Friday, December 11, 2009

Gold Name Tags Are All The Rage

I was helping a group contact unload some gifts into the ballroom for a Christmas party this afternoon when a guest intercepted me and asked what I've been asked oh so many times while working in hotels - even back when I wore a uniform - "Do you work here?"

My knee-jerk response is to say "No, gold name tags are all the rage." I typically bite my tongue, (a skill in which anyone who's been in the hotel industry for any length of time has mastered), smile and say "yes." Or, if it's been a really bad day, "no" (and walk away with a satisfied smile).

I've heard it said that there are no stupid questions, only stupid people. Well, I disagree. There are both, in abundance. I realize that often these people were not necessarily stupid, however absolutely no thought was given to the question before their question was asked.

To follow is a small sampling of some of the interrogative gems I've collected over the years. First-listed is the response I would like to have made, (or may have, had I been that quick) followed by the approximate actual response.

Enjoy, and please feel free to share your own brushes with the dimly witted.

Asked while I stood behind what could not be mistaken for anything other than a hotel registration desk:

"Is this where we check in?"
No. For our amusement and yours, we have hidden the registration desk. It's a fun little game we like to play.
Actual response: "Yes, sir. It is."

Asked while I was guiding tours on the River Thames:

"Why did the royal family have [Windsor] Castle built on the flight path to Heathrow Airport?"
I'm sure that back in 1066 William the Conqueror executed someone for this severe lack of foresight.
Actual response: Blank stare to allow the other tourists to laugh. (Believe it or not - when I relayed this story, it appears it had been asked multiple times).

"Does this boat drop people off where it picks them up?"
No. We take you to London and leave you with a map and some bread crumbs.
Actual response: "Typically, yes."

"Does this boat go on the water here?"
No. You are looking at the rare but exciting levitating boat. Once all are boarded and securely in their seats, we take them on an aerial tour of the Thames Valley.
Actual response: "Typically, yes."

"Can you direct me toward Windsor Castle?" (Please keep in mind that Windsor Castle is on a hill, and is highly visible to anyone in the town, and neighboring towns).
You know, I'm really not sure. I've been meaning to go by and see what it looks like.
Actual response: (Point)

"How long is the half-hour tour?" (yes. really.)
Five hours sir, or if you pay double, overnight.
Actual response: "31 minutes."

"Is there a bar on the boat?"
"Do you serve alcohol?"
No. Soup only.
Actual response: "Yes, would you like another drink?" (I was a little bolder in my youth)

"Where do we buy tickets?"
In Paris - or, on Tuesdays in Southwest London.
Actual response: (Point at the VERY large, signed, ticket office ten feet away).

Asked while working in a downtown Charleston hotel:

"What happens to the city outside of tourist season?"
Well, we pack it into little boxes and ship it to Los Angeles. We keep it in the same warehouse as Williamsburg, Virginia.
Actual response: "It's much the same, with fewer people."

"What's East of Charleston?"
Iraq. Or, if you keep going for a while, Charleston again.
Actual response: "The Atlantic Ocean."

(Asked while a bellman drove a car into the garage across the street right in front of us)
"Do you valet?"
No. We will take your car and sell it on the black market. Oops, the secret it out.
Actual response: "Typically, yes."

Asked working at Middleton Place, a plantation and Inn near Charleston:

"Where do you keep the alligators?"
In the guest rooms. I'll make sure he's gone before you get there.
Actual response: "They do pretty well on their own."

"Were there slaves on this plantation?"
Nope. Back in the day it was full of Oompa Loompas.
Actual response: "Unfortunately, yes."

"Is the honeymoon suite an actual suite?"
It is in fact a parlor with two twin beds and an outhouse.
Actual response: "Not just in name only."

Though this was not a guest question, I have to mention it. I had just locked up the lodge, and saw a bobcat about ten feet from my car. I radioed the registration building, where my friend Amy was (unbeknown to me) checking in a couple of guests.
"Amy, come in."
"Go ahead Will."
"There's a bobcat about ten feet away from my car."
"Is he on the other side of your car from you?"
"For the moment."
"Walk up to your car very slowly."
"Working on that."
"Get in and lock the doors."
I could not help but laugh. "Are they good with car doors?"

Working in Tysons Corner, in a suburb of Washington, DC:

"Is this the Marriott?"
No. Not THE Marriott. That's somewhere else. This is just a decoy. Good, isn't it?
Actual response: (After glancing up at the VERY prominent glowing red Marriott sign on top of our tower). "Yes, sir."

"Are the White House and all the monuments and stuff within walking distance?"
Everything is in walking distance, eventually.
Actual response: "Unfortunately, no."

(Early in the morning, outside the restaurant, buffet in full view)
"Do you serve breakfast here?"
No. What you're smelling is actually a breakfast-scented spray we use in the lobby for a fresh morning atmosphere.
Actual response: "Yes."

Working in a Marriott in Providence, Rhode Island - standing in the very large parking lot:

"Can we park here?"
No. We ask our guests not to bring cars, or otherwise park at the mall.
Actual response: "Typically, yes."

"Do the elevators go all the way to the top?"
Yours don't. (Or) No. These only go up three floors, but the stairs are very nice.
Actual response: "Usually, yes."

(Asked by a guest arriving from New York)
"What time is it here?"
The same time in New York. Except on Tuesdays.
Actual response: (I told her the time, and she looked somewhat surprised, but didn't say another word. Some people travel so much they really do forget what city they're in, so this is almost forgivable.

(Pointing to the telephone on the concierge desk)
"Can I make calls on this phone?"
No, but isn't it pretty?
Actual response: "I believe you may."

(Group contact standing by several long tables full of chafing dishes and platters of cold items)
"Is this the buffet?"
No, but it sure looks a lot like one, don't you think?
Actual response: "Yes sir it is."

Working in a restaurant in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina:

"Are all the steaks made of beef?"
No, some are made of Plexiglas.
Actual response: "Typically, yes."

"What does La Casa Di Romanza mean?"
The house of meat.
Actual response: "The house of romance" (with restrained gag reflex)

"Is this your wine list?"
No, this is Cliff's Notes on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.
Actual response: "I believe it is, yes."

While studying in culinary school, after class, in my chef's whites in a supermarket (our executive chef here at the Marriott Greenville recently experienced the same thing):

"Oh, are you a chef?"
No, why?
"Maybe one day."

Working as a corporate event planner in Greenville, South Carolina:

"Is your hotel near the beach?"
As compared to say, Kansas, yes.
Actual response: "We're only a few hours away from the nearest beach."

"Do your data projectors work well with laptops?"
No, we've had to have a few come-to-Jesus meetings. They're very mean projectors.
Actual response: "I've never had an issue that couldn't be easily resolved."

"Can we eat in the restaurant?"
Only on Tuesdays.
Actual response: "Yes, you certainly can."

(This group's meeting started at 7am)
"Can I get in the room at 6 to start setting up?"
No. We have an overnight event in that room, and they break half an hour before you. You may go in promptly at 7.
Actual response: "Yes, you can."

This could go on. And on. I get these types of questions all the time. I mean all the time. Almost every day, in fact. I look forward to going back to school and getting as far away from tourism and hospitality as I can - however this divorce (as mentioned in a previous blog) from hospitality is getting messier all the time. And if I do end up in public relations, I'm not sure how much better it will get.

There are stupid people everywhere. And they all keep finding me.


Mandy said...

Perhaps next time you get one of these questions you should just look the person in the eye...and then say, "I'm sorry, did you hear the question you just asked me?" and walk away...

Will Shealy said...

You're right, but then that would end up appearing on one of our satisfaction surveys. The trick is to be dripping in so much sarcasm as to be interpreted as genuine interest in the "valid" question at hand.

Iris Silk said...

Very funny. Yes, there is such a thing as a stupid question. People ask them all the time!

Anonymous said...

Dear Author !
You have hit the mark. It is excellent thought. It is ready to support you.

wah said...

Like this topic. Everyday face with those kind of questions. I am used to it.