Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Southern "hospitality"

I experienced some pretty amusing glimpses of customer service down "sath," and although there were plenty of people who classified the friendly, hospitable stereotype, I thought it would be fun to share my brushes with the people of "Nashvul" (apparently Nashville rhymes with bashful, so get it right!) who don't quite fit that mold.

Bell Service is for Wussies
After courteously checking us in at the Gaylord Opryland, the front desk staff person carefully showed us on a map of the property how to navigate to our room. This very large resort is made up of several sections that were added on at different times, with varied main levels, all connected through gorgeous indoor gardens.  The result is a very confusing labyrinth of passageways and winding staircases.  We were certainly appreciative of her detailed instructions.

We set off in the right direction, map in hand, our two suitcases apiece rolling along behind. The first time viewing these atrium with magnificent waterfalls and full foliage was awe-inspiring.  Each set of stairs we encountered was accompanied by a nearby ramp, so we were able to enjoy the scenery without complication--until we reached the escalators. The receptionist had specifically instructed us to approach two sequential sets of escalators and go up them both (the escalators in question are shown on the left in the first photo above).  My mother and I each had one large and one medium-sized rolling suitcase in addition to our backpacks, laptop bag, and another bag.  The prospect of trying to successfully board and then disembark an escalator with our cumbersome baggage made us wonder aloud three things, in this order: First, why weren't we offered bell service for our luggage, or at least told where we could ask for it? Then, why did that woman direct us toward two escalators when she could plainly see we had a significant amount of luggage to drag along? And finally, where in the nearest elevator?

The answers to our first two questions would never be realized. To the third question, we set out to find the answer, which was not as simple as you might assume. We followed a path into a lodging tower, assuming we'd find an elevator there. We did, eventually.  Into the surprisingly tiny elevator we awkwardly crammed ourselves and all our suitcases, but upon exiting at the next floor up we realized that this one only offered access to the rooms in that tower. We hadn't noticed any alternate option, but back into the elevator we went. I swear at this point we could have passed for some bumbling tourist characters in a Saturday Night Live sketch: suitcases tipping over, on and off and on the same elevators, going around in circles, tripping over ourselves, all Charlie Chaplin-style.  Oh, the hilarity, had we been set on fast-forward to a honky-tonk piano rag. But in reality--not so funny.

I actually cannot remember how we finally found our wing of the hotel with its main level 3 floors up from the ground floor, even now that I am comfortably familiar with the layout. I was probably so frustrated and then relieved that I didn't care how, because I knew every other time we came here we would use the escalators meant to bring us.

Contender for 'Most Odd Response from a Retail Employee'
A mall within walking distance of our Convention hotel + free time = dangerous.  But I had left the tags on the dress I brought for our Awards Banquet in hopes I might be able to find one I liked even better, so that was the primary purpose in going to the mall.  The first time, anyway.

My mom and friend Lana helped me search and gave advice in the dressing rooms. One possibility we found was a frilly, ivory dress with a black satin empire waist tie.  Very pretty, but strapless and quite short. My broad shoulders make some strapless dresses less flattering, so the girls set out to find coverage options, something along the lines of a shoulder shrug.  The one they brought back didn't really "go" with the style of the dress, so we asked the fitting room attendant if they had any others.  We described what we were looking for, and her uninterested response went something like this:

"Yeah, we have one that's kind of, like, lacy?...but I don't know if you'll like it or whatever."


And that was it.  Her expression implied that we could go find it if we wanted to risk the chance I might not like it, but she wasn't about to go out of her way to sell it to us.

Do you normally know if people are going to like anything in your store? Isn't that WHY we shop and then try things on? I don't know if I'll like it either, but I can't determine that until I SEE it.  We then had to ask her to tell us where we could find the mysterious article and trudge off in search. It turns out that I didn't like it.  So according to that girl's logic I shouldn't have even bothered looking.

I found this cute shrug instead, and although I didn't end up getting the ivory dress and this piece didn't coordinate with the dress I did wear, I still like it.

Sorry to Trouble You, Ma'am
We went on the greatest little dinner cruise with a group of other Curves owners--some friends from home and some new friends we now adore.  I wondered if the General Jackson Showboat would be a lame, cheesy tourist attraction, but it was actually really fun and the "Country Music USA" performance was exceptional--even with my limited appreciation of country music, I was entertained.  The musicians were highly skilled and so full of enthusiastic energy (unlike many of the Disney on Ice skaters).

Mom on the balcony overlooking the General Jackson Showboat stage

Before the show began we were served a delicious dinner.  The staff allowed us to squeeze two extra seats into our table to accommodate our group, but as the salad was passed around it was apparent that the amount had not been adjusted for our larger company.  Our server wasn't in the room at the moment, and I wanted to have the situation handled before anybody was sitting hungry with an empty plate for too long, so I wandered over to the nearest dining room personnel to inquire.

The woman appeared to be a server as well, only she was presently occupied with clearing dishes from the empty tables, where the seats had not been sold.  Before telling her we needed more salad, I simply explained that we were in need of some assistance at our table, and asked if she could help us or if we must wait for our own server.  She hesitated, then asked which table I was from. I told her, and then again she hesitated, without even hearing my request, before telling me that since she was not my server, she would not be able to help me.

I understand how foodservice works, and when gratuity is the primary motivation to serve, not necessarily to ensure a positive experience for its own merit, the altruistic desire to help can disappear.  But since this woman was not busy helping her own customers, it seems to me that she could have listened to my request to see if it was simple enough to handle herself (maybe we were missing a straw and she has an extra one in her pocket), or at least helped me locate my server so he could resolve the issue.  The "I can't help you with that, good luck" attitude in customer service is so foreign to me.

But that was the only little hiccup in the evening, and here's the best part: When we arrived in our room I noticed a little advertisement saying I could text the word "offers" and our checkout date to this number and then would receive special offers to use during our visit on my phone.  I figured I had nothing to lose, and signed up with the hope that maybe we'd get 10% off a souvenir or a free dessert.  Later, my mom and I visited the Attractions desk to inquire about the General Jackson cruise. I was disappointed to learn that the dinner tickets were more costly than we had hoped, and there would not be a lunch cruise sailing at a time we could be available. So we accepted the fact that this event wouldn't be in the cards for us. Until a few hours later, when I received my first (and only, come to think of it) "offer" from the hotel.  Not 10% off. Not a free dessert. Buy one, get one FREE tickets on the General Jackson! We were thrilled, and shared our discount code with everyone who was interested so we had a big, fun group to go with.

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