Room 212 – The Guest Experience Survey




“Checking-in. The last name is Clark.”

It was 10:45 on a busy Saturday night at the front desk. I’d spent the entire shift alone as Sean, my counterpart, had called off. The stream of arrivals had been pretty consistent during the past eight hours without too much congestion at the desk, for which I was grateful. However, I was tired and eagerly looking forward to my day off, which officially began in 15 minutes.

The hotel was completely sold out – a perfect-sell, which meant that if all the guests checked-in, there would be a nice little bonus in my paycheck. Not enough to buy that dream house I’d been fantasizing about, but $50 is a decent perk.

I had checked in 42 of the 43 guests on today’s arrival list and Mr. Clark was number 43 – my final arrival of the evening. I had one vacant ready room remaining for the Clark party.

“Welcome, sir. I have your reservation right here. You’ll be staying with us for two nights,” I confirmed.

Mr. Clark rubbed the back of his head and looked at the ceiling while a groan escaped his mouth. “Ohh, that’s right. Traveling is a nightmare!”

“I’m sorry to hear that, sir.” I empathized with him. “Let’s get you all checked-in so you can get to your room and relax.”

“Deal,” he said.

“I just need an ID and a credit card.” The request was second nature to me, especially as this was the 43rd time I made the solicitation tonight alone.

Mr. Clark reached into his back pocket and produced his wallet, from which he fished out his driver’s license and credit card. He handed them to me. I verified the ID, then swiped his American Express through the reader on the side of my monitor.

The check-in process was going swimmingly, and I knew it was only minutes until I’d be going home for the night. I couldn’t wait to get home and relax after a hectic day, which had been consistently busy but with no real hiccups, issues, or angry guests.

I had no clue that my streak of success was about to end.

I returned Mr. Clark’s cards to him with a gracious, “Thank you.” I then followed protocol and confirmed his room type. “I see you’ve reserved a king with a sofa bed.”

Mr. Clark looked at me and said, “No. I need two queens.”

That was the beginning of the end. I had one empty room in my hotel which housed a king-size bed and a sofa sleeper, which at best was a double.

I verified Mr. Clark’s reservation. Sure enough, the reservation was labeled “KSOF” which is hotel code for a king with a sofa bed. There was obviously a disconnect. Perhaps he had called the 800 number to book his room, and the representative on the phone had entered the incorrect room type. Nothing is foolproof and mistakes happen regardless of the industry.

However, a little investigating revealed that the reservation had been made online.

I inhaled deeply but silently through my nose and asked, “Did you make this reservation yourself, Mr. Clark?”

A sudden look of puzzlement came over Mr. Clark’s face. “Yes, I made it online yesterday. Isn’t it in your system?” He was reaching for his phone, “I have the confirmation number right here.”

“Oh, no,” I quickly replied. “I have your reservation here.”


“But I see it was made for a room with a king and a sofa bed.” I could tell this was not going to be a positive check-in experience.

Mr. Clark spoke slowly. “No… I need two queens.”

I internally braced myself for the inevitable push-back. “Well, I can see right here that when you booked the room, the room type selected was a king and a sofa bed, not two queens.”

Mr. Clark looked at me and clearly not understanding the situation, he flippantly said, “Just change it. I need two queens.”

I once again took a deep breath, as if I were about to jump off the high dive at the local swimming pool. “Unfortunately, I cannot do that as I don’t have any rooms with two queen beds available.”

At first, Mr. Clark didn’t see this as a problem. “We’ll give me two kings then.”

I continued, “We only have two room types in this hotel – rooms with two queens and rooms with a king and a sofa bed. And all our rooms with two queens are occupied this evening.”

He glared at me as if he were looking over an invisible pair of glasses. I could feel his irritation stirring. “What?!”

I went on, “In fact, the hotel is completely sold out tonight and you are my final arrival this evening. I have one empty room left, which is yours. Regrettably, it’s a room with a king and a sofa bed.”

Mr. Clark’s irritation boiled over into anger. “WHAT are you telling me?! I am traveling with my wife and two teenage sons! There’s no way they’re going to fit in a sofa bed!”

“I’m sorry to hear…”

“Sorry, my ass!” Mr. Clark interrupted loud enough to startle me, causing me to flinch. I stared at him with wide eyes. “I booked a room for two queens, and I WANT my room with TWO QUEENS!”

I’d had enough. It had been a long day and I refused to take the blame for an error the guest had made himself. I empathized with his predicament, truly, but his shouting and name calling voided all my professionalism and desire to assist Mr. Clark. I’d been trained in guest recovery when a mistake occurred, and in my experience, I’d learned to bandage just about any negative experience. But considering his behavior towards me, I wasn’t going to use any of my recovery techniques for an error that wasn’t the responsibility of the hotel.

Despite Mr. Clark’s shouting, I remained calm and rational. “Sir, I have already established that you made the reservation yourself and that the room type which you selected was a king and a sofa bed.”

“That’s YOUR fault”, Mr. Clark shouted.

His comment was absurd, so I ignored it and went on. “The hotel is prepared to provide you with the requested room type which you made yourself.”

“But…” Mr. Clark tried to interrupt.

“Regardless of perceived views of who is or isn’t to blame, it doesn’t change the fact that I have one empty room in my hotel tonight which contains a king and a sofa bed, which is the room type you selected when making your reservation.”

“I can’t believe this. This is completely unprofessional,” he stated, placing his hands on the desk, looking at the floor. With a loud exhale he looked up at me. If he was trying to gather his composure, it was a failed attempt. He spoke slowly through clenched teeth. “You look in that computer of yours and FIND me a room with two queen beds… This INSTANT!” His voice echoed through the dark, deserted lobby.

I’m not sure why it some guests have the notion their request can be granted if they become aggressive. It’s not as if I can run upstairs and quickly build a new room to house the guests. Nor does a front desk agent have the ability to produce furniture at the snap of a finger. Just as if a retail store were out of the product needed by a customer, if a hotel doesn’t have it, they just don’t have it!

My frustration was building, and I decided to kill Mr. Clark with kindness. No sense in my getting angry. I kept my cool and calmly said, “Sir, please keep your voice at a professional level.”

Mr. Clark glared at me. If looks could kill, my heart would have stopped beating at that moment.

“Now,” I continued, “If you would like, I’d be happy to call around to nearby properties and see if they have the room type you require.”

His volume went from zero to 60 in no time. “WHAT GOOD WILL THAT DO? I don’t WANT to go to a different hotel! Why the hell do you think I booked a room at THIS hotel? Huh? Go on… take a guess. It’s because I want to STAY at this hotel!” He spoke condescendingly towards me, and his face had turned beet red.

His rampage continued. “Now, again, you look in that computer of yours and you find me a room with two queens!”

His behavior had exceeded any form of acceptability. I picked the phone and placed it to my ear.

“Who are you calling, dammit!” he demanded.

Despite the rage building within me, I remained as cool as a cucumber. “The police. It’s clear you’re out of control, and to be honest, I feel the situation is escalating into a threatening environment.”

His eyes widened and his demeanor suddenly became tranquil. It was as if the shell of anger which had overtaken him had broken and fell off. Perhaps the fear of the authorities caused the sudden change of heart.

He took a deep breath then quietly said, “Hang-up the phone. Please.”

I hadn’t dialed any numbers yet, but I knew I had his attention.

“Since you don’t comprehend what I am stating,” I said, “Perhaps a police officer can explain it to you in a more understandable manner. But I will make one more attempt to clarify the scenario.” The phone was still secured to my ear.

“I have one room left in this hotel which contains a king size bed and a sofa bed. This is the room type you reserved, and it’s what I’m offering you. I understand this isn’t the room type you prefer. Since I have no other vacant rooms, I have offered to locate a different hotel with your desired room type so you may have a more comfortable stay. You have declined my offer and expressed you need to stay at this property. I don’t appreciate the tone you are using with me. I have been nothing but helpful in trying to assist you in rectifying your error.

“Now, you are faced with the choice of either staying here in the room type you selected or going to another hotel. Which would you prefer?”

Once the words were out, I couldn’t believe I had said them. I could imagine thousands, maybe millions, of front desk agents from around the world watching this scene unfold and rooting for the underdog. And then suddenly and spontaneously bursting into applause in support of my cause. I felt like a hero, speaking on behalf of the millions of associates who have taken abuse from the Mr. Clark’s of the world.

Spellbound, Mr. Clark looked at the ground. Perhaps he realized his behavior was unwarranted. That the situation was completely his doing and that his behavior was atrocious. It looked as though he was silently accepting the blame for his error. I could only hope.

He then looked up at me, and in a frank, no-nonsense tone, he said, “I’ll take the room.” He lowered his head and avoided eye contact with me through the duration of our interaction.

I quietly placed the phone in its cradle and finished the check-in process. Before handing him the keys, I turned on the hospitality and laid it on thick: “We’re all set; you’ll be in room 212. You can park on the west side of the building and use the side entrance. The elevator is just inside the door, and you’re going to be up on the second floor.” I smiled and added a cherry on top: “Thank you for choosing our hotel. I do hope you enjoy your stay.”

About a week later, I was reviewing the guest experience responses for our hotel. A particular survey caught my eye which had been filled out by Mr. Clark and clearly listed my name as the agent with whom he had associated. My heart sank. Nervously, I read the review.

“Deven checked me into the hotel with the utmost professionalism. He was kind and extremely knowledgeable about the hotel – especially the room types the hotel offers. He explained everything in detail in spite of my ignorance. He was an exceptional employee who should be praised and honored for his exemplary performance and integrity.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. Mr. Clark clearly had the chance to relate to my superiors any version of the story he wanted. He could have skewed the tale to state I’d refused him his requested room type despite having it available. Or that I had called the police when he was just innocently requesting a different room. These types of fabrications weren’t uncommon. He really could have set me up for failure.

Surprisingly, he took the higher ground and in his own way, humbly admitted his error. I felt justified, even glorified in my conquest.

Suddenly, I felt the crowd of a million lowly front desk agents roaring into cheers and bellowing applause.

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.


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