The night before I leave on a two day trip, my wife asks me where I'll be staying in Fort Wayne. She knows the city because her twin sister lives there. But I can't think of the name, so I say, The Bates Motel. You know, the place where Janet Leigh gets knifed in the shower by Anthony Perkins; great movie -- little did I know what was to happen to me!
Try arriving at 11:30 PM expecting to find a van driver waiting for you as my client was promised. Find a phone, drop a quarter and reach Glenn, Night Auditor who greets you and gets your name. He then announces that my guaranteed room hotel at Don Hall's Bates Motel / Guest House has been, "given to another customer."
But, he tells me that they have booked a room for me at the Holiday Inn and that The Bates Motel driver would take me there. Once he arrived...
And not to worry, they would actually pay for the room. Never mind that other people have the famous Guest House number. Never mind that you had no way to contact the client and if they wanted to call you, they wouldn't think to call the Holiday Inn to insure your 7:30 arrival at the meeting site. The client depends on you to do what you say, why shouldn't the hotel do what you paid them to do -- guarantee a room is available.
But when you continue the discussion with Glenn, it's obvious that he doesn't see this as a problem and that he's not apologetic. In fact, he actually says (and I quote), "You're lucky to have a room tonight; there aren't many available in Fort Wayne." I say that I thought I did have one. And I ask him to define, if he would, what is meant by the word, guarantee. Interesting that he tried to shift the subject.
So, there I am in a strange city. The hotel that was arranged is no longer available. And some strange guy named Glenn says that some other guy will pick me up in a white van and take me to a Holiday Inn somewhere.
My client, SuperValue Stores' Food Marketing Division is one of the larger employers in Fort Wayne. They warehouse and distribute about a billion dollars worth of grocery items a year. They also used to book a lot of rooms at Don Hall's Guest House. Sounds inviting, huh?
And since the room was initially booked for two nights, why is the reservation he booked for me for only one? I've seen Psycho; maybe I'll only need it for one night. But the story also continues. I ask if the Holiday room could be checked for two nights availability. Glenn thinks that it makes more sense for me to come to the Bates Motel for Night Two. I indicate, in so many words, what I think of that idea. I also ask if they intend to pay for both nights.
Apparently, Glenn had the authority to sell my room and book another, but he doesn't have the authority to offer something of value to the angry customer. He says that by paying for the room, I should be appeased; I'm not. My client is paying expenses, but I am inconvenienced. They are doing nothing for me.
On arrival at the Holiday Inn, I call Glenn, confirm my 2 nights' stay and ask that he have Bud Hall, son of the founder of the hotel, leave a contact number since I would like to talk with him personally the next day -- not an unreasonable request, one would think.
Arriving back at the hotel, I didn't really expect to have a number for Mr. Bud. Something about the whole contact didn't give me that strong positive feeling. So I call again and get Gladys, the Manager. She's nice. And she's gotten some information about the problem. And I'm her worst nightmare because, at this time, there is little she an do for me. I don't want much, only to vent my complaint. She agrees to pay for the second night. I share this with the client (remember it's their money we're playing with!) and she mentions the new Courtyard and Fairfield Inns that have been built nearby -- and that given all the rooms they purchase a year, that they might also save some money. Interesting.
So, I check out the following morning. The same night clerk on check-in is at the desk. So, when I ask if he received a call from the Bates Motel (sorry, Don Hall's Guest House), he says no and that they didn't authorize a second night. So he calls Don Hall's and guess who answers? Glenn.
So the call goes like this:
"Yeah, Glenn, this is the Holiday Inn and I'm calling for Dr. Simmerman. ( ) Yes, Dr. Simmerman says he spoke with Gladys yesterday and that she agreed to pay for his second night also. ( ). And what about his incidental expenses ( ). Well, there were four phone calls to your hotel to complain!
( ). And there was one dinner. ( ) $13.61. ( ). Okay, will you FAX us a letter of approval? Dr. Simmerman is standing here now prepared to leave. Thanks."
Now I couldn't hear what was said, but I thought the response about my four phone calls to complain was a cute one; my deskman said it with a grin on his face.
Anyway, at no point did the Bates Motel ever seem to get it together. They would have billed me for the guarantee if I didn't show up but sure couldn't do the simple, like book me for two nights on a two night reservation or confirm the financial arrangements they agreed to with the hotel. They didn't communicate well internally and failed to followup as promised at the end.
My best guess, given my 8 years of consulting on issues of service quality and competitiveness is that it's the beginning of the end for Bates' Guest House. Competition from national chains is tough to compete with. They depend on customer loyalty, but my guess is that they will either accept a lower rate or lose SuperValue's business to another property. These days, you compete on service or you sell out. This one person's experience says, repeatedly, that they don't get it. The good news for Bud Hall is that he's a player in the restaurant business, for now.
Thanks for listening. These are the major details. There were a lot of other little screwups that didn't get included. Hope Bud Hall is embarrassed and that they will try harder to do what is expected, guarantee a guarantee and meet their commitments to customers -- I would if my father's name were on the building!
Mr. Don Hall, II
Hall's Drive Inns, Inc.
216 US Highway 30 West
New Haven, IN 46774
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