I Want to Speak to the Manager!

On the internet nothing ever ends it seems, so a complaint letter written to a New York hotel dating back to a stay in 2004 came across my screen a couple of weeks ago.

The apparently genuine letter was written by a disgruntled guest of the Hudson Hotel in New York. It hilariously details his experience at the property, from his encounters in the “darkest lobby in the world” with a models convention, to the less than glowing description of the rooms and a detailed account of dining in the restaurant (details here). The story (as it really must be described) is well written and hilarious, but as a former Hotel General Manager I had mixed emotions. I laughed in all the right places, but also squirmed, as was able to vividly imagine this all actually happening in my hotel!

As line managers or GM’s will attest, how often have we had to make excuses and ‘carry the can’ for the stupidity of professional architects and designers, greed of owners, or the incompetence of even the most highly trained staff?

I am not sure if the letter is genuine, but some “Karen” uttering the words “I want to speak to the manager” are the words that every Hotelier dreads to hear (as these are inevitably followed by the scathing social media reviews, complaint letter requiring immediate attention, endless investigations, phone calls, more letters and follow up…)

Whilst that one encounter used to be the end of it, now mishandle the touch points and this issue will continue to haunt you, as social media posts on Facebook & Twitter and on review sites like TripAdvisor & Booking.com seem to stay forever! The result, potentially, can be untold damage to your reputation, brand and business.

Basil Fawlty would be out of business before the sun set on his panoramic views of Torquay if a couple of the guest experiences from the TV series had played out via TripAdvisor!

It reminded me of another famous hotel complaint story about the guest and room attendant and the soap – if you are not familiar with it, read it here.  It comically re-tells the story of a guest and his attempts to rid his room of small bars of soap during his stay.

Whilst this has now been credited as a work of fiction, it struck a chord within the industry when it first came out, as we can all imagine it actually happening!

The moral in this story, if there is one, is that those hotels with properly trained and empowered staff, who are able to quickly disarm whinging guests and resolve their problems (whether real or imagined), should be best placed to survive and thrive. In a service industry with many hundreds of touch points each day, only the most demanding and unreasonable guests expect perfection, but guests will demand and expect their burning issue to be addressed and if at all possible, resolved as quickly as humanly possible. 

Hudson Hotel New York – Complaint – more

The Hotel Guest and the Soap… – more

Fawlty Towers – “I want to speak to the Manager” – more

About the Author


Tim Johns is a former Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm. For more information about Tim and Elite Search visit http://www.elitesearch.com.au and The Elite Hotelier http://www.elitehotelier.net

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