Friday, June 29, 2007

Consistent Customer Service

To the Intercontinental Hotels Group Guest Centre

Someone speaking for your establishment has found fault with my attitude and I'd appreciate your assistance in my education regarding this matter. I am not sure that I have the correct e-mail address for this sort of letter, so in addition, I will be posting this inquiry on various Internet sites while awaiting a response.

The morning of June 24th, after a wonderful evening touring Alexandria, Virginia, I and my friends had been looking forward to joining a number of others for breakfast at "Chequers" in the Crown Plaza Old Town, formerly the Radisson (901 N Fairfax Street, Alexandria, VA 22314).

Because we knew it would be a large gathering, the hotel had been thoughtfully informed, weeks in advance, that our group of 20 or so would be arriving for breakfast at 9 a.m.

Arriving fashionably late, around 9:15, I thought nothing of our passing ungreeted through the lobby to ascend the steps to the restaurant. I'm sure the people at the desk were doing something infinitely more important and it is probably not a policy to smile and greet guests as they pass.

Neither did I give more than a passing thought at the time to the woman at the restaurant desk who also failed to look up, make inquiry or even acknowledge our presence as we paused before deciding to simply continue unguided into the restaurant proper.

I scanned the room and moved toward our party, catching the eye of the only visible waiter along the way, indicating that we were joining the group.

The waiter quickly assisted in helping us pull more tables into a row, poured us coffee and disappeared.

We sat chatting for a while with our friends, occasionally looking up fruitlessly to see if the waiter would be returning soon, perhaps with menus, some sort of breakfast buffet information, or even a glass of water.

Our friends became equally baffled by his absence and assumed that perhaps the breakfast buffet was the only source of nourishment. How much did it cost? Who knew? How do we indicate we'd like something? We didn't know and remained helplessly abandoned.

Acting on the assumption that the breakfast buffet was the only way we could eat, we risked moving to the line to view what was offered and actually reached for a plate before noticing large, heated bins of nothing but scraps and crumbs of food that indicated what had at one time occupied the bins. We were not alone.

People, both from our party and complete strangers, stood patiently, hungrily and hopefully with their empty plates, giving the establishment the benefit of the doubt that soon someone would come and restock.

It was a pitiful sight, really. Almost like the orphans in Dickins' Oliver Twist -- "You want more?!" I say "almost" because we hadn't had any yet. We didn't want 'more,' we wanted 'some.'

I decided to look for someone, anyone, who might have any information for us. The waiter was still missing and the woman I'd originally passed at the the restaurant desk had also escaped to perhaps the same place. Apparently, it was only the two of them providing this abundant void of service.

I thought luck was with me, however, because in my search for service, I did find a breakfast menu on a ledge that indicated alternatives to the breakfast buffet. With my trophy in hand and the prospect of an omelette in my mind, I passed back through the buffet area and the waiting crowd of people who were eagerly circling a mournfully small plate of French toast sticks that had just arrived via the restaurant desk woman.

Ah! There she is. She seemed a bit harried, but acknowledged my indication that I would need the assistance of "the" waiter. I then returned to the table to await his reappearance. And wait. And wait. And wait.

By the time he did return to our table, I was greatly disgruntled and unwilling to try to extract any kind of service from the establishment. Given my experience thus far, how long after ordering food would it arrive? I wasn't willing to risk further disappointment.

My two friends with whom I'd arrived had, however, nibbled from the breakfast buffet and were obligated to make payment. So they returned and waited at the vacant restaurant desk to pay.

And waited. And waited.

Not wanting to leave an unpaid burden, they descended to the hotel front desk and spoke with J. Simms, who claimed no responsibility for the restaurant and offered absolutely no assistance. When asked if he could locate someone to take payment, he responded, "I don't like your attitude."

My friends were politely asking for assistance and trying to make honest payment for partaking of a poorly stocked breakfast bar and absolutely no hint of customer service and the front desk person doesn't like our attitude?

To summarize:
The hotel knew of our arrival in advance, yet still the restaurant was negligent and understaffed.
The breakfast buffet was a wasteland of orts.
The hostess or cashier acted as neither and can only be called the unresponsive woman at (or absent from) the restaurant desk.
The desk clerk was unhelpful and accusatory.
In all my worldly travels, I don't believe that I have ever encountered such a lack of service in the field of customer hospitality.

Considering that "InterContinental Hotels Group is dedicated to providing consistent customer services," please forgive my ignorance in asking what kind of attitude should we have cultivated from our experience at your establishment?

You can respond directly to me at or post your comments under this same letter at my Web log (blog), .

Thank you for your thoughtful response,

Chuck Walker


Anonymous said...

Now I'll be on pins and needles all week-end waiting to hear their reply. You were far too generous too; the front desk man had a chip on his shoulder that should prohibit him from any public interaction. He was psychologically unsuited to the customer service field.


Anonymous said...

what is even more unbelievable is that when the waiter did arrive to take payment, he asked GR how many were in the party. GR responded with "I don't know, isn't that your job?".
The waiter proceeded to count chairs and charged us for at least 3 empty spots including your "non-meal".


Stuart said...

What's an ort?

Anonymous said...

hey Stu, same as an ent

Where's the response haven't they responded yet???


Lady Prisspott said...

still no reply? How much longer must we wait?

Stuart said...

Chuck IM'd me on gTalk:

An ort is a scrap of leftover food