How Not To Train Your Bellman.

To anyone considering pursuing a career in the hospitality biz: Do don’t do this while away from home!  I am a self-trained Wisenheimer with a lifetime of experience. Not to mention the fact I have a horseshoe firmly lodged in my backside…

Customer service is arguably the most important factor in running a successful hotel.

Sure, you can spend millions of dollars ensuring your rooms have a kick-ass view, million-count Egyptian sheets covering the beds (“Million-count Egyptian Sheets: Now With More Real Egyptian!“), all the amenities known to man, but in the end, unless you can give your guests the one thing everyone wants (sex), you have to rely on customer service to set you apart from the ridiculously-overcrowded hospitality pack. In my almost-two decades as a bellman I’ve encountered hundreds of repeat guests who have had dozens of hiccups during their stay but keep coming back to the hotel because of the personal relationships they’ve forged with staff.

Never underestimate the value of the personal touch, kids. The average guest interaction lasts for a few minutes but as I always tell my wife, you’d be amazed at what can be accomplished in a few minutes.

Moving on…

As important as customer service is, there are moments when it has to take a backseat to karmic justice. I’ve always believed that the energy you expel into the world will be returned to you – so it certainly helps to pump positive energy out as often as you can. Sure, everyone has a bad day, a day where your normal self becomes a raging D-Bag, but unfortunately, for some folks those days are the norm.

I served a woman yesterday who refused to let go of her negative thoughts. In fact, it appeared as though she was bound and determined to have a terrible vacation.

She wore a miserable expression when she walked through the hotel’s $250,000 revolving door.

She spewed venom when she realized her group was too early to check in and her only recourse was to store their luggage at the Bell Desk.

And her demeanor definitely didn’t improve when I brought their bags out from our storage room.

The doorway leading out of our backroom is of average size but with a dozen luggage carts sitting on the other side, it can sometimes be a bit tricky to navigate a fully-loaded cart from the storage room to the lobby.

Plus, I’m a dumbass, so…

And so I was not a bit surprised when the cart I was pulling lost a brown paper shopping bag. It fell face down from its perch on top of a pile of jackets, landing on the marble floor a mere foot from it’s original location. All in all, no big deal, right?

Not quite.

I picked the bag up and its contents spilled out: Two scarves and an iPad in a hard pink plastic cover. And then, friends, all hell really broke loose.


This woman definitely didn’t epitomize grace under pressure, did she? Her husband remained calm. Her female friend remained calm. Her friend’s male companion remained calm. I remained calm.

But she lost it.

And that set me off. I refused to engage my customer service skills, choosing instead to educate the raving lass in simple travel survival skills.

“Electronic devices aren’t cheap these days, miss… to say the least.  If you’re going to bring your tablet with you, you really need to pack it in something other than an open paper shopping bag.”

The look on her panicked face said it all: She was expecting me to grovel for forgiveness, not school her. But school her I did… big time.

Her husband just stood there, frozen with fear, as she ran over to our desk and examined her precious tablet. Which, by the way, was perfectly fine. Their friends asked her husband to begin removing bags, but he honestly didn’t have the guts to do so.

Eventually, he pitched in and the trio removed everything. He tipped me. (The ultimate sign of a job well done. No one tips you if they’re pissed off.)  Their friends thanked me several times as she continued to wait for an apology that wasn’t gong to materialize. They left a moment later and I basked in the adoration of my colleagues who were once again in awe of the size of my… nerve.

She may never return to the hotel. If I’m lucky.

Another day at the salt mines.

See you in the lobby, kids…


About The Hook

Husband. Father. Bellman. Author of The Bellman Chronicles. Reader of comic books and observer and chronicler of the human condition. And to my wife's eternal dismay, a mere mortal and non-vampire. I'm often told I look like your uncle, cousin, etc. If I wore a hat, I'd hang it on a hat rack in my home in Niagara Falls, Canada. You can call me The Hook, everyone else does.
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23 Responses to How Not To Train Your Bellman.

  1. I held my breath throughout your entire post. Wonderful writing. Wonderful observations of human nature. I hope the woman never returns, but for her husband’s sake, maybe they can, since he knows he has a compatriot in you. I have been in the customer service industry also, in a wealthy community where it seems the more a person has (financially) the more miserable she/he is. I just smile at their crabby faces, realizing how lucky I am to rejoice in every day. Have to feel sorry for the bitch/grumpy ones, don’t you?

  2. You are a hospitality GOD. In my 30 years in the restaurant business, I have never had the guts to put someone in their place. Instead, the words stay lodged in my pounding heart and sweaty palms, caught on the razor tip of my tongue.

    • The Hook says:

      That’s perfectly understandable.
      I take my professional life in my hands every time I fight back.
      Luckily, I have faith in my smart-ass abilities.

  3. At least it wasn’t a vibrator cracking (a friend said they do that when dropped).

  4. Kayjai says:

    Ugh…some people and their iPads….Seriously.

  5. Putting an IPad in a paper bag is like leaving a kid in the car. Could be nothing and then it could be everything. Good story.

  6. We are ranked #1 hotel in Muskoka because of our customer service! It goes a long way past a marble floor. 🙂

  7. curvyroads says:

    Awesome handling of a difficult situation!

    Bravo, Robert! I wish more hospitality workers had the nerve to put assholes in their place!

  8. I always have the perfect comeback for when grumpy or demanding people get on my nerves…..about three hours after the occurrence.

  9. ahahaha you’re so right. who keeps their iPad in a paper bag? or doesn’t keep it with them while their luggage is being stored? what an idiot!

  10. Sometimes some people just need to be schooled and it sounds like you did an excellent job! Well done! 😀

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