When it gets personal

When it gets personal

Does anyone else feel it should be mandated that every person works in a service-related field as a prerequisite for life? It can’t be just me … and everyone else I’ve ever posed that question to.

I must say, nothing bothers me more than when a person is looked down upon because of their profession. This happens a lot in the service industry, and it’s unfortunate, because we truly work our butts off. A lot of our jobs require long shifts, short breaks (if any), working holidays, limited time off and obscure hours. 

Plus, our jobs are not brainless by any means. Whether someone is a server, agent, reservationist or manager, a constant thought process is occurring to ensure the operation runs smoothly. We thrive in fast-paced environments, where decisions have to be made quickly, people must be managed properly, inventory requires constant maintenance, finances call for checking and guest satisfaction remains a top priority. All this, and we make it look easy!

Now listen, I’m not a sensitive person by any means. I’m naturally easygoing, and a number of years in the hospitality industry creates pretty tough skin. If you are a highly sensitive person this probably isn’t the industry for you, at least when it comes to operations. 

I must say, though, being looked at as intellectually void is pretty infuriating. This doesn’t happen often to me since being at my current position, but there was a time when it occurred almost daily. I was a guest services rep at a very well-known budget hotel chain in Greenville, North Carolina. Mind you, this was my first position at a hotel. I didn’t expect a multitude of riveting conversations about politics and finances, but I also didn’t expect to get treated as if I were a moron. This was the case, though.

I was patronized and demeaned often. This usually stopped when someone heard my New York accent or found out I was actually in a reputable university. I thought this to be so unfortunate, because so many people walk into hotels with this mentality.

The worst experience I ever had was when I was working a night shift by myself at this hotel and a lady came to the desk and asked me to help her turn the lights off on her rental car. I reluctantly said yes, being that I was the only one to cover the operation, but we were slow, and I figured I would do something nice. After I did this, which only took about two minutes, she thanked me, and I went back inside. Minutes later she came storming back to the desk demanding I give her cell phone back. I was confused and asked for her to elaborate. She stated that her cell phone was in the car when I went in to turn her lights off and now it was gone. I obviously denied this, which started her on a rant about how she was a doctor and “people like me” steal from “people like her.”

Oh man, I could not believe what I was hearing. She went as far as to threaten to call the police, so I just went ahead and called the police for her, being that this situation was getting beyond ridiculous, and I couldn’t convince her that I, in fact, did not steal her cell phone. To make a long story less long, the police got there, heard both sides of the story and went to the guestroom to look for the cell phone before launching an all-out investigation. Lo and behold, they found the cell phone, which fell behind her nightstand. I must say the look on her face and the officer’s face was just priceless! I, of course, smiled, and said that it was an honest mistake. Ah, the masks we wear in the name of service.

Like I said, this is not something I see often in my current property, but I do see it happen to my staff on occasion, and I cannot help but feel the need to protect them from such insinuations. If I see a situation escalating to a point where it is getting personal, I want to be the first to step in and either diffuse it or take the brunt of it. 

I encourage new managers entering the field to not only take pride in what you do, but take pride in the people you work with. Let staffers know how vital they are and how essential their jobs are to a successful operation. I’m lucky to work with exciting, bright and unique people who I become more and more intrigued by every day, and I hope when you take a look around you feel the same way.