Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fires, Dawgs, and Journalists - oh my!

What is with my guests and fires tonight? A few hours ago a man called the front desk saying that when he turned on his TV it began to "smoke and sizzle" and emit a burning smell. I went upstairs to check it and the entire 2nd floor was encased in this smell so I moved his room, made sure the TV was unplugged and then just left it at that. About twenty minutes ago another room called saying that they had turned on their heater and were immediately hit with a burning smell that actually set their fire alarm off. Now, I'm not sure if that last part was true because if any alarm goes off in the building then the unit at the front desk should sound as well and pinpoint the source. Either the front desk unit is faulty or these people are exaggerating, but I went upstairs and was once again met with a fire aroma. What the crap. I moved them, checked the unit and couldn't get it to smoke again, but nonetheless I think I'll close off that room for tonight. Ironically, it is directly across the hall from the room with the burning TV!

Our ice machine is also broken, which is leading to some hilarious incidences of guests getting to watch me struggle to lift a three foot high bag of ice and slam it against a chair to break it apart (I'm using the chair because I have now dented both the wall and the fridge...opps). This has led to both the bag breaking and ice flying everywhere and a few curse words being shouted every now and then when ice either hits me in the face or miraculously finds its way down my shirt.

These events have been made even more dramatic and chaotic by the fact that a man from corporate is currently staying in the hotel and somehow manages to walk by the desk every time something inane happens or someone is complaining of "burning smells." The man seems nice enough, but I'm just waiting to be called into my manager's office tomorrow and told how unprofessional I am.

Oh! Which reminds me -- last weekend marked one of the hotel's epic annual weekends: the Georgia/Florida game. For those of you from up North, the GA/FL game is comparable to the UofM vs Ohio State rivalry, only a bit more intense because now we've got a surplus of rednecks drinking and shouting all in one relatively tiny area (at least compared to when they're all more spread-out). Anywhere within a 200 mile radius of Jacksonville, FL (where the game is played) treats this weekend as if it were a holiday. Hotel rates sky-rocket, everything is decked out in either red and black or orange and blue depending what state you're in (or how brave of a rebel you are) and the entire coastal region becomes one giant frat party. Sounds kind of entertaining until you're part of one of the businesses that will be hosting the tailgaters. Out of our sixty rooms at the Inn we had about five left. There was a 4ft X 3ft football suspended from the ceiling in front of the main desk (oh yeah, that wasn't annoying ), GO DAWGS signs at every corner, DAWG gift bags, and red and black streamers and balloons hung all over the lobby (including the fans!). I'm not quite sure if this overzealous team support is sincere or if it is a way to keep the hotel from getting torched.

Anyways, I digress -- the reason I mention this is because during all the GA/FL weekend preparation madness a man called and began asking me detailed questions about rooms for that weekend: were we all booked up, what were our rates, were we planning any events, is this weekend always looked upon with trepidation or excitement, etc etc. I didn't think anything of it because - as stated in my last post - the phone calls we get here are very odd and people wants to know everything from the type of mattresses we supply to when the hotel was built. Before hanging up (and not making a reservation!) the man asked me for my name and then said, "Thanks for all your help, Georgia! I'm so-and-so from the Georgia Times Union. Good talking to you," and hung-up. Right away I knew that was going to come back and bite me in the ass and sure enough the next day my boss called to ask why I had given a blurb about the weekend without her permission. My god. It's not like it's a secret! And since people ask such detailed questions anyways I never even thought to ask why he was so curious (we even had one woman ask for us to give her the distance from the parking lot to the 1st floor rooms in feet...why?).

Sadly I missed the rest of the GA/FL weekend due to other commitments, but I hear it was quite the show, which included fire alarms being set off due to "certain substances" in non-smoking rooms. My manager told them, "If you're going to smoke at LEAST do it in a smoking room." Ha!

Okie, that's all for tonight! I'll try to write more regularly from now on.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

I'm backkkkk!

Hi again! So after a few months of quiet I have decided to start this blog back up. I may not be lost in the literal woods any longer, but I suppose you could say I'm still lost to some degree AND I am still working with tourists. Actually, there's a lot about my new job and old job that coincide so well that I wish they would give me my Park Ranger salary back.

Currently, I am working two jobs: Talbots (boutique clothing store) and Holiday Inn Express. For the purposes of entertainment I'll mainly be writing about the Inn on here because, surprising as it seems, dressing wealthy aged women is just not all that zany. I work the evening shift at the hotel, which I believe is the best shift in order to get to know the guests. They check in anytime after 3pm and then drop by the desk for questions, suggestions, and concerns up until the wee hours of the morning.

Here is a brief synopsis of my time here thus far:

Lesson 1: Phones. Our phone system at the Inn has to be the most impractical technological invention I have ever seen. I really cannot even begin to explain how this phone works, but one thing to note is that it has about three lines, but no way to switch between any of them. If I am on the phone with a guest I will here a brief chirp come from the consul. I can put Person #1 on hold and hit the 'Answer' button to get the call, but if Person #2 has a complicated inquiry then I have no way of putting them on hold to get back to Person #1. Also, if Person #1 talks too long (which, as a side note, why do people who call hotels talk about 2-words a minute?) then Person #2's call will be transferred to the back office phone. I have now lost the chance to answer #2's call on the desk phone so as soon as #1 hangs up I have to dash to the office and hope that I reach the phone before the call is sent back up to the front desk. This process has caused me to run in between two ringing phones on more than one hilarious occasion.

Also, to transfer people I simply type in the room number they want and hang-up on them. Sometimes the phone registers the number swiftly enough that everything works as it should. Other times I end up hanging up on the guest because the phone decided to take its sweet time. "Isn't there a way for you to tell?" you ask. Yes, there is: the person calls back and says, "You hung-up on me." That is the only way.

Lesson 2: Directions. Nearly every day a guest calls the hotel to say that their GPS can't find the Inn's address. We then give them the address of the fitness centre across the street and everything seems to work out fine. And then last week happened. Last week was the PGA Tour's brief stay on St. Simons Island. The Inn was PACKED with TV producers, golfers, caddies, groupies, Kodak people, and health insurance guys. The first day of the tournament I get the expected "GPS call" and give the man the standard fitness address. Five hours later (it is about 9pm at night), while I am in the middle of running in between two ringing phones, I get this call: "You gave me the wrong address! I have been driving for eons and eons on this damn island and the address you gave me DOES NOT exist." First off, I want to tell the man to not over exaggerate and that the island is only 14 X 6 miles so I doubt he has been driving for "eons and eons." Second, I want to make sure that he understood that the address I gave him was for a place across the street. However, I do not get the chance to voice either of these thoughts before he starts shouting, "Marsh Landing! I am at Marsh Landing! Where the hell is that?" The only one I know of is at the north end of the island, but there's no way he could be there because the road his GPS was trying to find is all the way at the south end. I ask him what road he's on, for some type of landmark, etc etc, and finally I hear 'Fort Frederica'. Yep, he made it all the way to the north end. I tell him that he needs to turn around and head the opposite way. As I begin to say, "And then you'll go through two roundabouts," I suddenly hear a click. I look at the phone for a second and, forgetting my Customer Etiquette manners, go, "Oh HELL no!" It's then that I notice the guest in the lobby; a small mousy woman who looks at me. "He hung-UP on me!" I exclaim and she just shakes her head sadly.

GPS Man is about as ornery as can be expected and I try to rush him out of the lobby and towards his room as quickly as possible (although not before he has the chance to tell me how clueless I am not to know the street the hotel is on -- I know what our street address is. The GPS coordinates do not.). Finally he leaves and ten minutes later I get a call. It's GPS Man and his desk lamp won't work. After about fifteen minutes of me rushing in between his room and the closet with the circuit breaker I tell him that I believe it is the lamp itself and that there is nothing I can do (if he had been nicer maybe I would have tried, but I was ready to cut all the power to his room by this point). Just as he decides to try plugging the lamp into an outlet across the room there is a knock on the door. GPS Man does nothing. There is another knock. GPS looks at me as if to say, "Well aren't you going to answer that?" Now I am normally a very calm person and it really takes a lot for me to lose my cool, especially when it comes to Customer Service type things. I am pretty sure my feeling of rage was very evident on my face because when I opened up the door the guy waiting outside actually started a little. Apparently, GPS Man had come with three other business men who were staying at the hotel; three business men who had really taken a liking to me. The new guy looked at me sheepishly as he greeted GPS Man and helped him move the lamp. After plugging it in and seeing that it STILL did not work GPS Man determined that it must be the lamp itself...shocker.

The best part of that rant? The next morning I overheard GPS Man say he was from Michigan so I made sure to mention Kalamazoo College to him. How surprising that he suddenly treated me like I had a brain in my head after that!

Lesson 3 (last one for now, I promise!): Chatty-Cathy. When I check into a hotel it is normally just to sleep, shower, and store my stuff. However, I am finding that many of our guests do not share this same sentiment. I can not tell you how many long conversations I have had with guests about everything from the Chilean miners to the island's economy and even fashion. Some people even come up to the desk specifically just to chat with me. And it's really entertaining when we get groups of young business men here because they will be very professional and straightforward and ask me where to find a good bar and then a few hours later they come into the lobby, tipsy and giggly, and suddenly wanting to just hang at the counter. This led to mass confusion my first night working here (in which I am the only employee in the building so there was no one here to help "walk me through" anymore). Three guys who had just gotten back from the bar came up to the desk needing to extend their stay. Not only did this take some maneuvering in the computer system, but they also all wanted to pay in cash, which I had never done before (and we don't have a conventional register). While trying to figure out what the hell I was supposed to do (while acting like I knew exactly what to do) the guys decided to grill me about my history, the origin of my name (everyone loves the whole 'Georgia from Georgia' thing), and then needed me to cast my vote on an issue of 'if someone puts a coffee cup at the foot of a chair and someone else knocks it over - whose fault is it?'

Phew! I think that's enough for now. Sorry this post is so long! Since the rest will be more present happenings rather than 'catch-up' they should be a bit shorter.