Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baby, It's Hot in Here

Sticking with the theme of the heatwave striking the upper Midwest this week, let's talk about air conditioning. Many places in the north do not have air conditioning, which is understandable given they only really need it two weeks out of the year. The Orchid finally installed AC this summer, but only in certain rooms that need it most (i.e. hit with direct sunlight, don't receive much of a lake breeze, etc). Unfortunately, this does come as a bit of a shocker to many of our guests (for example, the woman yesterday who suddenly snipped, "That's unacceptable!" when she learned her room did not have AC). And now, for the tale of the women who needed ice buckets dumped over their heads (only as a comfort to them, of course).

Last week, Mickey, our one and only male desk clerk, was working the midnight shift, while I did the 10pm shift. The midnight person always gets a half hour break and Mickey (who is a wonderful person for volunteering to take ALL of the midnight shifts) typically takes this sometime between 9 and 10pm because things have supposedly slowed down by then. At 9:30 Mickey went on his break and I started working on the guest list for the next day. The door shut behind Mickey and the phone rang. It was the guest in room 320.

“Georgia,” she said, “I am not one to complain, but I...well I just gotta say that I am disgusted. DI-sgusted with our room.”

“Oh?” This is something I certainly never expected to hear from a guest given the insane attention to cleanliness the owner and housekeeping puts into the hotel.

“Yes. Our bathroom is filthy. FILTHY. It smells musty, it’s hot and muggy, there is mold in the tiles. I mean, I don’t mean to complain, but we are just disgusted. DI-sgusted. I mean, I was a travel agent and I would never recommend someone to come here. We are just disgusted!”

“I am so sorry, ma’am.”

“I mean, I have stayed in some of the best hotels and this one...well this is just not good. It’s filthy! We’re just...we’re disgusted, Georgia.”

At this point I want to just say, “Yeah, I get it. DI-sgusted.”

“We were wondering,” Never Complains began (I already knew what was coming by the tone of her voice), “if you might have any suites available for a complimentary upgrade because we just feel that we cannot stay in this room any longer. I mean, we have children! This is unsanitary.”

I pulled up the room list on the computer. Never Complains was traveling with the guests in 319. They would need a room that could accommodate all four people. Unfortunately for them, they were staying for two more nights, which greatly limited what might be available.

“Well, ma’am,” I said, “it looks like the only suite we have available for the next two nights is our Sunset Suite, but it only has a king bed so it could not accommodate all four of you.”

“What’s that suite like?”

“It has a king bed, a sitting area and a fourteen-window panoramic view overlooking the lake.”

“It just has the one bed?”


“Well that wouldn’t fit all four of us,” she snapped.

“Yes, ma’am. I know.”

“Well, Georgia, we are just disgusted by our room. I mean, we’re paying nearly $500 a night and it's hot. You're using plastic shower liners which is a breeding ground for germs and the rubber bathmats are - we just can't use them. They are a complete health code violation. We are just disgusted. DI –”

“Ma’am, I’m going to give my manager a call and see what we can do about this and then I’ll call you back. Okay?”

“Oh. Okay. Thank you.”

I hung up and called our night manger, Paul. Paul told me what I already knew – all we can do is move the guests to other rooms with two queen beds. Basically, rooms exactly like their current ones. I called 320 and explained the situation. “I could show you some of the rooms we have available if you would like,” I offered. I heard Never Complains whisper to who I presumed was the mother in 319 (the two rooms were mother and daughter pairs), “They don’t have any suites.” I waited while they continued to talk in hushed tones. Finally I repeated myself, “I could show you some of the rooms we have available.”

“Are they nice rooms?” Never Complains asked. “Are the bathrooms better than this one? I mean, this one is just filthy and disgusting! We cannot stay in here.”

“How about I come up and show you some of the rooms?”

“I don’t know if it would be worth it,” Never Complains said to 319. “Where are they?” she said back into the phone.

“Well, two of them are right next to you.”

“I just don’t know. There’s no suite you can upgrade us to?”

“No, ma’am, I’m sorry. There’s just that Sunset Suite that cannot accommodate all of you.”

“Oh...well I guess we’ll look at some of the rooms then.”

I called Paul so he could watch the desk while I went up to deal with the Problem Sisters. Upon entering Room 320 I was immediately shown the bathroom. “I’m a nurse,” 319 immediately began (she was less boisterous than the woman who had called the front desk so I knew she wasn’t Never Complains), “and this whole place is really a health hazard.”

“Can’t you smell the must?” Never Complains asked. I sniffed and looked around blankly. “Well we opened the windows so that aired it out,” she explained.

“The plastic shower liner is really awful,” The Nurse said, bringing my attention back to the bio-hazard zone. “And rubber bath mats? That’s what traps in the smell and dirt and germs. I’m here with my daughter and I don’t find this safe for children.”

“I’m really sorry, ma’am.”

“Do you see the mold?”

I did not, but I suppose that wasn’t actually the point as The Nurse then directed my attention back to the bathmat instead. I looked around the room as Never Complains and The Nurse continued to talk about the plethora of health code violations within the bathroom. A curious thing stood out – both women were traveling with their young daughters (10 and 14), yet there was nothing to signify a teenager was sleeping in the room. Only items obviously belonging to the two women were strewn about the place. At The Orchid (and pretty much all hotels) there is a policy that anyone under 18 must be in a room with at least one adult. Before I had gone up to show the women the rooms, I had taken a look at their registration cards so I would know their names. Each registration card showed one daughter and one mother per room (and this was written at check-in in each mother’s handwriting). I decided not to address the discrepancy.

“I mean, do you even clean in here?” Never Complains demanded. I turned back to her and the toxic bathroom. “It’s just filthy! That bathmat is disgusting. I can hardly breathe because of the musty smell! I feel like I might get sick.”

“Or our daughters,” The Nurse added.

“You should really keep this place cleaner,” Never Complains continued. “I have stayed in some of the best hotels in the world: the Ritz Carlton, Sheraton, The GRAND – this was supposed to be on of the best, too, and I hate to say it, but I would give this hotel a 6. Maybe.”

“I am very sorry.”

“I don’t mean to complain, but we were really expecting something different here. Something MUCH nicer. This place is FILTHY. You are breaking so many health code violations in here. And the price is outRAGEOUS for how dirty it is. I mean, you have really done an awful job in here.”

By this point I was a bit tired of the “you” accusations. “Ma’am, I am really sorry that you two are so unhappy, but I am not housekeeping. I work the front desk. I have nothing to do with how the rooms are cleaned.”

“I know, I know. I’m not blaming you. It’s just, we were expecting something SO much better.”

“And the air conditioning,” The Nurse suddenly chimed.

“Yeah, we were not told that this room did not have air conditioning.” There was new vehemence to Never Complains’s voice.

“No?” I said, knowing full well we do not tell people which rooms have AC and which do not unless they ask. We’re not trying to hide anything, but there’s only so much you can describe to people while trying to sell a room and you don’t want to overload them.

“Yeah,” Never Complains continued, “if we had known there wouldn’t be air conditioning then we wouldn’t have come.”

“I’m really sorry. Normally we tell people if they ask.” Small white lie...

“Who would’ve thought you WOULDN’T have air conditioning?!”

“It is upper Michigan. We don’t need it much, especially at night.”

“Well you should make it more clear when you book a room. The heat is really unbearable. The person who booked our reservation told us nothing about there not being AC.”

“Do you want me to show you those rooms now?”

“Do they have AC?”

“Only one of them does. It’s one on the first floor and has two queen beds.”

Never Complains and The Nurse looked at each other. “It wouldn’t hurt to look,” The Nurse suggested.

I took them down to the first floor. Never Complains continued to talk of the stifling heat and mentioned that this was even more of a discomfort to her because she was currently going through menopause. It took every bit of self-restraint I had not to turn around and say, “Shocker.” I showed the ladies Room 109, which has two queen beds like Rooms 320 and 319, but also the added perks of AC and a balcony. The moment the women walked into the room they began oo-ing and awing over how much nicer the room was compared to their own.

“Look at this bathroom!” The Nurse exclaimed. “It’s so much cleaner than the one in our room.”

“It’s so much bigger, too!” Never Complains said. She turned to me. “And this room has AC?” I pointed to the AC unit near the ceiling. “Is it on?”

“No. We leave them off when the room’s unoccupied to conserve energy.”

“How do you turn it on?”

I pushed the button of the wall-mounted remote next to her head. Instantly, the unit started up. “Ugh, feel that air,” Never Complains moaned, opening her arms.

“This room is a lot cleaner than ours,” The Nurse stated.

“How much is it?” Never Complains asked.

“$490 per night.”

“What?! That’s so much more expensive than our room!”

“I believe you’re paying $435.”

“Why is it so much more?” The Nurse asked.

“The balcony,” I said, pointing across the room.

“And I bet that doesn’t include tax, right?” Never Complains asked, taking another jaunt into the enormous immaculate bathroom.

“It’s an extra 16% taxes and fees.”

“Oh my god! That is ridiculous! You Mackinac people charge exorbitant prices! Other people can’t afford that kind of stuff. How can you people charge so much?!”

It was now 9:55pm. I was tired, ready to go home, and ready for Never Complains to stop using “you” all the time. “I’m not from Mackinac,” I said, “I’m from Georgia. This is just a summer thing.”

“I know, sweetie, I know. I’m not blaming you. It’s just ridiculous. We come here for a nice girls weekend and it’s just become such a mess.”

“This room is a lot nicer than ours,” The Nurse repeated. “Do you have two of these available?”

“This is our only one.”

“So we’d ALL have to sleep in here?” Never Complains said, terror in her voice.

“We can bring a rollaway in here so that way it’s three beds. This room can accomodate up to five people.”

“Well then we better get something for this.” I looked at Never Complains quizically. “You’re not expecting us to move from our two rooms into this one and not be compensated for it, are you?”

“Unfortunately that’s not something I can authorize,” I replied. I could see where she was coming from, but there was absolutely nothing I could do except move them and make them happy right then and there. “I can talk it over with my manager and see what she says, but I can’t predict what she might say. I can tell you that they really want to keep guests happy.” (That was my professional way of saying, “You’ll probably get something out of this, but I can't fathom what.”)

“So you want us to move from our two rooms to this one, which is more expensive, without any sort of guarantee that we won’t have to pay the difference?”

“I really wish I could, but I just don’t have the authority to do that. All I can do is move you and talk about it with my manager. Like I said, though, they like to keep their guests happy.”

“But you can’t guarantee what they’ll do for us.”

“No because I would hate to tell you one thing and then have the manager say something totally different. I can move you now if you’d like or you can wait until the morning when the owner gets in and talk to her about it.”

The Nurse and Never Complains looked at each other. “Let’s go upstairs and talk it over with the girls,” The Nurse suggested. They left, saying they would call the front desk when they had made their decision.

I came back to the front desk just as Mickey returned from his break. I updated him on what was going on, which seemed to take an age as the phones continued to ring off the hook and guests kept coming to the desk with random requests/questions. As I finished telling Mickey about the possible room move for 319 and 320, the caller ID displayed that 320 was calling.

“Hi, Georgia.” It was the exasperated voice of Never Complains. “We’re still very torn about the situation. We just feel that this room is very unsafe and I feel as though if I stay in here any longer I may have to use my EpiPen on myself. (To this I wanted to scoff, “Of course you have an EpiPen! How could I not see that coming?”) Are you sure there are no other rooms available?”

“There is another deluxe waterfront room with a single king bed I could show you," I said. I hadn't shown it before because it only had the one bed. "It has air conditioning,” I added, knowing what was really important to these ladies. They discussed the extra room and then asked that I show it to them. Before I hung-up, they asked for four bed sheets to cover the chairs in their room because they were deemed too moldy and “unhealthy.”

Personally, the room we had open, Room 217, is my least favourite room in the hotel. I find it to be the only room with dull colours and it has a slightly obstructed view overlooking the lake. However, the moment Never Complains and The Nurse saw the AC unit they began oo-ing and awing over the cleanliness of the room and the enormity of the bathroom.

“Two of you could move into this room and two into the one on the first floor,” I explained. “They’re not next to each other like your rooms now, but they’re the only two we have left with air conditioning and this way you wouldn’t all have to go into one room.”

“Being next to each other was kind of the point,” The Nurse said, looking at Never Complains. “This was supposed to be a girls weekend and it’s nice to be right next to each other.”

“I don’t want to be so separated,” Never Complains added. “And you don’t have any suites?”

“No. Just that Sunset one.” I could tell that the true concern was being separated by an entire floor from their daughters. “It is a very safe hotel," I assured them. "We have nighttime security and since it’s a small hotel we recognize who is a guest and who is not.”

Never Complains raised her eyebrows at me. “I question the security of a hotel that lets a 10 year old and a 14 year old stay in the same room together. That’s not even legal.”

“That’s not what your registration cards say, which you filled out at check-in.” I replied, a little fed up with Never Complains's attitude. “I wasn’t going to mention that to my manager given the circumstance.”

Never Complains made no reply. She turned to The Nurse. “What do you want to do?” she asked.

“I really hate for us to be separated.”

“True. I just don’t know if I can stay in that room.”

“Maybe we should talk it over with the girls.”

“Is there a bellman to help us with our luggage?” Never Complains asked.

“Our porter has already gone home,” I replied, “but Mickey and I can certainly help you move your luggage. You would just need to make the decision while we’re both still here because we cannot leave the desk unattended.”

“Oh,” The Nurse said, “what time are you here until?”


She looked at her watch. “It’s 10:15.”


“We’ll go upstairs and let you know in 10 minutes,” Never Complains said, walking out the door.

Back at the front desk, Mickey and I continued to deal with difficult guests, namely people who would order room service and then suddenly disappear. Finally, Never Complains and The Nurse graced us with a phone call. Surprise, surprise – they decided to go for the two air conditioned rooms. Mickey ran up to help the Problem Sisters with their luggage, while I dealt with the overly complicated paperwork that comes with room moves at The Orchid. Poor Mickey looked almost comically small under the massive bags of Never Complains (who was obviously moving to the room with the balcony and two queen beds). I finally clocked out at 10:47 p.m...