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I Think I’d Just Sleep In My Car

, , , , , | Working | March 13, 2021

This takes place during a national lockdown because of the health crisis. As a result, most hotels have closed to leisure travelers, but some are allowed to remain open for the benefit of people who have to travel for work-related reasons. I am a long-distance driver, and as such, I have continued to work through the lockdown, staying in hotels regularly in various locations around the country. It’s 0400 when this takes place, and I have been driving for the last twelve hours.

When I enter the lobby, there is no sign of anybody. There’s a sign saying, “We are probably helping another guest at the moment,” but there’s no way of contacting a member of staff like a bell or a pager or a phone number as is usual. I look around and wait, but there is no obvious “back office” where the person on duty is working, so I have no choice but to stand and wait for somebody to arrive.

After about fifteen minutes, the receptionist appears from a side room. Apparently, I startle her as she jumps when she sees me.

Receptionist: “Oh! I didn’t see you there! Have you been waiting long?”

Me: *Through gritted teeth* “No, no. It’s fine. I have a reservation for tonight, but I’m not sure if it’s on the previous night’s system as it might have ‘rolled over’ by now.”

Receptionist: “No worries. Do you have a reservation number?”

I provide it.

Receptionist: “That’s fine. And do you have a travel [mumbles]?”

I can’t hear what she is saying but assume she is asking for my vehicle license plate for the parking, so I show her my key fob with it on.

Receptionist: “No, no… I need your key worker letter.”

Me: “Umm… what’s that?”

Receptionist: “Oh, it’s a signed letter from your employer proving that you’re staying on work-related business.”

Me: “I’ve… never heard of that, and I’ve been staying in hotels several times a week for the past three years, including during lockdown.”

Receptionist: “Well, I can’t check you in without it, as we get fined otherwise.”

Me: “Huh? Nobody has ever asked for one of those before, including at this hotel. We had somebody stay here last night and they weren’t required to provide one of those.”

Receptionist: “But you could be traveling for leisure.”

Me: “It’s four o’clock in the morning, and the room is booked and paid for with a business account on the company credit card. The name of the company contains the words travel and coach. I’m obviously here for work.”

It’s at this point that she realises that I’m wearing a company uniform with a name tag that matches the business name on the account.

Receptionist: “Oh. Are you a coach driver? We still need a key worker letter.”

Me: “Seriously? Do you think I’d be taking a company coach out, wearing my uniform, for a leisure trip? They might notice! Do you think I take it to the store when I go grocery shopping?”

Receptionist: *Mumbles* “If you can’t provide a key worker letter, you can give us your itinerary as proof you’re traveling for work.”

Me: “Fine. I’ve just taken people to [Location #1] and tomorrow morning I’m going on to [Location #2] to pick somebody up.”

Receptionist: “Oh, no. We need it emailed. And we need the full details, including the names of the passengers.”

Me: “Yeah, that’s not happening. Our passenger data is confidential, and we’re an executive travel service so our clientele rely on our discretion.”

What she says next actually stuns me for a few seconds

Receptionist: “Confidential or not, we need to see it.”

I obviously say no. We seem to be at a stalemate, so I suggest that it’s probably best that I call my office. She agrees and I step outside. The office is as surprised as I am, as nobody has ever asked for this letter before. We don’t have anything like it in the office and nobody has needed one before. It’ll take some time to make one, so they suggest that I go back in and put them on speakerphone so they can talk with the receptionist. I’m not optimistic, as she said she wanted it emailed, but what else can we do at this point?

When I go back in, the receptionist is waving a printed copy of our booking reference around.

Receptionist: “I’ve printed out your booking details. We can use this as proof you’re here on business.”

Me: “What? Why couldn’t you just do that in the first place?”

Receptionist: “Well, I would have done, but you walked off.”

Me: “I’ve been here half an hour now and at no point did you say that this was a possibility!”

Receptionist: *Ignoring me* “I just need you to fill in a few details.”

The booking form includes the business details, as well as my name and vehicle registration.

Receptionist: “I just need your personal address, phone number, date of birth, and email address.”

Me: “No. It’s a business account. They’re paying for it and they’re assuming responsibility for my stay. Both you and they have my name and know that it’s me staying here, so if there are any issues then you can go through our office. That’s how it works.”

Receptionist: “It’s a requirement.”

Me: “No, it isn’t. Again, nobody else has asked for this, and even this hotel has never asked for all this information before. You really don’t approve of confidentiality, do you?”

Receptionist: “It’s a requirement.”

Me: “Fine.”

I copy the office details into the “personal” boxes and make up a date of birth. She takes it and glowers at me, but she finally decides to give me my key. At this point, I’ve been trying to check in for over forty-five minutes and it is now getting on for 5:00 am.

Receptionist: “Have a good night.”

Me: “Sure.”

When I got to the room, I called the office and let them know what had happened, and they said they’d managed to produce a letter that might suffice. Even though I’d already checked in, they suggested that I should go and give the letter to the receptionist anyway just for the record.

So, I went back downstairs to find that the receptionist had vanished again. And this time, the “We are probably helping another guest at the moment” sign had been replaced by THREE signs that said, “Please be patient. Our staff are not here to take abuse. Any inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated.”

Yeah. Perhaps if you did your job correctly you wouldn’t need to hide behind those signs?

Eventually, I got to bed, over an hour after I arrived. Well, until the fire alarm woke me up less than an hour later. And then, at 8:00 am, I was woken again by the cleaning staff vacuuming the hallway.

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