and "resort fees" for services they don't use. Perhaps if hotels offered better value for the money, their guests wouldn't have to use the discount sites. --Regina Klapper, Santa Fe, N.M.

I enjoy your magazine, and particularly the insider tips from employees within the travel and leisure industry in your "Confessions Of" piece. However, I take issue with the comments of the hotel front desk clerk in your December/January issue. Across our society we suffer from a decline in civility from those whom we seek service. From sullenness at fast food joints to unfriendly store clerks, bad attitudes and bad service are far too common. The writer's attitude speaks volumes as to the cause. She seems to be implying that in order to get consistently good service, the customer must treat her well. It is the "me first" attitude that has become all too typical of service industry employees. I am assuming the hotel she worked at was upscale, and not the standard budget or economy roadside establishment. If that is the case, I do hope that she is atypical of the employees and management there. Good retail businesses know that rule number one is "the customer is always right." Rule number two is, "when the customer is wrong, refer to rule number one." Repeat business results from the experiences one has with the establishment. I have traveled frequently all over the world, and I can tell you that if you want me to continue to spend my money with you, treat me kindly, even when I am wrong! --David E. Chesebrough, Woodbridge, Va.

I was absolutely stunned and shocked at what Anne Szeker said in her article, "Confessions of .....A Front Desk Clerk" in the Dec 06-Jan 07 issue. Specifically about the comments concerning third party reservations (Expedia, Priceline...)! "Hotel Managers can't stand it when guests reserve room through Expedia, etc.....because the hotel barely makes a profit on the booking." And, "The folks who reserve through discount sites are at the bottom of the food chain." Is this commonly known? Am I the only one who doesn't know it? I have never heard this or even imagined it! If they don't make a profit, why do hotels participate in it? We're told they want to fill rooms and often discount them to do that, so we figure we're all happy. Do they not have a choice if they want to compete in the market? I've only booked through the Internet a few times, and had no problem, but I will hesitate to do so in the future. If this gets out, where will Travelocity, Expedia, et al, be?? Are there any other desk clerks out there to verify that this is indeed true, even if, of course, the hotels themselves would never admit it? --Susan Paradis, Machias, Maine

I was disgusted after reading the article "Confessions of a Front Desk Clerk. I dont know if I will EVER trust a hotel clerk again. What ever happened to Star Quality Customer Service? Surely this is not the standard? Did this person work at a flea bag? Hopefully at the hotels we all frequent we dont have to expect this back stabbing, inappropriate view of the customer who by the way, pays thier salary by staying there. The customer is ALWAYS right, no matter how difficult they may be. --J McGraw, Merced, Calif.

I grew up in a famous resort called Grossinger's in New York's Catskill mountains. The author of "Confessions of a Front Desk Clerk" got it all wrong. It was not the responsibility of the guest to make her shift pleasant, it was her responsibility as an employee of the hotel to make the guest's stay pleasant! --Tania Grossinger, New York, N.Y.

Once again you surprise me by printing a article that is so one sided and makes traveling look distasteful to people. Not all hotels use such horrid practices. The ones that routinely over book the hotel to compensate for No-show reservations are probably more likely to have these inexcusable attitudes. You would be better off running articles about cancelling unneeded reservations and verifying their reservations regularly. An article on what a request really is and what checking out means, would be extremely useful to everyone. These articles would save the hotels and guests a lot of money.

I work at a Hampton Inn and at no time have we ever treated a guest so poorly. Whether you book through us or a third party makes no difference to us. You are guaranteed to get the room type you book. You are guaranteed at my hotel to receive great service no matter what. Whether your having a bad day or made a mistake on booking your reservation on line.

As for the rates, through Hampton you are guaranteed the best available rate no matter how you book your room. We do accept AAA and AARP but a guest does need to request the discount. If a hotel knows the competition and the area they are located in there is no reason to give discounts to any one who does not have either AAA or AARP because they are going to already be quoted a fair and reasonable rate for the hotel.

We have found that booking through the hotel directly is more accurate than booking online or through an 800 number. At the hotel we know our hotel, the room set ups, amenities, availability and policies. It is much more informative to a potential guest because we can answer all questions accurately. The 800 number does not know that our hotel does not have a room with 2 queen beds and a pullout, BUT we know that!

We do deal with alot of problem issues. Everyone at Hampton Inn has the ability to invoke the 100% guarantee for a guest. They don't have to wait for a manager to make the decision. Yes we have people who treat the staff poorly, but we do not return the poor behavior. Any place that pratices that type of attitude has no business working in the customer service field. I am a Front Desk Manager at my hotel and have been working extensively on training my staff to handle difficult issues with finess and a smile. If a guest invokes the 100 % guarantee, whether we feel they are pulling one over on us or not, we do it happily and with a smile. In all honesty I feel it not only makes the guest return but turns them into a loyal guest less likely to invoke the guarantee over minor issues.

In the customer service field attitude really is everything. On a daily basis my staff helps guests with various deliveries, helping with luggage or what ever the case may be. It is pretty tough to get the staff to even accept a dollar tip for the extra help. We do it because we enjoy our jobs, our guests and more than anything making someone else smile.

We do discuss guest issues frequently at the desk. Our answer to an irate guest? How about a a note under the door or a phone call letting the guest know they can order a complimentary movie on the tv and drop off a bag of microwave popcorn. See how easy it is to turn an unhappy customer into a satisfied loyal guest. You should see what we do when our favorite frequent stayers come stay with us! Come visit us and see what a hotel stay should really be like.

Making everyone's day a little brighter, Janet Shatto, Front Desk Manager

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