The customer is not always right

That overwork adage "the customer is always right" does not apply in the hotel business, particularly in a small hotel. If the customer is trying it on, then firstly it is going to cost us money to correct a non existent problem (like replacing a perfectly good bottle of wine) . And secondly, we have no desire for that customer to return, if they are hell bent on causing mischief.

Of course that is the rub,which ones are "trying it on" and which ones are "hell bent on mischief". To each of. we ourselves are reasonable people, its the rest of the world that are a little odd. It was the Yorkshireman who said to his friend "Everyone in the world is quite mad, except for me and thee. And sometimes I have my doubts about thee"

But the great thing about running a hotel is that you see enough people to establish the norm. You know what time it is normal to arrive by in the evening, you know what time is normal to vacate a room by on the day of departure, you know it is normal to sleep in a bed and not the floor, you know what a normal sized portion is for dinner, what is acceptable in speed of service. If one works within these bounds of convention, then as a hotel, one satisfies most of the customers, most of the time.

But not all the customers, all of the time! Last year we had a ring at the doorbell. It was an AA inspector with a letter of complaint from a guest that had stayed with us earlier in the year. That was the first odd point, the guest had stayed in August and had waited 8 weeks before complaining. A cynic might think that their credit card bill for the period was due for payment.

Anyway, they had left here two months before, without even hinting at a problem. The letter detailed a number of minor points, but the big complaint was that the room was too small and had no bathroom, our literature claiming that all our rooms had bathrooms. They even gave the room number concerned. So the AA inspector and I went to examine the offending room. He remarked that it was not small, certainly larger than the average hotel room, and what was that door, oh to the bathroom. He opened the door and lo, a bathroom. We marvelled at how someone could have stayed in that room for three nights and somehow missed opening the door to the bathroom.

It is unlikely that anyone could genuinely have missed it, therefore one can only conclude that it was a manufactured complaint, designed to get a refund for the perpetrator, who presumably thought that the system would just throw up a refund.

We had a similar problem years ago, with a guest who stayed over Christmas, paid by cheque, then stopped the cheque on the grounds that he had not had "value for money". I felt particularly strongly about it as we work hard over Christmas to deliver value for money at an important time of the year to guests. I took the man to the Small Claims Court (the only time I have ever done this) , and as evidence got letters from all the other guests in reply to my question as to how they had enjoyed Christmas with us, and whether they got value for money. To a man they all had enjoyed themselves. The chap who was refusing to pay his bill was asked about all this evidence in court, and proceeded to attack the rest of the guests as all being atypical (drunks, senile, unmarried, foreign among other reasons) - he was the only normal person there, according to himself.

Anyway the judge ruled in my favour, and the man went into orbit, cheated of his refund.

When it is a matter of fact that is in contention, then it can be dealt with fairly objectively. For example either a bottle of wine is off or it is not, or a room has a bathroom or it does not. The problem comes in the subjective areas - like hospitality. Most people, including hotel inspectors rate our hospitality highly. But if a guest abuses that hospitality, then we in turn act in a more off hand way with them. We had a journalist stay recently who booked for dinner and room for two night - when he turned up he announced that he would "probably" only stay one night, and that he had already reserved a table somewhere else for dinner that night - I am afraid that I do not go out of my way to chat to people who treat us like that.

I suppose that experience has taught me that the person who does complain to the AA, Egon Ronay, the Tourist Board or anyone else on a long list, is more likely to be the lead swinger, than to be the genuinely aggrieved. What is more, they seem to think that the hotel will immediately capitulate to whatever their (unreasonable) demands are if they so much as threaten to write to such an organisation (Unless you move our room/give us a free dinner/free wine then we will write to Egon Ronay)


                            And if you want to stay in a nice hotel by the sea in Cornwall, Corisande Manor Hotel, Cornwall

                                                                                           Corisande Manor Hotel, Newquay, Cornwall

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