There, but for the grace of God,
go I. That thought must have run through the mind of every hotel
general manager who has read the devastatingly funny Power Point
presentation, "Yours is a Bad Hotel," currently making the e-mail
rounds in cyberspace.
"Funny," of course, is in the mind of the beholder, and I
suspect they're not laughing it up at the Doubletree Club Hotel in
Houston, the target of the presentation.
In 17 slides, Tom Farmer and Shane Atchison, two Seattle Web
design consultants, use every Power Point gimmick Microsoft has
made available to build the case that they received very poor
service indeed in the wee hours of Nov. 15, 2001.
They arrived with confirmed, guaranteed reservation in hand and
were told there were no rooms. Mike the night clerk (his name was
changed for the presentation) is not only unapologetic -- he is,
according to the presentation, deeply unapologetic.
The strength of the slide show is in the straight-faced use of
familiar Power Point formats: the metrics map that places the hotel
among other hospitality providers (it fares worse than the Kabul
Youth Hostel); the comparison chart ("Expected benefit: Points plus
frequent flyer miles. Actual benefit: Insolence plus insults"), and
the statistics slide (the odds of the consultants reserving a room
there again are worse than one in 2,200,000, equivalent to the
"chance of Earth being ejected from the solar system by the
gravitational pull of a passing star").
Mike the night clerk is the focus of these travelers' pointed
humor, and the presentation certainly reminds us we are only as
good as our most poorly trained employee.
But there's another reason this presentation has appealed to the
viral nature of the Internet.
The heart of the matter is this: Were Atchison and Farmer naive
to think they were owed a room at a specific hotel because they had
given a credit card number, received a confirmation number and were
told they had a guaranteed reservation?
If they had read the fine print, they would know that in many
cases, a confirmed reservation -- at a hotel, on an airplane, from
a car rental agency -- guarantees very little. (Actually, that's
not true -- it sometimes guarantees you'll be charged if you don't
The previously unambiguous words "confirmed" and "guaranteed"
have become double-talk worthy of Norm Crosby. And while these
words are highlighted in promotions to convince travelers to book
certain brands, they ultimately create resentment in the very
travelers they're wooing. At a time when the industry seems to be
pulling out every stop to regain the trust of travelers, perhaps we
can begin with promises we can live up to.