Good old-fash­ioned courtesy does work

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - TRAVEL 2013 - JULIET KINS­MAN

CÉSAR Ritz coined the ex­pres­sion “the cus­tomer is al­ways right” more than a cen­tury ago. But are we? If TripAd­vi­sor is any­thing to go by, we all seem to think so. I wince when I read peo­ple vent­ing on the re­view site or pas­sive-ag­gres­sively tweet­ing their gripes. But I fear it’s in dan­ger of de­vel­op­ing into a cul­ture of arm­fold­ing and foot-stomp­ing to get what we want, rather than em­ploy­ing a lit­tle good old-fash­ioned courtesy.

We’ve watched the con­sumer­ad­vice shows; we’ve read the ar­ti­cles promis­ing in­sider se­crets to get­ting an up­grade or bag­ging lux­ury for less. I say press “pause” on that sense of en­ti­tle­ment, put down your dealof-the-day voucher and re­mem­ber your man­ners.

Pol­ished ser­vice, as well as fa­cil­i­ties and fur­nish­ings, cost ho­tels big bucks – so it’s ba­sic economics to un­der­stand that we shouldn’t get it all for a steal. It’s in­ter­est­ing to hear from gen­eral man­agers that the peo­ple who snap up last-minute cut-rate deals tend to be the most vo­cal when it comes to com­plain­ing.

It would baf­fle me when my English grand­par­ents were served food as ap­petis­ing as fresh road­kill, then when asked if all was okay, would re­ply: “Oh yes, it’s lovely, thank you” (dis­creetly spit­ting the ined­i­ble items into their nap­kin). I’m not say­ing they should have slammed down their cut­lery or bel­lowed to see the man­ager, but there’s a gra­cious happy medium that cus­tomers can use.

On­dine Co­hane is a travel writer and one half of the cou­ple be­hind La Ban­dita, a stylish re­treat in Tus­cany. “Look­ing for a deal and want­ing things for less is all well and good, but I op­er­ate from a per­spec­tive of pay­ing for what I get,” says the Amer­i­can.

Travel is a so­cial con­tract as much as an eco­nomic one: we pay fair for a nice room, kind staff and good ameni­ties, and the prop­erty and the peo­ple who work for it should be treated well, too. As Ju­lian Payne, the man­ager of Blakes in Kens­ing­ton, cen­tral Lon­don, puts it, ho­tels are a “peo­ple” busi­ness.

“By be­ing per­sonal and hands-on, one can con­nect bet­ter with the guests and un­der­stand what their ex­pec­ta­tions are. Ev­ery­one wants to be loved and recog­nised, and by achiev­ing this, most guests will be happy and re­turn.”

Next time you feel a ho­tel might have let you down, have a word in some­one’s ear; with an added smile and some good cheer, you might find it works out bet­ter for ev­ery­one.

● Kins­man is the edi­tor-in-chief of Mr & Mrs Smith ho­tel guides (mrandmrs­smith.com) – The In­de­pen­dent on Sun­day

HERE TO HELP: Grab­bing a ‘good deal’ may mean miss­ing out on good ser­vice.

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