Last week I had the absolute pleasure of checking in a very important guest. He was not famous, or a leader in his industry, or anyone of any outwardly presenting importance. Honestly, when I first greeted him in the lobby, I was jealous of his lavender polo, and I wondered why I did not own more lavender-colored clothes myself. Side note, I just discovered today what is going to be my fall work wear trend, polo shirts underneath sweaters, and I have a few grey sweaters begging to be paired with light purple. Mr. Important started our interaction quite pleasantly, and then immediately switched gears on me. The problem arose that the specific room type he booked was unavailable, as the night prior we had guests throwing a lovely party in the middle of their suite. Celebrations are a wonderful thing, and we need reasons to celebrate these days more than we know; however, if your celebration devolves into you using pillowcases to catch your vomit, and seeing how much pizza can be smashed into carpets, you need to do it at your home. Because of said partygoers, we had to give Mr. Important an almost-identical-but-not-quite suite instead of the one he booked. When I say almost identical, I mean the tub is bigger but still a bathtub, and the room has a doorbell for hearing assistance.
“Did this cost Mr. Important anything extra?” Zero dollars.
“Did it require him to rethink his travel plans?” Absolutely not, and it was still granting his request for room location.
However, had you walked up to the desk as he was berating me about the principle of the issue for ten minutes, you would have thought I kicked his dog for good measure.
“Well Asher, did you explain that it was not an issue any person could control, because obviously you do not staff employees in guest rooms to babysit?” I sure did, I even apologized, numerous times and offered to give him complimentary breakfast, reward points, or even a discounted rate. Instead, he shouted for another five minutes before his wife finally spoke up and said, it seems like it was not anything the hotel could control, and they headed off to their room, leaving me half wanting to rage cry and throw up at the desk.
The hospitality industry is kneecapped by both the pandemic and the lackluster response from our leaders. I have five friends that are flight attendants, and every single one of them are laid off, or waiting for their indefinite furloughing to happen in October. Our parent company has furloughed or laid off over a third of their corporate staff, and I will let you know when my location has all of its employees back at full strength. I promise you it will not be before 2021. One of the side consequences outside of shuttered hotels and airlines folding is that the cost of flying or staying at a hotel could not be more affordable. This abysmal algorithm has resulted in a massive uptick in the percentage of terrible travelers to kind ones, and if you add that fact onto the continually mounting stresses of working in an industry that requires people to be able to travel without the threat of an agonizingly cruel illness/death, we ran out of white flags in June. While Mr. Important has since calmed down a hair during his stay, he has only been the most recent in an ongoing stream of rude, entitled folks who are propped up by a system that says the customer is always right.
Hospitality does not mean servitude. Is it my job to do everything and anything within my power and ability to give you the absolute best stay possible? Without a doubt. In addition, I enjoy doing so. That smile a guest gives when you are able to make their day is worth ten Mr. Importants. My manager and I hang every piece of positive feedback in her office, because it reminds us why we run all over the hotel dripping sweat under dress clothes and scrambling to find solutions to the most bizarre request a guest could come up with. Passionate hospitality workers do not equate to willing verbal assault targets. I suggest a punching bag, or drum lessons. It also does not mean that I am a magician and can magically grow new rooms at my property. I also do not have the ability to fix the satellite dish during inclement weather, or fire up the grill when the kitchen is closed, but I can give you a recommendation for one of fortyish restaurants within a mile or two of my location. I did not make the mask mandates, and I do not deserve to be screamed at over people’s thoughts on them.
Traveling outside of a pandemic is daunting, traveling during this time is excruciating, and we sympathize, because traveling should be a fun adventure, not a health scare. We love seeing smiling faces, and will do our best to ensure your travels and stays are wonderful, in spite of the world. Just remember, this is now our everyday. This uncertain awkwardness of new rules and restrictions, that none of us wanted, but all need for our safety. If you are not comfortable having to be around other people, stay home where you can control your exposure risk. Be kind to desk agents when they are profusely apologizing for circumstances out of everyone’s control. Always thank your flight attendants and concierge workers, and please tip your housekeepers, bellhops, bartenders and servers. We love our chaotic-at-times industries, and we want them to flourish even as COVID nips at our heels. Kindness is what is going to get us through this and anything less to those who risk their lives for your leisure is pantomime to kicking us all in our smiling, welcoming faces.
- Asher Kennedy is a writer, activist, transman and cisnerd living an hour outside of Washington in the Eastern Panhandle of WV. An alumnus of Shepherd University where honed both his writing and musical skills, he is the current treasurer of Hagerstown Hopes, serving as a member of its Board of Directors. He is also the co-facilitator of both the Trans and Spouse groups. Through his work with Hagerstown Hopes, he works alongside Trans Healthcare MD to bridge the gap for medical knowledge and coverage for the trans and non-binary communities throughout Maryland. He has been featured on RoleReboot (rolereboot.org) and is an avid speaker for local college and community panels. He is on Twitter @ItsAsherK, and can be found re-watching the same six episodes of The Office in his spare time.