I have been traveling quite a bit in the last 12 months, both inside and outside of the United States. Recently, on a trip to Chicago, I was rather disappointed in the service I received at the Trump Towers in Chicago.
This got me thinking, why is service in the Untied States on such a lower level than what you receive outside of the United States? Is the service industry so looked down upon that it is viewed as a temporary position so why bring your A game? Are hotels so focused on the bottom line that A game employees aren’t worth hiring because they cost more? I don’t know, but it is starting to make the hotel industry feel like the airline industry, in other words “We are here and we are what you get, and like it or not, we are the only game in town, so you can all go suck eggs.”
I am going to go ahead and give details on two experiences in the last two months, I have the option of doing it on Trip Advisor, or any other public website with considerably more traffic than this little place, but here I get to be more specific.
I made my reservations at the Trump Tower through American Express’s Platinum Travel Service. As a minor digression, American Express’s service is impeccable, and worth every dollar that I pay to have the Platinum Card.
When I arrived at the Trump Towers I was given an upgrade to a suite. It was rather large, very impersonal, and frankly the ONLY thing it was missing was the grand piano. This being said, I expected much in the way of service, as the room warranted it.
What I found instead is that Trump most likely hires its front desk people on their good looks and their ability to fit into a size 6 skirt or a 40 pant. However, their knowledge of systems, manners and general discreet etiquette is sadly lacking. My room was not ready and that was fine, however, when you are paying $600 a night for a hotel room, I expect to be fawned over when my room is not ready. In other words, “may we get you a cup of tea and show you to a quiet room while you wait”, would have been the proper answer, instead, we will call you on your cell phone when it is ready, was what I got. And by the way, they never did call me, I finally got fed up, went to the desk, asked, and received a look, of “of course your room is ready, what took you so long to get here?”
The next experience was the Brown Hotel in Louisville, KY. The Brown is an old, beautifully restored, hotel with history to rival the Kentucky Derby itself. It is a tad run down, and could use an interior design service to bring it out of the 1980’s and into the 2010’s, but that is an entirely different matter.
The hotel staff when checking in could not have been nicer, however, I had made the reservations for two rooms, one with a king and an upgraded suite with two beds, 26 days in advance.
When we arrived at 6:00 PM, you guessed it; one of the rooms wasn’t ready. Now this is 6:00 PM that becomes important at the end of the story. Once we got our rooms, they were on two different floors. This is not a problem, we were all adults, but it was annoying none-the-less.
When we went to check out however, and I asked for a late checkout, the instant answer was no. There was no checking of the computer or anything, just no. Oh, by the way, this was a Sunday. When I mentioned the little hiccup when we checked in a little computer finger taping took place, and well, yes, you can have it, but only until 2:00. When I mentioned we would actually like to stay until 3:00, I was told that we would be charged another night for the privilege.
Wow, Sunday night, not a typically busy night, and yet we couldn’t stay an extra hour.
This represented the ultimate in lack of service. Computer key tapping, (are they really looking at anything?) followed by the easiest word in the English language to utter in the world of customer service: No.
On another note, the blond waitress in the bar was friendly to a fault, and so knowledgeable about Kentucky Bourbon she should teach classes. When she noticed we ordered a sub-par Bourbon from one of the other servers, she made it a point of coming over and asking if we were sure. THAT is service.
SEEN AND NOT HEARD
Another area I was disappointed in was the restaurants. When I was unable to check in at the Trump, I headed to the rooftop restaurant, The Terrace for a quick lunch.
It was essentially empty. I had a small salad and a very expensive glass of wine, read: medium wine, horrible price. The food was excellent, but the chatter not so much. Behind me, all the bored waiters and bartenders gathered to chat. Terrific, so glad you are all friends enough to sit and blather, but I would have preferred my lunch with view rather than vacuous prattle.
Dinner at the Grill at the Brown, lovely, delightful service people, absolutely over the top food. However, the spit and polish was not there. The service could have as easily been at a Denny’s as one of the cities finest eating establishments.
I do not want to pick on the Brown, I really loved the place, so I will move to brunch at 21c. Really, servers in jeans and T-shirts?
I will mention that I also had dinner at the Lone Eagle Grill in the Hyatt Regency, Incline Village, and it lived up to my expectations. This was on the 6th of July, a time when most everyone’s nerves are frazzled after the long weekend. Our waitress answered every question, and the wine sommelier was educated and knowledgeable, and when we couldn’t identify an ingredient in the Lemon Curd Pie the pastry chef was sent tableside to help us in our investigation.
Service is a difficult field to enter, usually minimum wage and really hellish hours, but without a sense of pride in work, why show up?
Place travelers in a room together and the top of the list complaint is about airlines and air travel, I am saddened that hotel service is now right up there.
What is to be done about it? I don’t have the answers, but respect and appreciation for the field would be a start. Tipping is now dictated by management with little hints at the bottom of your bill, so it is even harder than ever to express your satisfaction or lack there of through that medium.
In case you are wondering, I am an excellent tipper. I worked in the service industry and I know how much tips have become as much a part of ones salary as the salary itself. If you do not believe me check out this article from the Economic Policy Institute.
I believe that service is of higher quality in places like the Four Seasons because their staff is trained, and hold the knowledge that they have the ability to be placed in any number of fabulous locations around the world, this is most likely true of the Hyatt and why all our expectations were met despite the hectic weekend. But is that acceptable? Where is everyone’s A game?
Do I have places in the US that stand up to my ideals? Yes, first and foremost the Arizona Inn of Tucson, Arizona and The Four Seasons, which I have mentioned, but these are all five star hotels, I would like to think we can expect great service despite the number of stars.