Both retirees, my husband and I officially became snowbirds this February. Out of the polar vortex we drove, into warmer weather and even warmer Southern hospitality. However, several experiences helped us appreciate the effect one person can have on a business.
When traveling, we usually patronize local restaurants. One night we decided to have dinner at a family chain restaurant. Our waitress, Sharon, greeted us warmly and took our drink orders. She animatedly answered all questions and encouraged us to try the Thursday special – the turkey platter. My appetite piqued, I asked for a smaller portion. Sharon went to talk to the chef, after assuring me that something could be arranged. She soon returned, apologizing profusely, saying, “I am so sorry I got y’all ready for turkey but today is Wednesday and the special is meatloaf.”
She continued to rue her mistake but we laughed that we were on vacation and unsure of the day of the week. Throughout our dinner, Sharon checked with us and, eventually, we shared quick stories of home and family. As we left, we assured her that we would stop on our return trip and ask for her.
Weeks later, we were disappointed to find that Sharon was not working that evening. Our waitress barely spoke to us, never checked to see if we needed anything and slapped the check on our table without asking if we’d like coffee or dessert. We expressed our displeasure with the manager, and vowed to investigate local restaurants in the future.
Days later, we pulled into our hotel a little early for check-in. With a “Hi, how y’all doin’?” we were assured that they had a room ready for us. We chatted with the clerk, who recommended a restaurant and presented us with coupons for free dessert. The staff was the epitome of Southern grace and charm. The hotel was immaculate, with many extra amenities. We were so impressed, that we spoke of our delight to the sales manager, who asked if we’d be willing to email the district manager. I eagerly wrote our compliments in an email that evening.
On our return trip, we looked forward to our stay at the same hotel. Arriving again a bit early, we inquired about our reservation. The young woman glared at us, clearly perturbed, and loudly pronounced that it was too early and told us to come back at 3. We elected to sit and wait, listening to this same woman converse with other guests and staff in a rude manner. Within a few minutes, another young woman walked over, apologized for the delay and handed us our keys and registration form.
That evening, we experienced difficulty with our Internet connection. Speaking to the desk clerk, she assured us she would check into it. Within the hour, she called, apologized and explained that the hotel was hosting a large conference and the server was overloaded. She apologized again and told us to speak with the desk clerk the next morning if we continued to have difficulty.
She was still at the desk the next morning, so I quietly expressed unhappiness with the Internet. “Miss Prissy” stalked over, interrupted our conversation and proclaimed that “sometimes these things happen and can’t be controlled! There’s nothing we can do.”
In both instances, one person’s attitude and actions influenced our perception of the experience and the business. I will keep that in mind as I interact with people in my life.