Hotel 101: 10 things I’ve learned in the ‘front of house’.

I’ve had this gig working at a hotel reception desk for over a year now… here are some things I’ve learned.

#1 Knock before entering your new room

After check-in, you find the door to your room.  Then you knock a few times. Why? Sometimes there are glitches in the hotel computer, sometimes there are communication snafu’s between housekeeping and reception. It happens. So before you open the door to find a stranger who is very surprised to see you, Knock.

#2 Lock your door

Following number 1, someone unintentionally could walk in on you! So use that little swing latch thingy that looks useless to stop a criminal but would work wonders in keeping out the person in #1.

#3 If you accidentally leave an item in your room

and call back a week or two (or three) later expecting us to have it, remember who it was who forgot it in the first place: YOU. Although we go to great lengths to keep track of your phone charger, underwear, pajamas, wedding ring, wallet, iPod … and have returned many, many, many of these things to previous guests, sometimes its just not there.  And like Matt Damon says, its not my fault.

#4 I don’t know where your taxi is.

If you suffer from poor time management, that is not my problem. Or if you did not realize a city the size of Aberdeen could have a rush hour, also not my problem.

#5 Our airport shuttle is not yours to have at your disposal the moment you decide you need it.

It might help when you are staying at a hotel to notice that your are not the only guest and that maybe, just maybe, you might have to share or put in a request ahead of time.

#6 Our 2 story hotel does not have a elevator (lift).

This comes as a shock to pretty much everyone. Welcome to the old country. You complain that Scotland has McDonald’s and Starbucks and you want to experience the ‘real’ Scotland, well here is your chance to get some exercise the old-fashioned way.

#7 Every hotel has ‘last let’ rooms.

These are the rooms that are what you might call ‘sucky’. Whether its poorly located with a heat pump, dumpster, or brick wall outside the window or perhaps there is no window or maybe its next to reception desk or bar or pool, every hotel has them. So if you like rooms that are perhaps rarely used, ask for these. They will be less trammeled and have less worn fixtures in all likelihood. But it will come with the above caveat. You think that sometimes we put people in these rooms intentionally. Wrong. We don’t like listening to complaining, so why would we put someone in a room that they will complain about? Only if we are full will we put you in these rooms. And then you can complain all you want on Trip Advisor.

#8 Check-in times 

I used to think that you couldn’t check in before the ‘3pm’ or ‘4pm’ check-in times advertised. Wrong. I have people showing up at 7am, 8am and all through the day trying to check in. The nice ones are apologetic and say “not sure if its possible to check in now, I know its very early”. These are the people who get the rooms. The ones who just show up at 9am and say, “I’m here to check in”. I drag my feet and act like I’m being interrupted (which I am- you should see our task list not to mention doing 50, 60, 80 check outs ). Then say ‘let me see if there are any rooms available’ then search for a while in the system to make them wait a bit.

#9 If you ask for stuff really nicely, you will probably get what you ask for in most cases.

Like maybe some extra slippers or maybe we can activate your key to the special lounge where club members get snacks. Or an upgraded room. Being nice to people making minimum wage goes a long way. Being mean to them just means you are a jerk or are trying to get your entire bill cancelled even though you ate all the terrible food on your plate and slept well in your bed that you hated. But of course I have never, ever seen this happen.

#9 is true unless you are just being really needy or high-maintenance.

Like if you gave us your silk blouse to send to the dry cleaners and it comes back with a button missing and you demand that we sew the replacement button back on even though your room has a little sewing kit. And then I and a housekeeping staff person have to literally sew your button back on this blouse that isn’t really your color anyway. And the last time I sewed anything was like 20 years ago so your button is gonna look woppyjaw. So there.

#10 But actually, most people are lovely and easy going

Like most public-facing jobs, there is always a mixed bag of apples, some rotten.. some sweet.  I now know what its like on the the front lines of the hospitality industry -as if 20 years of hospital work didn’t tell me already- what people are really like.

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