I Can Has Customer Service?


So I’ve been working at the Extended Stay hotel for fifteen months now.  It hasn’t been that bad of a run, all thing considered.  Yeah, I barely make a living wage,  and yeah, I have to deal with total nuts, but still, most people are fine and just want to go about their day.  I don’t have an ounce of syrupy politeness left in my body, and I’m bored out of my freaking mind, but that’s not really the hotel’s fault.  That’s just the way of things.

The management hasn’t been that bad either.  Considering I work for an enormous corporation that filed for bankruptcy and got bought out last year, it could have been a lot worse.  Corporate doesn’t breathe down our necks too much, or if they do, the management doesn’t really pass that stress on down to us.  At least there’s that, and I am grateful.

But still, there are some things here that really have started to get to me.

Now that I know I only have three weeks left here, my attitude has gotten pretty terrible.  I’m less inclined to say, Hey, how do I learn from this and try to improve the situation for next time? and more inclined to say I NEVER want to work in a job where this sort of thing happens EVER again.  And I’ve come to some conclusions as well.

Example A.  I never want to work in a job where I have to tell someone “I’m sorry, I’m just enforcing the rules,” when I myself disapprove of said rules.  The call comes from Corporate that the apartment rate has just risen $200 without warning, overnight?  Half of our guests signed a contract for a lower rate, but there’s nothing they can do about it?  Hm, that doesn’t sound right to me.  I know that companies have a right to raise their rates when supply meets demand.  Still, I can tell you for sure that I want absolutely no part in it.

I never want to have to tell someone again, “I’m sorry, item A was worth $X yesterday, but since there is more demand for it, today it is worth twice as much.  Oh, you can’t afford it?  Well then sorry, you have to go. Where you ask?  I’m sorry, that is not my concern.”


Don’t even get me started on the dark, soul-killing effects of faux politeness.

Such regularly occurring, fake-friendly encounters seem harmless at the time, but observing them objectively, it doesn’t take much to recognize them for what they are–the exact opposite of what I want to stand for, in fact.

Again, I know that’s just how the market works.  We learned about supply and demand in the fifth grade; it’s one of the gospels that makes our nation’s economy run.   Who am I to criticize?  I don’t have the skill or the energy to beat out a list of alternatives, that’s for sure.   And whether people can afford to stay at the hotel is hardly my concern.  Not really.

But still, something just does not sit well with me.  I’ve been enforcing this mini-version of the free market for a while now here at the ESA, and I’ve seen how shady it is on that atomic level.  The level of me telling you that you owe us more money when nothing but the market has changed.  The level of me turning you away at the door and not thinking twice.

I hit my absolute limit last week when we oversold and didn’t have enough rooms to meet our reservations one night.  Something about our company’s CEO being good friends with another company’s CEO.  Such good friend, in fact, that we booked rooms for their incoming employees that didn’t exist.  We turned away guests who booked months ago to make room for all these new, affiliated, guests.

And who enforces this decision?  I do.  Cut to me telling a young woman, around my age, traveling alone with a one year old child that she no longer has a room at the inn.  She tells me she’s an army wife who was evacuated from Guam because of the tsunami activity in the region.  Traveling was awful, she’s nervous for her husband left behind, and then the girl at the hotel desk tells her she no longer has a reservation.  What a situation.

But I’m just a lowly employee.  It’s not my concern.

To be fair, we did book her at another hotel for the week.  But the other hotel was far more expensive and didn’t come with a kitchenette.  The woman started crying in the lobby, saying she couldn’t afford to pay for it.  And what could I do?  The company had a right to give all those previously booked rooms to a client that will guarantee large amounts of business in the future.  It’s their hotel, they can do what they want.  That’s the way of things.

Thank you sir.  Now who’s next in line to be cheerfully, unflinchingly screwed?

Working in the hotel has done a lot to narrow down my opinions on this tender subject.  Like I said before, I’m no economist and hesitate to make any sort of anti-capitalist rallying cry, that’s for certain.  I think all I can say right now is that I, personally, never again want to work for an organization whose premier purpose is to make money any way they know how.

Everybody’s got to have money, I know that.  it’s how we survive.  I’m just saying that I don’t want my life’s work to have anything to do with making pure profit.  Really, all I ask is to leave the world a little better than I found it.  But if I had by heart’s desire, I would ask that my life be spent solving the problem of every man for himself.  Everyone for themselves.

Maybe my own boredom and customer-service induced melancholy is projecting out into the lobby.  Still, it seems like everbody’s miserable here.   I have a surprising amount of guests openly admit that.  We’re all strangers.  People look at me with sorrowful eyes, but we never get past small talk.  The ones who leap over social boundaries and go straight for the heart are the weird ones, and one does well to back away slowly.

Then there are those who are neither guarded nor desperate.  They are full-fledged insane, with their priorities entirely out of wack.  Like the lady a few weeks back who caused such a fit in the lobby we nearly called the police, all because we didn’t have a room available on the first floor.  She was convinced that the water pressure on the higher floors would be inadequate, even though she’d never stayed here before.

What makes a person so desperate?  I feel like in a world with so little responsibility for others and so little control over ourselves, some people just loose their grip and go bonkers.

Of course, these aren’t the majority of folks.  Like I said, most of the time things are alright.  We just want to get through the day.  We’re all just playing our parts, following the rules, bored as hell, underpaid, waiting for something else more worthwhile to come along.

And there’s got to be a better way to run a business.

(Toothpaste For Dinner, Metafilter.com, and Hotellandesinn.com–gracias.)


~ by Rachael on April 24, 2011.

One Response to “I Can Has Customer Service?”

  1. That’s such a sad story about the woman who you had to turn away. I feel like the higher-ups end up becoming so far removed from the customers, since they never interact with them. And of course, they’re making all of the important decisions and then people like you end up having to turn people away. :(

    Sounds like someone needs to conduct a walk-through to regain some perspective on what the customer feels like.

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