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March 07, 2005

Empty Buckets

We took a four-day weekend trip to the south, and booked a room at an inn I had stayed in five years ago. We got up at 4 am on the day we left to make our flight and arrived at the inn at 12:30 in the afternoon.

We weren't greeted, but came face to face with a woman in a vest at the front desk, whom I thought belligerently challenged us as to our purpose in standing there. When we said we were checking in and gave our names, she promptly laid out the rules: "you can leave your baggage here and come back at 3 pm … your room is probably not ready yet and check-in time is 3 pm." This, while ripping sheets of paper off her printer and shoving them at us to sign, and taking our credit card for a room costing $179.00 a night, but with tax and license, $220.

I asked if she couldn't check to see if our room is ready, that we had gotten up at 4 am, and 3 pm was another two and a half hours away. "Well, ma'am, check-in time is technically 3 pm." I told her I knew this because she has told me twice, but couldn't she check. Again, "check-in time is 3 pm." "That's three times," I said. She asked if I would like to see the manager. "Yes."

The manager was a seemingly nice man. When I asked him if there were a way to check if our room was ready, that we had gotten up at 4 am, he said "Well, ma'am, our check-in time is 3 pm. "That's four times," I said, "I know because it has been said to me four times." "Yes, well, I'm just trying to tell you that our rooms are being cleaned now and check in time is 3." "That's five," I said.

The nice man then said, "I'm trying to have a conversation with you." So I listened. He repeated that check-in time is 3 pm, (that's six, I thought to myself) but that he would find out if our room was ready. He left the front desk, came back, and handed us our keys. Our room was ready.

Later in the afternoon, my husband took a nap and I read the "Room 208 guest journal" on an end table in the room. In January, one entry was "the woman at the front desk doesn't make you feel very welcome." In February, there were three entries about the lack of hot water (one entry tried to tell the next guest that you have to let the water run in the sink for twenty minutes and then you will get hot water in the shower). There was one more entry about the front desk not being very concerned about the lack of hot water.

My husband woke up from his nap, ran the water, and thinking it would warm up, climbed in to a cool shower. When he came out, his mild manner turned to irritation as he laced up his shoes to go visit the front desk. I showed him the room journal and accompanied him down the stairs to the manager. The manager's first response was "this is an old building and you have to run the water." I invited him to see the journal and the look on his face told me he wasn't aware there was one. It was only then he decided to call a plumber. After dinner, we had hot water.

I went back to work today, and had an exchange with a "customer service" rep of one of my suppliers. The first words out of his mouth were The Rules, first, off-the-cuff, and then actually read to me. No effort to solve the problem. After I told him I felt duly spanked, I thanked him and hung up.

Coincidentally, I read an article today in our local paper from a couple of days ago. It covered a study about how much negativity costs the U.S. economy ($300 billion a year). The formula, developed by a psychologist, is that everyone has a bucket which is either filled with positive exchanges or emptied with negative exchanges. "When the bucket is full, we feel cheerful and spread the positive energy to others. When our buckets are empty, we are gloomy and send our negative vibe out to the world. In the business world, that translates to hampered productivity."

It would also translate this way: will we go back to the inn, or recommend it to anyone? will I continue to deal with my supplier, who wants to read me the riot act at every turn, or will I find a new one?

Posted by Gadflygirl at March 7, 2005 07:58 PM


that negativity article was passed out to employees yesterday at one of our meetings.

Posted by: mary at March 9, 2005 08:29 PM

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