Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Multicultural hotel comes good

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A few weeks ago we ventured north to attend a significant birthday of a close relative and we decided to break the journey with an overnight stay at a resort town equidistant between the starting point and our destination. I looked up the internet to select a resting place and resolved to throw caution to the wind and go more upmarket than I would normally do. A five star hotel was offering a special at $199 a night and I decided it was past time when the heirs to Conrad Hilton’s empire could become partners in my credit card’s debit balance.

We arrived at the imposing establishment and entered the expansive reception area where an exceptionally wide desk offered the choice of three receptionists. An Indian man, an attractive young Asian woman and a more mature lady whom I was later to discover was of South African extraction and was, I gather, the assistant manager.

I can’t for the life of me think why I opted for the young Asian lady, but she was most welcoming and having taken an impression of my credit card proceeded to tell me that the room I had booked online was at the back of the hotel and did not afford the sort of scenery that I might I have expected from such a picturesque province. There was an available room she allowed in the recently upgraded heritage section of the hotel that was larger, better appointed and had a balcony with glorious views over the scenery that the area is noted for.

She then disclosed that this particular room would cost me a mere $55 extra. So $199 had now become $254, but how could I in all conscious turn down this goddess’s offer and so after the final flutter of her false eyelashes I agreed to the upgrade.

It was that weekend when New Zealand’s weather was most inclement and unaccounted-for road closures due to flooding meant the journey took more than an hour longer than we expected. So first up, once we had settled in to our superb room, was a cup of tea. No sign though of tea bags or coffee sachets, so we rang housekeeping and complained. The condiments were in a black box next to the hot water jug, said the disbelieving supervisor, but given that the shelving unit was black these are often hard to find, she conceded.

“Feel around”, I was advised, “They are sure to be there.” So I felt around - it was a bit like looking for missing Mayalasian flight MH370 - but I assured the doubting housekeeper that there was no black box in sight or even out of sight.

Eventually a statuesque Fijian lady arrived at our door with a black box chock full of a variety of teas and coffee options and after a careful search herself, reluctantly admitted that indeed no black box had been in the room.

Later, while waiting for a lift, the South African assistant manager approached us and apologised for the lack of tea and coffee and wanted to know did we have any other complaints?

I walked in where angels fear to tread and said there was. The bathroom door into the bedroom’s ensuite was made of solid glass. Frosted certainly, but the opaqueness dissipated somewhat when the light in the bathroom was turned on. Attending to ones ablutions was a private affair, I said, and given that the toilet was situated next to the door I didn’t think this was a particularly good architectural feature.

She was mortified; she could fix the beverage lack, but replacing all the bathroom doors was a little more than even a room charge of $254 could stand. She fled back to her desk.

Just before retiring that night the Fijian housekeeper knocked at our door and presented us with a bottle of wine, and some chocolates. This, she said, was an extenuation for the lack of tea bags and coffee sachets.

The next morning we woke to an envelope that had been pushed under our door with a letter from the assistant manager enclosed apologising for the inconveniences we had encountered. To compensate she offered my wife and me two fully-cooked breakfasts at no charge in their award-winning restaurant whose supervising chef was none other than MasterChef judge Simon Gault.

I don’t know what the breakfasts would have cost had we actually paid for them, but I suspect they would have more than covered the $55 extra we were charged for the room with the view.

And the moral of the story?

If you’re going to complain at a hotel, make sure it’s an expensive one.

“Do Not Disturb” signs should be written in the language of the hotel maids. -Tim Bedore


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