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Traveler’s Question at TripAdvisor:”Why should I waste my time talking with the Duty Manager?”

I wound up reading a TripAdvisor review about a hotel in the Channel Islands on the island of Guernsey when I decided I should interview some hotelier(s) there after I just saw the new Netflix release,  “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” which I thoroughly enjoyed!  While looking for hotels of interest to me and my audiences on air and online, I ran across a result from TripAdvisor in which a recent hotel guest there complained about a less-than-perfect experience. The question posed by the hotel guest in Guernsey became tangled up in my consideration of creating a feature about the destination as an outgrowth of my decision to focus on Mitchell Kaplan, the book fair attraction he has spearheaded and his role in bringing this film to life!

I decided I needed to read about the experience of that guest in Guernsey and consider whether or not to include that hotel in my next show that includes an interview with Mitchell Kaplan when we talk about his new film that takes place on Guernsey and expand that into a feature on Guernsey since his book stores and book fair, both attractions for travelers to Miami, act as the bridge to exploration of Guernsey as a tourism destination.

This period film, with wonderful scenery of Guernsey and costumes of the 1940’s is set during the Nazi occupation of this British island. I saw Mitchell Kaplan’s newest film on Netflix and decided two things:

1) I need to expand my radio interview with him  to talk about the film, “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society,” and the location on one of the Channel Islands on which it was filmed and. . .

2) I need to set the imaginations of my radio audiences loose as we talk with one or more hoteliers from the island about why travelers should opt to visit the Channel Islands, particularly Guernsey, in this case and get some sense of hotels that would be of interest to check into!

So I went to Google to find hotels in Guernsey that would interest me as the first  step in ferreting out hotels that would also be of interest to my audiences. And when I did that search, in addition to finding four (4) hoteliers and their hotels that I’d love to talk with and talk about, I also came across a link to reviews of hotels at TripAdvisor.

There was a hotel I had just looked at that was very appealing and I had jotted down the general manager’s name and telephone contacts for him and the hotel when I noticed a one-star review from a recent guest at the hotel. If you are a fan of my radio, and now TV, travel shows, you probably are aware that I don’t put a lot of stock into random reviews from anonymous people who may have never traveled before in their lives and, as  a result, get bent out of shape by things that could easily be remedied while at the hotel or resort rather than carrying on with internet postings once they are home, especially since most of the items I read that upset people are simple, to the point of being petty, and could easily be rectified.

I have since learned that there is a segment of travelers who make a business of complaining about insignificant items in hopes of using these little items as leverage to, essentially, blackmail management of the hotel into offering them either a partial, discounted or full refund on their visit or providing them with a voucher of significant value to be used on their next visit to the property. Shameful as that is, note that that is factual information. Note that, if you really like a place and hope to visit many times in your lifetime, that approach is certain to put them out of business if enough characters who travel impose on the good intentions of the hotelier and the hotel may not be there to honor the voucher in less than a year let alone be there for your next bench-marking occasion due to such impositions.

The person who left the review criticized something having to do with drainage in the bathroom and presentation of breakfast that they found unappealing and explained that they noted these lack-luster items to the housekeeping and dining room staffers. After a few days  of their week long visit, nothing was changed nor attended to and the guest complained at the front desk.  The front desk clerk asked if the guest had reported these items to the Duty Manager, who would be the person in charge when the General Manager, who is one step from being the Heavenly Father as it relates to any hotel. The guest’s TripAdvisor question was, in essence, why should he waste his time seeking out the Duty Manager when he told these things to the staff people in each category of complaint and wondered why the various hotel departments don’t communicate with one-another.

Oh, dear! Clearly, this person, whom I think lives in the UK so he is forgiven, doesn’t listen to my radio shows or he would have known better from the outset. (Note: He can now listen to Travel WITH Stephanie Abrams on iHeart Radio if he becomes one of the 90 million subscribers to iHeart Radio(!) or he can listen to our podcasts at travelers411.com or archived audio at sAbrams.com!)

So for all of you who may have missed the many times I’ve explained where to lodge your unhappiness at any hotel or resort in the world, the magic words are not Open Sesame! The magic words are, “I’d like to speak with your General Manager!” Do not ask to speak with the Manager. If you are at the front desk, they will bring you that shift’s front desk manager. Do not ask for the Manager in the hotel’s bar or restaurant as they will bring you the restaurant manager or bar manager. You want the General Manager of the whole place! That is the person with the keys to the vault! That is the person who knows where all  the bodies are buried! That is the person who knows how to get done what you want accomplished and who has the authority to accomplish your goals if so motivated. Anybody else you tell your story to such as the maid cleaning your accommodations or the waiter in the dining room, first has to remember what you complained about and then has to tell his/her supervisor who then has to tell the manager of that sector of the hotel who then has to either deal with it or go to the Duty Manager who then has to go to the General Manager and, in the normal course of things, the ball that you handed them is going to get dropped somewhere along the route in any hotel or resort in the whole world. . .except for a very, very few such as at a Ritz-Carlton, if they haven’t dramatically changed since Marriott took over the brand, or in a few, very few, hotels in the world where the training is so amazing as to instill in every. . .every. . . employee that they have the responsibility and authority to correctt whatever a guest sees as incorrect and stay on top of it until it is fixed! Everywhere else, the reason you ask to speak with the GM is that you want to see the problem fixed now and that’s the only way you are going to see it get done while you are still in the hotel.

Had this guest spoken  with the Duty Manager (or the GM) about an annoying drain that wasn’t draining, the drain would have been fixed while the guest was at breakfast or out sightseeing or shopping or playing a round of tennis or golf.  Instead, this guest whispered his problem down the drain and then complained because it wasn’t fixed. The Duty Manager, for the moment, or the GM when available could have, and probably would have, offered them, if the hotel was not sold-out, the opportunity to move to another room or suite or accommodation with a better view, offered help packing up and  moving to the (upgraded) facility, and maybe even bought them lunch or a drink to relax while the staff accomplished that.

If you want to get a problem corrected, you need to take it to a person who has the skill and tools to get the job done swiftly and to your satisfaction. Don’t mumble to the maid and then complain that three days later the problem isn’t fixed and that’s the hotel’s fault. This so reminds me of the travel agent who wanted to get the group travel business of a local school soccer team. The agent went out of her way to pitch the coach on all the reasons that her agency had all the skill, knowledge and tools to do  a great job efficiently, attend to every detail of the road trips the team would be taking, and save the team money in the process. It was a shock to the agent when another travel agency got the account which happened because it wasn’t the coach who made the decision about what agency the team would choose. It was the team’s manager who made that decision so the agent was pitching the wrong person throughout the process! When you try selling the husband on the destination for the next vacation, you lose that sale too as it’s going to be the wife that makes that decision! And these parallels come to mind in thinking about leaving your complaints and requests with a staff member, seeing that they are not being accommodated and then telling the same staffer to remedy the same complaint. If you ask for more pillows or more soap or a shoe  horn and you don’t get it, it’s time to move your request to a higher level and in a hotel remember who holds the keys to the vault.

In general, the easy items like extra pillows and more bars of soap or a sink that isn’t draining don’t require the GM to get involved UNLESS you are getting snappy, snarky responses from the staff which warrant that tale to be retold and a higher level of skill entering the picture. If you reserved a suite and got a room or bought seafront and got parking lot views, those are important enough issues to go  straight to the top so you aren’t wasting your time climbing the hierarchy to resolve your problem. And to give finality to the TripAdvisor patron’s question about why should  he waste his time seeking out the Duty Manager or GM, the answer is that you’ll get what you need done pronto and won’t be wasting your  time asking people who have to pass the request along and hope it doesn’t get lost along the route and, in the long run it will be the most efficient way to get what you need accomplished and not waste time getting aggravated by telling and retelling the story and  still not getting what you want! So that’s why you need to ask to speak with the truly top person unless your plan is just to complain at the hotel, complain online and hope you’ll get compensated with a refund or future discount or voucher to “make up” with you!

--Gotta Fly Now!sm
Your Personal Travel Expert
Nationally syndiated radio show host
Stephanie Abrams

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