Saturday, October 27, 2012

Code Word: Pigeons

Happy Halloween everyone! I realize it is not the 31st just yet, but here on Mackinac Island it is! Today was the day of the annual Great Turtle Race. This specific race was supposedly the largest one in its seventeen year span with a record 2,500 runners! And those were just the registered ones. I checked in a few guests yesterday who said they were going to be in the race, but had neglected to register for it.

Halloween Weekend itself is supposed to be the "craziest" weekend on the island -- even topping the yacht races. If we are basing "craziness" on the number of drunks stumbling in and out of the hotel then I would say this observation is true. Last night, I watched as a woman shut herself in our front door (as in, she was leaning against the doorframe and kept closing the door so that she was sandwiched between the two surfaces). Once she had finally broken that riddle and freed herself of the door she proceeded to stumble back and forth in the lobby. It took me a few moments to realize she was trying to figure out which of our two staircases to use. I rose to offer assistance, but she hid her face behind the flowers on the front desk so I left her alone. Finally, she made her way slowly up our main staircase. Since I never heard from or saw her again I am assuming she made it safely to her room.

I would say that all around, compared to last season, this year has had less drama with hotel guests and more drama with hotel employees. Obviously the employee drama has not made it onto the blog because - honestly - who wants to listen to a rant about never ending girl drama? That is why this summer Mackinac has been labled: "Mackinac Island: The Lifetime Movie that Never Ends." (One plus side is that my experiences have made me look at my roommate from last year, Summer, in a whole new light. It turns out she wasn't all that bad!)

The few guest-related stories I have at the close of this season would be in my favourite theme of "entitlement." The guests who came to stay with us during the On Season were paying anywhere from $300 - $1,095 per night. The guests who come during our Off Season are paying between $215 - $850 per night. We even have a special at the very end of the season where our rates are discounted 50% from our typical rates. I am not sure why this pattern forms, but it seems that the cheaper the room, the more entitled the guest.

For example, we had one woman come to stay at the Orchid a few weeks ago. She and her husband had booked one of our two Mackinac Suites. Now, I feel like I've covered this issue before, but just to reiterate quickly: the Orchid books by room category and not room number. You can put in your request for a specific room, but we cannot guarantee that room. This little quirk is drilled into every front desk agent at the Orchid Hotel and I know that we are all unlikely to forgo mentioning this tidbit when booking a room. That being said, this particular guest, Mrs. Gibson, requested the Mackinac Suite that has yellow walls. Unfortunately, that particular room was occupied with a stayover when Mr. and Mrs. Gibson arrived so they were put in the blue Mackinac Suite (the suite that nearly everyone at the Orchid agrees is the nicer of the two Mackinacs). From the moment I informed the Gibsons of this it was clear that Mrs. Gibson was severly unhappy. According to our porter, she complained all the way up the stairs and was disgutsed when she was led into the room. I received a call from her mere moments later and she stated that the current guests in the yellow Mackinac Suite should be told to move since the Gibsons had clearly reserved that room. I explained our policy of 'requests vs guarantees' and mentioned that her reservation notes even confirmed that the desk clerk she booked with "did not promise" the yellow suite. Mrs. Gibson reiterated that the guests in the yellow room should have been told at check-in that they would have to change rooms during their stay. She then asked to speak with the manager.

For the next ten minutes I listened as Trisha practically trained Mrs. Gibson on our reservation software in an attempts to explain why we would never guarantee a specific room and why we were not going to ask the Yellow Roomers to move. Mrs. Gibson informed Trisha that she and her husband would be checking out of the hotel shortly. Oddly, this never happened. Instead, when Mrs. Gibson and her husband left for dinner they stood at the doorway and Mrs. Gibson complained loudly of how they "should just leave" because they were "clearly not going to get what [they] wanted."

The next evening, Mrs. Gibson approached the front desk and asked if she could speak with the owner of the hotel. I had already been warn that Mrs. Gibson was trying to track down Mrs. Cannes so I told her that Mrs. Cannes was gone for the day. "Will she be back tomorrow?" Mrs. Gibson asked.

"I am honestly not sure," I lied. "I think she might be going off-island for the day."

"Well, I really need to speak with her. I don't think you were here yesterday, but --"

"I checked you in."

"Oh...well we are just very unhappy with our room. You see, we had reserved the yellow Mackinac Suite, but we're in the blue one instead and we are just very unhappy about it."

"Yes. We spoke on the phone after you checked in."

"Oh...well I would just like to speak to the owner."

"Mrs. Cannes is aware of your complaint. I'll make sure she knows that you stopped by again."

For the next two days Mrs. Gibson practically stalked Mrs. Cannes. Trisha had yet to lay eyes on the Gibsons and every morning I stood at the front desk, waiting for the Gibsons to emerge so I could point them out to Trisha. Our code word was "pigeons."

Unfortunately, "pigeons" was never used and Trisha never saw the Gibsons. Mrs. Gibson was able to finally corner Mrs. Cannes as she began to walk home one night. Apparently, Mrs. Cannes was just about to walk out the front door, chomping on some peanut brittle, when Mrs. Gibson swooped in to tell her of her complaint. Mrs. Cannes told the Pigeon Lady that the matter had to be taken to Trisha. The next morning, Mrs. Cannes told Trisha not to give into any of the Pigeon Lady's demands.

When Mr. and Mrs. Gibson finally checked out Mrs. Gibson refused to make eye contact with me. Her husband was pleasant and thanked me for their stay. I tried to get Pigeon Lady to look at me and dared her, "Complain one more time. Act like you don't recognize me just one more time." Sadly, she did none of the above and kept her eyes glued to the ground.

Besides Pigeon Lady the only other mishap at the front desk has been two negative reviews on TripAdvisor stating, "Our trip was great, but we felt ignored by the front desk staff. It was like we were just the same as the other guests." These reviews really irk me. For starters, Mrs. Cannes and Trisha then post the reviews in our employee notepad and write messages underneath saying we should all strive to do our best. Perhaps it is still my young age and stubbornness, but I feel that those of us left at the front desk are doing our best (these negative reviews would be more appropriate if two of the original front desk clerks were still here). I do not know a single one of us who does not acknowledge every guest who walks through the front door. Also, one of the reviews came from a couple who stayed in our Lighthouse Suite - our most expensive room in the hotel. Their review said that they were unhappy because, for the amount they were paying to be in our "top" suite, they expected a more pampered treatment than what they received.

Here is where the pattern of 'the less money spent the more entitlement felt' comes to play. The Lighthouse Suite is $1,095 per night in the On Season and $850 in the Off Season. This couple came to stay at the Orchid when we were running that 50% special on our Off Season rates. Therefore, they were paying $450. Yes, this is a lot of money. I am not scoffing at the price at all because even at $450 you would not catch me shelling out that kind of cash for a single night's stay. However, I believe that when you put that room price in the perspective of the entire hotel and the fact that it doesn't matter if you're paying $150 for our rooms or nearly $2,000 -- all guests are going to be treated in the same warm and inviting manner (and I am from the South -- I know how to do hospitality!). So, dear guests, please do get off your high horse at times and just enjoy the beautiful fall weather.

(Sidenote: tonight marks my final night on Mackinac Island. I think it's definitely time.)

(UPDATE: The woman who shut herself in the door last night just strode into the hotel confidently, picked the correct stairs on the first try, and the proceeded to fall on them a total of three times and then once more in the hallway for good measure. Happy End of the Season! Next stop: Chicago for Round Two.)