Not to give away my age, but it’s safe to say I have several decades of travel under my ever-expanding belt. Over the past few years, I’ve noticed a decline in customer service in the hospitality industry, even though tourism continues to face stiff competition and global issues, making people fear travel. It seems like this would be the perfect time to make hospitality shine and stand out. However, those who work in the industry may have a different perspective and see that customers have become more demanding than ever, expecting more for less and getting better service or discounts if they’re loud enough.
I’ve been on both sides of this story. I’ve been a travel nut my entire life, and as a child I read all I could about traveling all over the world, which I’ve done as an adult. I love to travel so much that I went to school to become a travel agent and also worked as a flight attendant for a large budget airline. Whether by car, boat, plane or train, travel is in my blood.
My experiences here are like those of so many others. Complaints against the airlines continue to grow, yet we still continue to fly. Why? Because of cheap fares and a desire to go from point A to point B quickly. I understand flying is the fastest and easiest way and has made far-flung and up-and-coming destination more accessible. Plus, let’s admit it that most of us love flying. But at what cost?
We’ve been on flights with lazy flight attendants who don’t take away our trash before landing or have barked orders at passengers as if they were heathens. We’ve seen free bags of peanuts and pretzels become a five-dollar, honey-coated, salty treat, and witnessed flared nostrils from a ticket agent when you show a little frustration for having to pay $50 dollars for checking in one bag. When a flight is canceled, four gate agents disappear leaving one, with a resemblance to Nurse Ratchet in One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, to handle the situation.
Yet, I’ve also worked in the industry as a flight attendant and had to deal with a range of characters. One man told me it was my job to put his one hundred-pound bag in the overhead bin; a couple asked me to babysit their kids so that they could take a nap; and one passenger sat in my jumpseat and said: “Sorry, I peed in my pants a little bit, and my seat is slightly wet.” Believe me, customer service wasn’t in my vocabulary at that moment.
I was staying at a hotel for work over an extended period of time, and we were told we would have our room cleaned once a week at a scheduled time so that we wouldn’t be inconvenienced. Well, that scheduled never lasted. We were told every week that our day for cleaning would have to be changed. When we spoke to the manager about this problem, he began to scream at us: “Do you know what’s it like to clean a hotel? Well, do you? It’s a complete nightmare, but at least you could be flexible.” The rant went on for over 20 minutes. In the end, we changed hotels.
Recently, a hotel gave the room type we reserved to someone else, making the four of us (two adults, two children) stay in a much smaller room. The next day we had to demand to be moved to the room type we were paying for. The staff seemed surprised, but they moved us to another room nevertheless. Although they were sorry about the mix-up, they said that the manager would also talk to us and apologize. The end our trip came, and we never heard from the manager. So, I asked the lady at the front desk why we never heard from the manager. Her response to us was: “This rarely happens at this hotel. As a matter of fact, it almost never happens. You’d be surprised how this never happens; it just never does. I guess that’s why she never apologized because this sort of thing never happens.” I left lost and confused.
My husband used to work at the front desk of a hotel in Paris, and he told me horror stories of his time dealing with tourists. It wasn’t uncommon for a guest to expect little extras, such as phone numbers of prostitutes, or even requesting him to join guests in their room for some “fun.” The worst were the complaints from guests who criticized the size of their European hotel rooms for the price they were paying.
As a family with two small children, I admit I’m never a server’s dream table. If the server isn’t fond of kids, we’re truly a nightmare. Although servers work hard for tips most of the time, we’ve found our treatment has been extraordinary. That’s not to say we haven’t had bad experiences. At one restaurant we watched our supposed server wander around the area several times and never once asked to take our order. In the end, we had to request a new one. One bakery yelled at our young son for leaning against a wall with his shoe. A sandwich shop owner yelled at our daughter for touching a display case, then joked with the staff about installing a robotic arm that hit children if they touched it. At one Italian restaurant, the server delivered our bill and then stood over us until we finished the transaction, including monitoring how much we tipped.
However, I also remember my short life waiting tables and having people demand a refill of soda every few minutes, or to eat free because they didn’t like the meal they had just eaten. Or, the table of six who all want separate checks, each one forgetting to tip. There was also the family with four small children who forget to tip just a couple dollars on a fifty-dollar bill. How about the people on a diet who want everything on the side, or a dish specially made just for them. “Um, I think the soup is an ‘as is’ product, but I’ll ask the kitchen staff,” I told a woman who wanted the minestrone made fat free.
Okay, I know that this a strange topic; however, not too long ago my husband and I were going on a month-long vacation overseas, and we thought we might get a better deal with a travel agent. Just a few years ago, we had used one who got us an incredible deal to New Zealand. Well, those days are gone. After meeting with many, we got a variety of answers. Some wanted a non-refundable deposit just to talk to us; one wanted $250.00, which was only a service fee not included in the cost of our vacation. We did get a few to talk to us, but they spent more time trying to persuade us to take a different trip, a more expensive that often meant an all-inclusive resort or cruise, only to become upset with us when we rejected those options. The two that did attempt to book the trip for us would have cost us thousand of dollars more than if we had arranged for it ourselves online.
We talked to a travel agent about the change in their industry, and she simply explained that the only way travel agents make money is to book the expensive trips, all-inclusive resorts or cruises because they pay the agents the most in commission. It’s also not uncustomary for travel agents to request to be paid an additional fee for their services.
In conclusion, I’m not sure if the industry is changing or we’re changing. I guess only time will tell. I’d love to hear your experiences, so leave a comment below.
— Uncharted101.com (@Uncharted1o1) July 15, 2017