PART OF AN ONGOING SERIES EXPLORING THE (SOMETIMES) LIGHTER SIDE OF A LIFE SPENT WORKING IN A HOTEL. READ EARLIER INSTALLMENTS HERE.
by DEVEN MATTHEWS
Some guests are very clear about their needs and are persistent in making sure those needs are met to their standards. Mrs. Lindstrom was one of these guests. They travel often and know exactly what the hotel can and should offer, and they stop at nothing to get their way. My interaction with Mrs. Lindstrom began very pleasantly but became a struggle once I discovered the root of her request.
My initial contact with her occurred shortly after she made her reservation, four weeks prior to her arrival. As soon as she had completed making her reservation online, she called the front desk and asked to speak to a manager.
Many hotels, such as mine, are pet-friendly. The hotel accepts and accommodates pets of all breeds and sizes to allow ease when traveling with four-legged family members. There is an additional, one-time charge, for the animal, which is utilized to clean the room a bit more thoroughly once the pet departs. By using advanced machines and cleaning chemicals, any signs of allergens and pet hair is removed from the room, allowing for optimization in cleanliness for the next guest – with or without a pet.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Because of the frequency of pet-travelers and the limited number of hotel rooms, properties generally do not have designated pet rooms. It’s impossible for any front desk staff to know exactly when a pet will be arriving with their owner. This is due to two reasons:
- Some guests honestly forget to mention that their pet will be accompanying them when making their reservation, or
- The guests intentionally forget to mention their pet will be accompanying them to avoid the one-time charge.
So, it’s virtually impossible to guarantee that a room has never housed a pet.
While looking up her reservation, I smiled and explained this to Mrs. Lindstrom. She was scheduled to arrive in four weeks. I stated that although I could not guarantee a room that has never housed a pet, I could guarantee a room free of any traces of a pet. I explained the procedure in which we cleaned a room once a pet has occupied the space and assured her, regardless of which room she would occupy during her stay, my staff would clean it to be “pet-free” before she arrived.
At first, Mrs. Lindstrom wasn’t satisfied with my answer. She insisted she be given a room that had never housed an animal. I quickly explained the impossibility of such a request and explained my reason. I did, however, assure her that the room we assigned to her on the morning of her arrival would be cleaned very thoroughly so that no traces of any animal would be found.
She agreed and we hung up.
Exactly one week later, Mrs. Lindstrom called the hotel again and asked to speak to me.
“I just want to be sure my room will be pet-free,” she reiterated.
In my mind I thought, “We’ve already gone over this. I will clean a room for your stay as though a pet had occupied the room before you. Thus, it will be pet-free.”
Instead, I responded, “Yes, Mrs. Lindstrom. I’ve mentioned your request to the housekeeping manager and have written extensive notes in your folio. The employees who are working the morning of your arrival will not be able to miss the messages to make your room pet-free prior to your arrival.”
“Can you guarantee that?” she asked.
“I can guarantee that I have passed-on your request and that all responsible parties have been notified.”
Mrs. Lindstrom seemed satisfied with this. She once again reiterated her need for a pet-free room, and I reiterated that her room would be pet-free. Seemingly satisfied, she hung up.
This same routine happened once a week for the next two weeks. Each discussion included Mrs. Lindstrom’s desperate plea for a pet-free room, followed by the assurance that her room would be cleaned thoroughly enough to leave no traces of any previous pet in the room.
The day before Mrs. Lindstrom’s arrival, she called me once again to make sure her room would be free of any trace of animals. I assured her that all steps would be taken to create a pet-free room for her arrival the following day.
YOU BROUGHT YOUR WHAT?
On the day of her arrival, I got to the hotel about 7 a.m. – the same time as the housekeeping supervisor. I checked our property management system and found that the guest who had occupied room 1011 the night before had already departed. I put the room out-of-order in the system and headed over to housekeeping.
I explained to my housekeeping supervisor that room 1011 needed a deep cleaning to occupy a pet-free request. We went to the room and stripped the beds, gathered the towels, and even removed the dust ruffle and curtains to have them laundered. Engineering removed all furniture from the room and shampooed the carpets and all upholstery. Likewise, all upholstered furniture received a deep cleaning to ensure there was no trace of a previous pet. The room was put back together in about three hours and looked showroom new. I was SURE Mrs. Lindstrom would be pleased with our work.
That afternoon, Mrs. Lindstrom arrived at the desk to check-in. She was a very gentle looking woman – the stereotypical kindergarten teacher perhaps? From my desk in the back, I overheard her ask for me, so I went to the desk excited to meet her and tell her of the work performed to make her room pet-free. She was pleased and thanked us for our hard work. The check-in went as usual, and I handed her the room keys with a smile.
It was then she dropped the bomb.
Very often, regardless of how prepared you feel, a wrench the size of a car is thrown into your brilliantly executed plan and creates an unexpected surprise. Such was the case with Mrs. Lindstrom.
“Oh, by the way,” she stated, “I brought my cat with me.”
My face looked as though someone had slapped me as hard as they could. I looked up at her as though she had suddenly grown a second nose and asked her to repeat herself, hoping I’d misunderstood her.
“I see you charge a pet fee, and I just wanted to let you know I have my cat with me.”
At first, I thought I would let it go. Smile and shrug it off. But, in poured the flashbacks of her weekly calls and the endless notes I had written in her folio, housekeeping ironing drapes and re-hanging them, and engineering having to shampoo the furniture. All these images paraded through my mind like a marching band.
“Ma’am,” I stammered. “With all due respect, you requested a pet-free room, to which you have bought your pet?”
“Oh, yes. Oliver is allergic to all other animals and needs a pet-free room if he’s going to have a comfortable stay.”
Flabbergasted, I smiled. Had I only known a cat would be occupying room 1011, I would have refrained from putting all the work into cleaning that room.
I courteously wished Mrs. Lindstrom and her cat a comfortable stay in their pet-free room. Another satisfied customer receiving exactly what she requested – a pet-free room for her cat.
Deven Matthews is a hotelier who has worked in the hotel industry for more than 23 years. A professor of hotel management at the College of Southern Nevada in Las Vegas, Deven enjoys instructing the future managers of Las Vegas hotels. He holds a master’s degree in business management and is fascinated by all things hospitality. When not immersed in hotels, Deven enjoys playing the piano and spending time with his wife and their six children.