2022 April 23, Saturday

     The Land of the Rising Sun circa 1990

     To put my story into perspective, let me tell another story. Japan was gaining status as a place that gets thing right, this would have been near the end of the Twentieth Century. It was a time when Americans were starting to grumble at the negative changes in our service and folks here were starting to wonder what the Japanese magic was all about. Some of us were pointing out they weren't all geniuses and they didn't have anything we didn't have.

     Maybe there was just a different attitude in Japan.

     So here's the story. An American visitor was in a Japanese department store and he decided to buy a compact-disk (CD) player. The store workers gave him a bag with a box. It was only after he left that somebody realized that the box they gave their foreign customer was a display unit that didn't actually work. (I guess a country that has plastic food on display in restaurants has non-working display units for consumer electronics.) This wasn't a good thing to do.

     Some would say, maybe typical American store workers would say, "We have no idea where he's going. We'll have to send him a working unit when he figures it out." These rising-sun people decided, instead, to turn their screw-up into a challenge. "We have to get him a working unit before he figures it out."

     They had no idea where he was staying, but he used an American Express card to buy the CD player, so they called American Express in the hope they would have a hotel booking for this person. Alas, he wasn't staying in a hotel as he was visiting friends in Japan.

     So the store service people had to wait for the stateside American Express office to open so they could get information about his home on Long Island. They called the number, presumably a 516 area code, and somebody was home, maybe a parent or other relative, who knew where the customer was staying in Japan complete with address and telephone number.

     Against the ticking clock, the store people rushed to the address with a new, working unit and some gifts to recognize the customer's inconvenience.

     My grandmother used to tell stories like that about the big stores when she grew up in Montréal and I've heard some from similar times from big cities in the United States.

     Now that my reader has good service on his mind, let me tell my story.

     Booking my Room at the Red Rock Motel

     I was going to visit some friends in Page, Arizona, on 2022 April 16, Saturday. I live in Scottsdale, near Phoenix, it's about 2.5 hours each way in my airplane, there are plenty of beautiful things to see around Page, so I decided to spend Saturday night in Page. I went to the World Wide Web, looked for lodging, found a charming site for the Red Rock Motel for about $100, and booked a room on their web site. In case a friend wanted to join me on the trip I booked a room with two beds instead of one king-sized bed. As opposed to the usual 24-hour cancellation window the room was not refundable within two weeks, but my usual reason for canceling a room is bad weather the morning I'm flying, so it wasn't that important to me.

     Booking Another Room at the Red Rock Motel

     Then my friends in Page had a family issue come up and we would have to reschedule for May or June. Well, there are enough beautiful things to see in Page, I already had rental car and motel room, the whole weekend was already clear on my calendar, so I decided to go and to invite some friends along. My friends said yes, I wanted to get them a room in the same place as mine, the Red-Rock web site said there were no more rooms, so I called to see what they could do. After all, sometimes there are some extra rooms or rooms available that aren't on the web site. My first call got no answer and no voice mail, their email page didn't get a quick reply, so I called again and got a fellow who told me they have AirBnB rooms in the same building. He walked me through getting one of those rooms, also not refundable, for about $165, but I figure it's worth it to be in the same building with no hassle.

     What Happened When I Arrived

     My own events took two turns. My Phoenix friends decided not to come with me and my Page friends had a change of their family plans so they could spend Saturday with me. We went to see the Wahweap Hoodoos after lunch and before dinner, so I arrived at the Red Rock Motel at 9:30pm expecting to have my choice of the two rooms I had paid for.

     Little did I know.

     First, I got an AirBnB text message on my cell phone hoping I enjoyed the room and asking me to confirm vacating it. I wrote back that I hadn't received any information how to get into the AirBnB room.

     Then I got my luggage out of my rental car parked in the back and walked around the building to the office in front only to find the office was locked and dark with a sign saying it's only open 4-8pm. That's not exactly what I expected checking in to a motel after dinner, as I normally do. I expected to find an unattended office with an open door or window and somebody in the back watching television and willing to be interrupted for a guest like myself needing attention.

     Attempts to call the number on the window and the number on the original web page died for lack of cell coverage. Apparently my two-bed motel room wasn't going to be easy.

     I got a message that I was in room #4 with code 3212. Recalling that it was "in the same building," I walked around a couple of times looking for room #4, but all the rooms were 101, 102, 103, et cetera with no #4 anywhere to be found. I wrote asking about this and was told, no, actually, the rooms were in the Dam Motel across the street and down a couple of buildings.

     I walked there with my bags still in my arms, found room #4, and tried the code 3212 several times without success. I wrote back and said I would just take my motel room, so the fellow drove out and met me at the office, another walk with my luggage.

     When the fellow got there, he explained that an earlier message he had sent, a message I did not receive, had the correct code for room #4, which was not 3212. We walked to the room and he punched in the correct code while he was standing between me and the door. I found that annoying as the right thing is for him either to let me use the code to confirm I knew what I was doing or to make sure I saw him punch in the four numbers. I insisted on trying the code myself and, yes, it worked.

     I grumbled that this wasn't the same building as described on my earlier call and he suggested without apology I must have been talking to the other guy. Really.

     When I asked how the office came to be unoccupied, he said, without apology, the web page actually said 3-7pm, so I should feel lucky it was open until 8:00. Really. I didn't recall seeing any such hours on the web page or the booking page and I would not have booked a room where I couldn't have checked in after I finished dinner with my friends. (Looking back at the web page later I still can't find office hours.)

     When I suggested he must be new to the hospitality business he said without apology, no, he had been doing it for a long time. Really. It became clear to me that it was one of those situations where "me and my friend always wanted to own a motel so we bought a couple of nice properties and we got a web page and winged it from there."

     I got into room #4, a small room with one bed, not the two-bed motel room I also paid for, but I figured half a loaf was fine. I asked about WiFi and he pointed to a cute, heart shaped sign that said "Wifi password #lakepowell" on it. To make sure I wasn't going to have to contact him again. I found "Dam motel" on my phone. When I said it aloud he said it's the old name "Drift lodge" instead. Would he have mentioned that if I hadn't said anything?

     He offered the kitchen room with tea and coffee along with a bigger refrigerator if I needed it. Again he put himself between me and the door when he opened it so I didn't actually see the code, clearly this is his usual behavior opening doors for guests, so, again, I tried it myself.

     At no time did he offer to get me the key to the larger, two-bed room I also had paid for. Still, I was happy to have the room I had and didn't want any more interaction with this fellow. What should have been a pleasant, three-minute interaction where somebody in the office gives me a motel room key or I get an AirBnB message with a description of where my room is and the correct four-digit code turned into a half-hour ordeal.

     What do you think the folks in the Japanese department store would say about the level of service I received?

     Why I'm Pissed

     But there's the thing, the annoying part, the real kicker. At no time did anything go wrong. There were no earthquakes or floods or power outages or road closures, nobody unexpectedly called in sick, and I didn't have any special or unusual needs. I booked a room, I showed up at a reasonable time with reasonable expectations, and it was a hassle. Pathetic explanations were given, clearly it was my fault that my standards were so high, and no apology was ever offered for any of it.

     Somewhere out there is a young couple with a genuine desire to offer a high level of service in the hospitality business. They buy a motel property and hire a web-page designer. They make the decision to live in the building and they make sure somebody who knows the business is always there to make sure the level of service stays high. They offer a pleasant, homey, family atmosphere like the one I thought I saw in the Red Rock Motel.

     I feel sorry for that young couple because this experience, and other similar experiences friends have told me about, will make me understandably reluctant to book this family business over one of the boring chains like Red Roof Inn, Shereton, La Quinta, Marriott, or Holiday Inn.



Today is 2024 April 12, Friday,
16:28:44 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
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