Booked Yourself Into An Impossible Situation

, , , | Right | March 13, 2019

(I work the front desk at a hotel in a small but popular tourist city. About a fourth of our customers book through online sites which require payment up front and are almost always non-cancellable and non-refundable. While we can add special requests to the reservations — first floor requested, needs a cot, etc. — any changes must be made through the online site — change of date, change of room type, etc. One night I am working and we are sold out. All my check-ins have arrived and I’ve been turning away walk-ins all night. Just after 9:30, a couple walks in dragging a great deal of luggage, something that walk-in clients don’t normally do, and when they come to the front desk holding out a printed reservation confirmation I know things aren’t going to go smoothly.)

Me: “Hello! Welcome to [Hotel]. Do you all have a reservation tonight?”

Customer #1: “Yes, we do! And we can’t wait to get in; we’ve been driving for nine hours. The name is [Customer #1].”

(I look her up in my arrivals list, but not only is she not there but, as I mentioned already, all my guests have arrived.)

Me: “I’m sorry, but I don’t seem to have a reservation for you tonight, and unfortunately, we are fully booked.”

Customer #1: “No… I have my reservation confirmation right here.”

(She hands me her printed confirmation and I see that she is booked for this day NEXT MONTH. I check the system for upcoming reservations and, sure enough, hers pops up for that date.)

Me: “Ma’am, I’m terribly sorry, but your reservation if for this date next month.”

Customer #1: *feigning surprise* “Whaaat? How could that be? I’m sure I chose tonight’s date…”

(I look at the date the reservation was made; it was booked last night, long after we sold out for the weekend and closed down the room sales for online sites. I know at this point that she booked whatever date came up available and just figured we would check her in when she got here. Were we not sold out I might have been able to help her, but this simply isn’t an option tonight.)

Me: “Well, I am sympathetic to your situation, but all of my rooms are sold for the next three days, and there are people currently in each of our rooms, so I have literally no wiggle room here.”

Customer #2: *the husband or boyfriend* “I can’t believe this; we’ve been driving for nine hours to get here and we have to be up early for a wedding. Do you have an out of order room or a dirty room or something we could just crash in?”

Me: “Sadly, no, but I wouldn’t be able to give you an out of order room even if there was one. I could lose my job.”

Customer #1: “I can’t believe you messed up our reservation like this! How do you intend to compensate us?”

Customer #2: “Babe, don’t worry about it. Look, I’m sure we can find another hotel nearby.”

Me: “Actually, sir, every hotel in the area is sold out. The closest hotel with vacancies is in [City], which is about four hours from here.”

Customer #1: “Are you serious?! I’m not driving another four hours because you people screwed up!”

Customer #2: “Babe, stop this…”

Me: “Look, how about I call [Website] for you to see if there is anything they can do?”

Customer: “Oh, do you guys have a special hotel number to call for hotel staff?”

Me: “Yes, we do. They may have to speak with you, just the same, but they usually answer quicker than on the customer line.”

Customer #1: “Oh, good, because when we tried to call to change the date nobody answered… uh, I mean…”

Me: “So, you were aware that your reservation wasn’t for today and you drove out here, anyway?”

Customer #1: “Oh, for goodness’ sake, just get us a room! It’s not my fault your website wasn’t working. I tried booking for today, but it wouldn’t let me! I had to keep changing the date until it worked! Your website was broken or something, and that’s not my fault!”

Me: “Ma’am, you couldn’t book for those dates because we were sold out. There were no more rooms to sell. If you booked for [date], then your reservation will be for that date, not any other night.”

(She starts crying and screaming at me, but the husband/boyfriend gets her to quiet down in under a minute and they go outside to their truck. A few minutes later the guy comes in alone.)

Customer #2: “Hey. Um, first of all, I wanted to apologize for her. This is actually the third time she’s done this, and the last two times they were able to get the date changed and check us in. I don’t think she fully understands how this business works.”

Me: “I understand. I’m really sorry there isn’t anything I can do, but you’re welcome to stay in the parking lot overnight, and you are free to use our guest bathroom overnight and the pool shower to freshen up in the morning.”

Customer #2: “I appreciate that, but we’re just going to head back home, I think. I simply can’t handle her public outbursts and crying. She is nearly thirty years old and yet acts like a spoiled child who always has to get her own way, you know? It’s gotten to the point that I don’t like taking her out in public because I know I’m probably going to have to come back in and apologize like I’m doing right now. I think it’s time to end things and move on. Thanks for your patience!”

(He then calmly shook my hand and walked out. I couldn’t believe he’d divulged so much personal information to a complete stranger, but I figured he must have been at his breaking point and just needed to talk. What an unusual night for me.)

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