THE NEW GLOBAL WE.

Another Hilton Review

Posted in People, Reviews by Harsha on December 12, 2007

This is a great post by the incomparable Richard Quest. He has a Hilton review that seems to agree with my crash course in hospitality this past week on the road trip. That would be the subjectiveness of the service offerings across their hotels. If you visit McDonald’s around the world, then you will understand what ubiquity means. In Hilton’s case, when I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Virgina Beach, VA, they had coffee-to-go in the lobby. So you see, they don’t seem to have standards when it comes to amenities in their hotels.

It is mind-boggling for me to think about the various moving parts in a hotel and it’s hotel room. To even think about the planning it takes from thinking about things that can be kept in a room for the user’s convenience to keeping the room clean, is head spinning! Maybe they need to hire a franchising expert to figure what is the best way to solve this problem, that is obviously global for Hilton.

The Hilton Garden Inn Review

Posted in New by Harsha on December 11, 2007

As we drove through “tough” neighborhoods in Norfolk to get to VIRGINIA BEACH, VA, we suddenly felt the change in the air. There was a remarkable switch from fairly average buildings and businesses, to sudden high-quality buildings and well laid out streets. That is where The Hilton Garden Inn is located.

This was by far, the worst place we stayed. The bed, linen and bathroom were just fine and we were there for just a night, but the hotel service was lousy. Our room was a steamy 75 degrees all evening and night because the A/C had conked off. We got a new room and complimentary breakfast, which was a nice touch, though I’d have preferred a room discount. The food was really great including the dinner that we had ordered from The Great American Grill (their restaurant). The breakfast was excellent as well, and I have the best things to say about their omelets and grits.

Parking is not clear at all. The best part was they did not have a valet. You could either park at one of the very few reserved guest parking spots at a nearby parking lot of a bank or use your ESP to figure out that the 5th floor at a nearby parking garage is free for Hilton guests. After a 7 hour drive from Charleston, SC, I wanted someone to lug around our stuff because we were tired. No luck, we were on our own.

The front desk person was just plain ok when we checked in. But it got more interesting at night when we complained about the A/C. My first call to him about the problem yielded no results. He probably felt that if he did not send the engineering guy up 15 minutes later, that we would just accept our rotten fate and sleep in the sauna like room. My wife as livid again and wanted me to “teach him a lesson”. Well, I just called him again and a very sweet guy who spoke little English came to help. He tapped the unit, opened it and did some screwing around then left with a promise to come back in 10. We called in 5 because the heat still stayed on. That is when Romeo, the front desk guy offered to change rooms, but oh, I had to trudge downstairs in my pajamas to pick up the new room key. And the same engineer was our bellboy now. Stop laughing now ..

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

NO. I will definitely eat at The Great American Grill or join them for breakfast. I will NEVER stay there again. This is not even the last place I will stay if I go back to Virginia Beach.

The Hilton DeSoto Review

Posted in Reviews, Roadtrip by Harsha on December 10, 2007

Not all Hilton’s are born the same. This is a clear nature vs nurture situation, with nurture being the reason behind it’s appearance and feel. But I should thank them for providing fodder for the Name Experiment – 2 post.

When we drove up here in SAVANNAH, GA, we were not greeted by anyone at the door. They did upgrade our room to the 10th floor because we called earlier telling them we may be late thanks to the horrible Atlanta traffic. They put us on the 10th floor with fantastic views of the Historic District.

The room itself was nice with an amazing Tempur-Pedic bed. The bathroom was huge with two sinks and well kept. The view was amazing. The air-conditioner did make weird noises on startup but then worked out just fine. The room was decked out well with good clean linen, curtains and sofas.

The staff were generally good and prompt and helpful. The servers at their restaurant were just average and not particular keen on making sure we were having a good breakfast – I guess that is symptomatic of a restaurant in a hotel; they are after all in the hospitality business and not catering. Or is that just an excuse?

The million dollar question: Would I stay there again?

Obviously, there were better hotels in Savannah at the same rate. We just did not know about it till we got there. But I have no regrets and will stay there again if we get that 10th room floor or something above the 7th story. If you’re in town, I think The Hiton DeSoto is a good option.

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Name Experiment – 2

Posted in New, Roadtrip by Harsha on November 28, 2007

This is always an interesting experiment for me. To address someone by name and see the reaction. We all lead fairly anonymous lives already, so a little recognition seems to go a long way. And it did seem to go so for Dante.

Dante is a bellboy we met while staying at the Hilton in the Historic District in Savannah, GA on our recent road trip. We checked in at around 9pm after a 6 hour drive from Atlanta. As we pulled up to the curb, no one came out immediately to greet us (I’m going to review each place we stayed in later posts).

Then this guy walks out of the hotel pretty casually, has a “yeah, whatever” look and demeanor about him. In a lazy tone, he asked if we’re checking in, the room number and if we wanted to self park or use his services – all short and I-don’t-care-for-your-reply type of questions. Believe me, after a long drive, the last thing you want is someone (who works in the hospitality business) to not care. My wife was livid, but I kept my cool as usual. I tried a couple of jokes with him, no luck. I handed off the keys to him with a tip, and checked in at the front desk. He was doing double duty as the valet and bellboy so he brought our luggage upstairs (with the same attitude at the door).

As he was exiting the hotel room after dropping off our luggage, I walked out with him and asked him for his name. Then I tipped him again and thanked him for helping us. I can tell you, I sensed an instant change in his attitude. Not that he was jumping for joy but it was the tipping point and it was clearly visible to me.

Next day, in the morning as we went down to have him pull our car out, guess what happens? I get a warm handshake from him and cheerfully says, “Let me get your car out for you Mr. Raghavan”. This is after a grueling 8 hour night shift – if you’ve never worked at night, then you will never know how lousy and horrible one feels the next morning.

This experiment is the most interesting and rewarding of experiments that I run. The pay off is instant and usually, exactly opposite of the initial treatment. Sure, I could have made a scene, complained to the manager at the desk only to make his already tough life more miserable. Yet, I took a minute out to empathize, assumed he was doing a good job and tipped him. However, the flip side is it might enforce his broken view of the world even more and not help at all. But that is a risk, I am willing to take. 9 out of 10 times, it goes my way. I am willing to pay that “1 time fee” for the happiness I get 9 other times.

This is a relevant lesson in all walks of business and life. If you want to get your way with someone, then I believe that this is the only route. Either that or you’ve got mafia backing. It does not matter to me if Dante remains positive after he serves me, selfishly I say because I have no control over that aspect of his life. I can only control how he decides to deal with me. Nothing else.

I personally like to deal with a tough situation without blowing my top, because I’ve found that I am paralyzed when I get angry (read my post on Cortisol) and am ineffective. My fight or flight instinct is mostly flight (relevant today as calmly dealing with the situation). We can get our way either by being a total jerk or by being empathetic – I choose the latter. True, there may be cases when the person needs a good dose, but then again, who are we to judge someone else, when that is reserved for their last day on earth? It may also be the case that the person is just a “bad” person (is that even possible?) and nothing can be done about them. I feel that we jump to this conclusion at the very first hint of an initial attitude like Dante’s and the reality is totally different when compared to your view of that person.

To be honest, I am still learning how to execute this experiment perfectly. Most times, I find myself not making eye-contact when I say the server’s name. It is an ongoing process that needs sharpening on my end. But I love this experiment dearly and don’t even think that I will grow weary of it’s results. It is also one of the very first experiments I ran.