I Swear, I Will Sell Your Child to Carnies

AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!

(Ok, I feel a little better now that I got that out of my system.)

I appears that we’re due for another installment of our “Adventures in Hospitality” series, prompted by today’s events at my hotel.

Traveling with Groups of Children

-or-

Heck, I’ll Give ‘Em to the Carnies if it Gets Them Out of My Lobby

Don’t get me wrong, I do like children.  Most children.  I even like the age that nobody else does — the middle-schooler.  But any veteran of the public school wars will tell you that children are at their best when their parents have taught them basic manners and how to use their indoor voices.

We never get these kids.  Instead, we get the kids whose parents seem to think it’s all right to get them hopped up on Gatorade (or, heaven forbid, Mountain Dew) and turn them loose to roam the building, running sprints on my stairways (which, sadly, seems to do the opposite of tiring them out), knocking on random doors in the middle of the night, trying any number of imaginative ways to get into my business center, fitness center, and pool unaccompanied by an adult, doing the Ickey Shuffle or Riverdancing or dropping bowling balls in their rooms, and holding luggage cart races in my parking lot.  And, when confronted with the misdeeds of their Precious Darlings, the parents, squinting at us through beer goggles or the fog of hangover (depending on the time of day), can nearly always be counted on to take one or more of the following positions: 1) “My child would never do that,” 2) “Isn’t it your JOB to keep the hallways quiet — I mean, that’s what I pay you for,” 3) “Well, it’s stupid that you won’t let him [insert misdeed here] — that’s a dumb policy,” 4) “Well, they’re just kids,” 5) “Other people are too sensitive,” and/or the kicker, 6) “It’s not my fault you don’t have anything for them to do here.”

But they won’t actually do anything about it.

Well, that’s not true.  They’ll fly all over me like brown on rice when I kick their 11 of their monsters out of the computer room, or use my best former-middle-school-teacher-death-ray-stare-and-slightly-raised-voice to advise their future jailbirds that there will be dire consequences if they continue to practice penalty kicks in the vending area, or if I (gasp) require “please” and “thank you” before turning over any item requested at the front desk (seriously, people, do you not have toothbrushes?), because how dare I try to raise their child for them?  The only thing I can do at this point is to explain my position — that it is not my intention to embarrass them (the parents or the kids), and I am truly sorry if I have done so, but I am responsible for ensuring the comfort of all the guests in my hotel, whether or not they are participating in the same event as your group, and when anything occurs to disrupt that comfort, it is my job to identify the source of that disruption and stop it, involving parents and/or coaches if necessary (and, on one memorable occasion, a scare visit by a sympathetic police officer).  As well, unattended children running around a hotel are a huuuuuge safety risk — the days of blithely trusting our neighbors are long gone, and nobody, not even me, knows what type of person is staying in the room next door.  I don’t even want to think of what would happen if little Dakota was snatched up by a pedophile simply because he was unattended and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I also don’t even want to think of what would happen if little Dakota looks me square in the sternum and tells me one more time that I can’t tell him what to do, because there’s always carnies staying at the no-tell down the street, and I’m pretty sure I can convince them that they’re looking for miniature ride operators or weight guessers.  I’m persuasive like that.

So, please, parents of the world, especially sports parents of the world, teach your children well/their hotel manager’s hell/will slowly go by . . .

Signed,

The Woman Behind the Desk with 2 Hours and 14 Minutes to Go

How to Make a Hotel Reservation

Since I’ve talked to about 416000 people today who seem to need a primer in reservation-making, I’ve decided to make a handy-dandy checklist!

Dates – Decide what dates you will be visiting.  This is the first question we will ask you, and it’s a waste of time if you call us and don’t know.  Even if you are coming to the McGillicuddy/Jingleheimer-Schmidt wedding, you still need to tell us when you are staying.

History – Have you stayed with us before?  In many cases, we can speed up your reservation considerably if we look up your history and see what type of room you most often stay in, and if you qualify for any discounts.

Occupants – Know the size of your party, and be honest with us about it.  It’s a violation of fire laws to stuff 27 people in a room with one bed.  Besides, if the building (heaven forbid) does get blown over in a tornado, we kinda need to know how many people we need to include in our head count.  Also, when we’re planning schedules and supply orders, we need to know how many people (and how many adults vs. kids) we’ll be feeding and cleaning up after.

Room Types – Please have a vague idea of what type of room you’ll need — I’m not saying you need to be familiar with the 13 (true story) different types of rooms I have to offer, but you should know if you’ll need one bed or two, smoking or non, a kitchenette, or a pet-friendly or ADA-accessible room.  Please convey this to the reservationist at the beginning of your conversation.

  • Please do not flip out when I do not have what you need, either because it doesn’t exist on our property or someone else beat you to it.  Simply say something like, ” Oh, I’m sorry to hear that — do you have any recommendations that might work for me?”  Also, it will curry no favor with us if your response to “I’m sorry, but we are fully booked for that date” is a snottily-delivered “Well, I can’t believe you’re sold out — I mean, nothing ever happens in that rinky-dink town.”  Those of us who choose to live here do not consider it rinky-dink (and are insulted by the charge), and chances are, if you have a reason to come here and stay, others do, too.
  • If you wanted a non-smoking room, but all we have available are smoking rooms, this is not the time to treat the desk agent to a diatribe about how smoking is a vile, dirty habit and should be outlawed in all indoor spaces, even private property, and how you just don’t understand why we don’t make all of our rooms smoke-free, and on and on and on.  This only makes me want to take up smoking, and it will not actually gain you anything.  We keep a limited number of smoking rooms for our guests who, you know, smoke.  Smokers travel, too.  Just let us advise you of your options, and if none of those work for you, simply say “no, thank you,” and go on about your business.

Rates – If you are part of a group or corporation that has a special rate with us, or a member of an organization that typically gets you a hotel discount (AAA/CAA, AARP, Sam’s Club, active duty or retired military, etc), please tell us.  We are not mind readers, and it only wastes time if we quote a rate and you then say “but is that the Senior rate?”

  • On a slight tangent, please understand that being a school secretary does not qualify you for the state government rate, unless you are traveling on state government business and some entity connected to the state government is paying for your room.
  • If you find a cheaper competing rate online, make sure you are honestly entering the same dates, rates, and occupancy you have just told us, and also be prepared to give us the exact site information so that we can verify it — if we can’t verify it, we can’t beat it.  And, if you choose to book online through any site other than the hotel-specific brand website, understand that there could be serious restrictions on that booking — often, you do not get to choose the type of room you’re booking, you have no flexibility in dates, and you have no ability to cancel the reservation without penalty.  In addition, if you had called us and asked, I can give you a 99% guarantee we would have beaten that rate, because when you book with one of those third party sites (which shall remain nameless but are often represented by William Shatner, a garden gnome, or claymation office workers), we only get about 50-60% of what you pay them, and then, out of what we do get, we have to turn around and pay commission fees to them and booking fees to the distribution channel.  Half the time, we might as well have paid you to stay here.
  • Remember that, within reason, unless we are dealing with a special event or other sold-out time, rates are usually negotiable.  If the quoted rate does not work for you, don’t be afraid to ask if there are any specials or if a different type of room may be more economical.  Ask politely!  Saying something like “Good God, is that the best you can do?” will not get you anything other than a standard 10% discount (if it gets you anything at all), whereas if you had asked politely, you might find out that we’re willing to compromise if you are (for instance, if you’re trying to book a single room, and I only have a few of them to sell, but I have lots of double rooms to sell, we would be willing to offer a steeper discount on the double room because we have more of them).

Special Requests – If you have severe allergies or sensitivities, please let us know ahead of time so we can appropriately plan your room — if you don’t tell us, you might wind up in a pet room on a floor with smoking rooms, and, depending on how busy we are, we may not be able to rectify that.  The same goes for requests for ground floor, or rooms near an entrance, or if you’re traveling with Betty Jo and cannot bear to be farther away than next door to her, even for the time you’re asleep in bed.  Tell us in advance!

Contact Information – Yes, I really do need your address and phone number.  I promise, I won’t sell it to anyone, or keep it for personal use.  But there are times when I may need to contact you prior to your arrival (for instance, we once had to take a couple of our rooms out of commission for a couple of weeks during a very busy summer season due to a small flood, and we needed to contact the guests who were booked to those rooms to see what types of suites we could offer them as a complimentary upgrade).  No phone number = no upgrade.  Or, if we were to be (again, heaven forbid) blown over by a tornado, we would need to contact those guests expecting to come here and stay to tell them that was no longer an option.

Guarantee Method – Yes, we do require a valid credit or debit card to make a reservation.  We won’t charge it ahead of time.  It’s to protect us from the people who make reservations, don’t show up, and never cancel them.  Again, we won’t sell it or keep it for personal use.

  • On a side note, please understand that if you do not cancel your reservation within the stated cancellation period, and never show up, your card will be charged one night’s room and tax.  This is called a no-show charge.  You can try to dispute the charge with your bank, but in the five years I’ve been in management, I’ve never had a case in which the bank sided with the customer regarding no-show charges.

Recap – At the end of your reservation, we will recap the pertinent details (dates, rate, roomtype, special requests, etc.).  We will also tell you the cancellation policy and the check-in time.  Please pay attention, so that if either one of us made any mistakes, they can be corrected on the spot.  Then, and only then, will you be offered your confirmation number (we will also offer to email it to you).

    • Please keep your confirmation number — we’re very good at our jobs, and 99% of the time, you won’t actually need it, but you are dealing with real human people who may occasionally spell something wrong, or transpose your first and last name.  You are also dealing with a computer-based reservation system that can glitch at any time.  At those times, we will all be very glad you kept your confirmation number.

Side notes that don’t get their own section-

  • Don’t be afraid to ask if you need something specific!  (The key word here is “ask,” not “demand.”)
  • You would be amazed how far simple good manners will take you.
  • Plan ahead!  You knew several months ago that your second cousin was getting married, or your nephew was graduating college: please don’t wait until the week before the event to make your reservation, or you’re not likely to get what you want.
  • Please don’t interrupt — answer our questions in the order in which they’re asked.  Please don’t ask for your confirmation number after giving us your last name and no other information.  Please don’t jump in the second we answer the phone and give us an overload of information we can’t process that quickly.  If you let us do our thing, your call will be over so much faster.
  • Please, please, if you’re asking for directions, tell us what direction you’ll be coming from, because we may give you different directions depending on the starting point.  Keep in mind, though, that we are not mapquest — we’re not responsible from getting you from your house to our hotel, just from the highway to our hotel.
  • During the reservation process, we may ask you what brings you to our area.  We’re not being nosy, we just understand that a lot of people either don’t consider the fact that rates for groups or events or certain corporations may differ from our standard rates, or they expect us to read their minds.  We’re just trying to make sure you get what you need.  Also, if you’re just passing through on a date that we’re going to have thousands of youth soccer players here, we want you to be forewarned.
  • If your group was given a deadline by which to book your rooms, and you call after that date, understand that we may or may not have the type of room you need, at the rate the group was quoted.  There’s a reason it’s called a “booking deadline” or a “cutoff date”.
  • And, most importantly of all, remember your manners!

Despite the relative snarkiness of this post, I really do look forward to having you here.  I’m just trying to make the process of getting you here a little easier on everyone.