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 07:58 PM | Comments (1)

January 11, 2005

All It Takes

Apology: an admission of error or discourtesy accompanied by an expression of regret. When was the last time anyone got one? Or gave one?

We "demand" them and "expect" them and say "all it takes" is one, but usually the demand and/or expectation are met with a period of estrangement which sometimes lasts forever. Even the petty offenses turn into deep hurts without one. We are so proud, hell can freeze over.

When was the last time an apology opened a dialogue, put a relationship back on track, a person's error forgiven and forgotten? In my experience, it's been a long, long time.

My father was great at apologies … for himself, and for those of us too ridiculous to do it: "Say you're sorry," "I know so-and-so feels bad about it," "So-and-so says he's sorry, don't you," "I want you both to say you're sorry." His own apologies never carried the clarifier "but" attached to them, as in "I'm sorry, but you …" They also weren't fronted by "if" as in "if I offended you, I'm sorry." His apologies were pure.

We go through our daily routines substituting "I'm sorry," for "excuse me," when we hand someone the wrong thing, or keep someone on "hold" on the phone, or bump into someone in the grocery store. But, anymore, the admission of regret rarely happens where and when it counts.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2004

It's a Shed, for Crying Out Loud

The shed attached to our garage is about 8' x 8' with rain stained walls, and a wood floor littered with 2002 vintage grass seed. The walls are lined with five shovels, not counting the two snow shovels, three rakes, two brooms, a hoe, a pitchfork, my favorite de-thatching rake, and my dog, Haley's, badly stained pooper-scooper. It is here I do my most thinking about my dad, now dead three years.

It is here I discuss, out loud, the business of the day. When I get an order from a former customer of my dad's, I thank him, out loud. When I get business from the catalogue, which my dad thought we should publish ten years ago, I ask him: "what do you think of that?" And sometimes, I just talk to him, not about business, but about how I miss him, how I think he is the best person I've ever known, how I miss his smile, his humor, his laugh (with his hands shoved in both pockets, stomping the ground in front of him with one foot, bending over with the laughter).

I also think about his brother, my Uncle Bill. How these two "boys from Hudson" two of the "last Catholics in America," made it through life? And, how I long for those days they had. I don't need to list the reasons why.

A few weeks ago, it occurred to me that my home doesn't seem to be my home for the reason that my dad hasn't been here. Of course, my home is my home, but I long for my dad having seen it, as he did my old home. He loved it, thought it beautiful.

I had a dream last week about my dad. He was walking my "little brother," Mike. Mike was about one or two years old, and they were walking hand-in-hand. I was crying in my dream, and my mom asked me why … I told her, "because dad won't live to see Mike grow up." Well, he did. But he didn't know Mike got married, and that Mike told my mom this summer that while he was gone on vacation, he "would have the girls (my sister and me) come visit their mother." It was something my dad would have said, and my sister and I did go.

My shed for crying out loud.

Posted by Gadflygirl at 08:02 PM | Comments (0)