Be right, or do right?

I’m back in Prescott Arizona for the next six days, to settle my son Zach into his new college. Zach is my youngest, and towering over me in both stature and confidence, he very obviously is no longer my “child.” This trip may be more of a needed transition for me than for him, for if I’m honest I will admit that there was no way I could have just waved goodbye at the airport, but that may be another post another day.

We returned to the same hotel I’d raved about the last time we were here, but this time our check-in experience was a bit different”

We landed in Phoenix at 7am, and although our flight went well and was pretty uneventful, I anticipated that Zach and I wouldn’t be in the best of shape after a 6-hour red-eye followed by a two hour drive north. So I had anted up for last night’s room rate too, to guarantee that we could check right in when we arrived. Both of us are not great at sleeping on planes, and if the room wasn’t ready we’d probably fall asleep on the couch in their lobby until one was.

I’d booked the room online weeks ago, entered the comment about being willing to pay for last night but not arriving until 10am today, and printed the confirmation. Last Friday I called to confirm; my note had somehow mysteriously disappeared, but “Not to worry Mrs. Say, I’ll enter it for you now.”

Can you guess where this may be going?

True to form, Zach wouldn’t even bother with the bags when I parked the rental car: “Let’s just grab the carry-ons mom, I’ll get the bags for you later; I’ve got to get some sleep.”

As we approach the front desk, the receptionist levels a wary eye at us and makes a very visible show of looking at her watch, “Are you checking in?” A hello would have been nice”

I’m ready for her. “Yes, the name is Say. Here is my credit card and confirmation.”

“Oh, I recognize your name, you were supposed to be here yesterday. You do know we charged you anyway. Well, I don’t know if we’ll have something for you now.” Zach groans and heads for the couch.

“That’s fine, you were supposed to charge me, that’s the way I booked it. As you can see here on the confirmation there is a note that we’d arrive at 10am today, and had protected the room with last night’s payment so we could check in immediately versus waiting for your 3pm check-in time.”

“Well, there’s no note about that in my system.”

Aloha Rosa, aloha ” hold your tongue and your temper” Smile. “Are you able to assign a room to us now please?” No answer, just a pointed stare at her computer screen.

The parking lot was half empty, and as I pulled in I realized I probably didn’t have to book last night. It was okay as I parked, for we had really enjoyed our last visit here. Now I’m bugged that I’m usually the one trying to make things easy on everyone else. Now I’m bugged that I’ll spend nearly a thousand bucks here before the week is over.

“Only if we put you on the second floor.” Well good, she obviously did get my request for a lobby level room.

“If it is a non-smoking room as we requested, that will be fine, thank you.”

She completes my check-in, hands me the key cards, and asks, “Have you stayed here before?” Guess that’s not in her system either.

“Yes, we have, just two months ago.”

“Okay.” No welcome back, no have a nice stay, nothing. The woman has not cracked a smile the entire time.

Why is it that people have this need to be right, instead of just doing the right thing for other people? Why try to teach your customer a lesson? What good will it do? Hey, even if you don’t care about the customer at all, why give yourself a miserable day in the process? Why not be mea ho‘okipa, a gracious hostess, and give your guest a reason to cheer for you, and a reason to appreciate you? A reason to be your biggest fan?

A guest who, while her son sleeps, is going to enjoy the free internet connection she also had booked the place for, and blog about what just happened to whoever in the world cares to read about it. After all, we don’t want them to be proven wrong if they wind up here too based on my first, premature recommendation.

Zach had the right idea. Maybe I should take a nap too.


  1. says

    Excellent Dick, you got the kahako (macron over the ā) correct and the kaona (hidden meaning) too!
    Actually, you have no idea how insightful your comment was, for I had written something in my journal yesterday morning while walking through my fog of Zach’s last day home, and the title (yes, now I title my journaling too…) was “Ka lā hiki ola; The dawning of a new day.” Now I’m thinking I may have to clean it up (pure stream of consciousness brain dump at this point) and share it with all of you.
    By the way Dick, so far I am enjoying your home state so much more this time around (despite this glitch in this post) with the temp in the 80’s versus last time with the mercury tickling the 110 range!

  2. says

    What a timely post Rosa. I could feel the text getting bolder as you went along. The frustration in your voice of someone who is tired and just wants a problem solved. Your post was needed therapy. I have been dealing with a customer service nightmare for over a week now. My frustration level is so high I just ask the question… why? I posted about it today on my blog along with your question… “to be right or do right?” Thanks for the insight! John

  3. says

    The hotel took an opportunity to win you over and totally dropped the ball. How sad, and unfortunately, how typical. This has happened to me a number of times recently, where I call ahead, and then they don’t have what I specifically requested. Now if I only had the discipline to stop going to those places.
    Thanks for sharing. Sorry it had to happen. Sounds like you handled it better than the staff at the hotel did.

  4. says

    There’s a great management lesson in your post as always, Rosa.
    True empowerment is giving people the freedom to work out what needs to be done (be a gracious hostess) and do it without fuss. True development of staff is making sure they understand this and have the know-how needed to do it.
    Couldn’t really be more simple, could it? Yet the results of not doing it, as you show so clearly, are disasterous.

  5. says

    I am sorry to hear that the Prescott SpringHill Suites by Marriott has become the “Hotel from Hell”.
    It will be interesting to see whether management takes any action to correct the situation. If this new desk-person is a permanent fixture, the corporate culture may be breaking down. Bean-counters may have driven out the courteous reception people in favor of lower-priced labor.
    If their only response is to tell you to fill out the standard rating card, you will know.
    Better luck on your next stay.

  6. says

    Prescott SpringHill Suites by Marriott – a place to avoid

    When you stay in Prescott, Arizona, you just might want to avoid the Prescott SpringHill Suites by Marriott. If the inhospitality that was given my friend Rosa Say is any indication, this hotel has definitely fallen away from their mission statement: T…

  7. says

    I’m a big fan of writing letters to management. Usually I write nice, glowing letters for employees who go above and beyond their call of duty. I make sure I send it to a high enough level executive where it makes a splash. Good customer service behaviors must be recognized and hopefully encouraged and perpetuated.
    In your case, however, you may want to write a top level executive about your experience, mention the competitiveness of the hospitality industry and ask him/her to guess the dollars that the hotel has lost due to the sulleness of one employee – who I’m sure has gone through customer service “training”.
    If I may be so bold, I’d even suggest a few pointers and if the executive is interested in learning more, to give me a call on how I can help.

  8. says

    I gotta fess up Rosa. I cut and pasted Ka lā hiki ola from the sidebar of your blog. But I’ll take credit for getting the hidden meaning! That’s part of my life work — getting the hidden meaning.

  9. says

    Thank you everyone for your comments. This has been a busy trip thus far; Zach and I have returned late to the hotel these past few nights. So I have not shared this experience with the hotel management yet, however I will, for as a management coach I can certainly empathize with their need to know, and as I’d written of this past June, this hotel does a lot right and has so much potential.
    We have not encountered this unfortunate attitude with the rest of the staff here, and I’m not one to judge the entire place based on my encounter with just one employee; I hope you will not either.
    You’ve given me much motivation to now find a good customer service story to share with all of you before my Prescott stay is done, and I will! Like Jane, I’ve written many Hurrah! letters to managers, and I love doing them: I’m a big believer in acknowledging and rewarding the behavior you want to see more of.
    I’ve been hoping to see more of that Front Desk receptionist: I’m bound and determined to draw out the aloha I know she must have within her. Then this will have been a fantastic trip!