Manager Doesn’t Always Know Guest

, , , , , , , | Working | May 7, 2018

(I am the front desk manager. The general manager has just covered my shift this morning so I can work the evening shift for an employee whose mother has just died. This manager doesn’t normally work the front desk, but when she does, she has zero patience or tolerance for substance abuse. If you have alcohol on your breath, she will refuse to serve you, even if you are well-dressed and coherent. I come in about twenty minutes before my shift, and she meets me immediately and starts talking before I’ve even taken off my coat.)

General Manager: “I just made a huge mistake; I can’t believe I was so stupid.”

Me: “Oh, no! What’s happened?”

General Manager: “I just rented a room to a drunk. A total drunk. He’s going to destroy our room and disturb the other customers now. I can’t believe I did that.”

Me: “Really? Well, when you say he is a drunk, do you mean he is an alcoholic or that he is intoxicated?”

General Manager: “I don’t know; he’s just a drunk. I didn’t notice when he first came in, because he was normal. He gave me his info, he paid with his debit card, and then he just started getting weird.”

Me: “Weird how?”

General Manager: “He started slurring his speech and staring through me at the wall. When he walked away to go to his room, he seemed very confused and even called me from the room to ask where his room was. I told him it was room 217, and he asked me to come help him find it. When I told him he was already in the room, he seemed surprised. Then, just a few minutes ago, the head housekeeper told me she saw him stumbling in through the side door with a huge bottle of whiskey. He’s a total drunk, but he already paid so I can’t make him leave until he does something. I want you to walk past his room every hour or so and watch him. The moment he starts making trouble, call the police and have him removed from the building.”

Me: “Okay, I’ll do my best to keep an eye on him, then. Thanks for the heads-up.”

(We talk a bit, and she eventually leaves me to do my shift. Maybe half an hour later, a well-dressed, clean-looking man approaches the desk. His eyes are wild and he looks right through me at the wall. He puts his debit card on the counter.)

Me: “Good afternoon, sir! What can I help you with?”

Guest: “I, uh… I have to pay for my room.”

Me: “Okay, I can do that for you. Do you have a reservation with us?”

Guest: “Huh? I’m here. I’m here right now.”

Me: “Oh, so, you are already checked in, and you haven’t yet paid for your room?”

Guest: “I need to…” *he trails off*

Me: “Okay… What room number are you in, sir?”

(He proceeds to switch back and forth from English to French, giving me odd room numbers that don’t exist in our building. I finally get his name and determine that he is the “drunk” that my boss was talking about.)

Me: “Okay, sir, you are in room 217, but you already paid for your room. Were you wanting to pay for an extra night?”

Guest: “Huh? Oh, yeah? Hey… I can’t, uh… I can’t find it.”

Me: “You can’t find what, sir?”

Guest: “My room.”

Me: “You can’t find your room? It’s just on the second floor sir. Take that door right there up to the second floor, and turn left when you come off the stairs. You room will be the third one on the right. It’s room 217.”

Guest: “Yeah… Yeah, all right. Well, okay.”

(He wanders off and I turn back to my paperwork. About two minutes later, he is back.)

Guest: “It doesn’t work.”

Me: “What doesn’t work?”

Guest: “It doesn’t work; I can’t get in.”

Me: “You mean your key doesn’t work? Do you need some help?”

(He just nods, the entire time looking around wildly and sweating. I tell him to come with me and that I will help to unlock his door. I begin walking, expecting to follow him to his room, but he seems to be genuinely lost. Even when I point out the room numbers on the wall, he seems unable to locate his room. I have to physically lead him to his room and open his door for him. The room is a mess, but not like it has been trashed. It looks like he had no idea where to put anything: cigarettes have been taken from the pack and laid out on the desk, clothes are piled randomly on the bed and floor, and coats and shirts are hanging from lamps and from the TV. While there is a bottle of whiskey on the desk, it is unopened. He walks into the room and stands there staring at the wall, so I close the door behind him and head back to the desk. At this point, I’m not certain if he is drunk or high, but he is clearly not right. Thirty minutes later, the same guest comes walking in through the front door. He comes straight to me and throws his debit card at me. Again, the following conversation takes place in both French and English, since the customer keeps switching from one to the other.)

Me: “Sir? Can I help you with something?”

Guest: “Yeah.”

Me: “What can I help you with, sir?”

Guest: “Well… that.” *he motions towards his debit card*

Me: “Sir, why did you give me your debit card?”

Guest: “Well, why not?”

Me: “Um, you already paid for your room, sir. We had this discussion less than an hour ago. Is there something else I can help you with?”

Guest: “I just… Well, I’ve got to pay. I’m staying here.”

(I have a feeling that this guest is having some kind of medical problem and that this has little to do with alcohol.)

Me: “Are you all right, sir?”

Guest: “Yeah… Of course. Yeah…”

(He is looking around wildly and shifting from one foot to the other rapidly.)

Me: “Well, I’m worried about you, sir. You seem very confused. This is the second time you’ve tried to pay me for your room, but it was paid when you checked in. Are you sure you’re okay?”

Guest: “Yeah, no, yeah. Well…”

(He then stands there staring quietly at the floor. He is deathly still. After a solid minute, I speak.)

Me: “Sir, is there anything I can help you with? Did you lose your room key?”

Guest: “No, I have it.”

(Another minute goes by. He hasn’t moved.)

Me: “Sir, did you forget what room number you are in?”

Guest: “Huh? No, I got it. It’s that. I got it. I don’t need anything.”

(I try to finish my work, but he is just standing there, staring quietly at the floor, not moving a muscle.)

Me: “Okay, sir, are you sure you don’t need some help? Do you want me to call someone for you? A relative or friend? Maybe an ambulance?”

Guest: “Well, I don’t have a boat.”

Me: “Excuse me?”

Guest: “Well, I have to stay here because I don’t have a boat. I DON’T HAVE A BOAT!”

Me: “Okay, sir. If there’s nothing I can help you with, I’m going to have to ask you to go back to your room. You can’t just stand at the front desk; other customer’s need to come here for service, and I have a lot of work to do.”

Guest: “Yeah… Yeah, okay.”

(He walks straight into an empty conference room, sets his lunch bag on the table, and stands there in the darkness, staring at the wall. I decide to call my boss, because something isn’t right. He is clearly in distress, and I want to get him some help.)

Me: “Hey, [General Manager]? Yeah I’m calling about the guy in 217, the one you said was drunk? I’m really worried about him. He’s very confused, he tried twice to pay for his room, and now he’s telling me he can’t leave because he doesn’t have a boat. I told him to go to his room, and he’s just standing in the pitch-black conference room, staring at the wall. Should I call his family first, or do you want me to call for an ambulance?”

General Manager: “Forget that! We’re not wasting any more time on some useless drunk. Call the police, and have him taken out of the building. I’ll check the room tomorrow morning and decide if he gets his deposit back. Has he bothered any other customers?”

Me: “No, he’s been very quiet, but I don’t think he’s drunk. I think he’s sick—”

General Manager: “Sick from the drink! Those kinds of people are all the same. Call the cops; never mind an ambulance.”

(I hung up and went to tell him that I was calling the police, and I was shocked to find him passed out cold. He was breathing but I couldn’t wake him up. I called for an ambulance. The police arrived first, followed by the ambulance. After some time, they determined that he was indeed having a medical emergency, and he was rushed to the hospital. The lead officer at the scene told me it was probably an issue related to his diabetes, and that if I hadn’t called and had left him alone, he might never have woken up. The next morning, housekeeping found a suicide letter in his room, along with four empty pill bottles. We never did find out the whole story, and he never came back for his deposit or his property. I still think about him from time to time, but at least I can say that my boss learned a lesson from all of this: she no longer assumes that all people who are a little off are drunk, and she no longer refuses people based solely on their choices to drink or use drugs. This experience scared her and made her realize that she shouldn’t judge people without getting all the information.)

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