Kindness

I am a kind person, I do my best. In the face of the evils of the world I genuinely believe that we need more kind people. There are so many people in the world who need that kindness.

At other hotels, where less than once a year someone would come in just to be indoors, I would let them spend some time in the lobby to warm up, maybe have some coffee. It wasn’t a problem. I met some very interesting people doing this, but not once was I frightened by them, or felt like I was being scammed.

More so at my current job than at any other I have people coming in and asking for help with things. Since it is a hotel, it’s usually a room. I am willing to work with them as much as possible within regulations. I have called over a dozen churches in the area to see if any one of them could help a homeless woman get out of the cold for a night. None of them serve that function.

I let people use the computer to make a reservation, but the other day it was on a bad card and they had an elaborate facade of getting someone else to pay for the room. I know they are locals and I have to add them to my mental list of people I cannot trust. *Since initially writing this, one of the women returned and did have someone to pay for the room. I was obviously skeptical, and made her wait outside, but everything is sorted out. I kinda needed that to restore a bit of faith in humanity*

People come in and try to eat the condiments that are left out for breakfast and drink the coffee. I know that if they need to do this there is a reason, but I also know that if I let them, not only will they be back, but so will others. Once a year for someone passing through town is very different than every day for several locals.

Over and over again I am reminded of why people are unkind to others. We have had people use counterfeit money. People smoke in the rooms several times a week, even though we are a non-smoking hotel. We charge $250 cleaning fee, and the same people return, thinking they will get away with it this time. I have had many people use elaborate stories to buy time in the lobby for different reasons. Many of these stories end up screwing the hotel. I have had many people try to scam us.

While I am kind, I am not stupid. One woman stayed in the lobby for more than 8 hours trying to get hotels.com to get her reservation straight. I did what I could to help her, but of course I could not let her into a room without payment. When I left, I told the next shift to make sure that the hotel received payment before giving her a key. The next day I found out that the girl had just checked in the woman with no payment. At the time I thought that the woman was genuine and had gotten lucky with the other girl. A few months later the same woman came back with the same story.

I find myself more and more skeptical of people, and it hurts. I do find that my instincts are usually right, but I often choose to be kind until I know for sure. I probably end up with more problems as a result, but I hope that by doing so, I can help more people who truly need it. I know that when people see my kindness they know that they can push the limits more, and that is not good for me, or the business I represent.maxresdefault

I do my best to thin out those who are up to no good from those who are genuine. For every bogus story that I hear, I have heard the story in truth once before. I know that there is a fine line between doing things because they need to be done and needing something done and using excuses. Even the people who try these simple scams do it for a reason. Something about the world has made them think that either they need to lie to get what they need or that lying gets them better results. I will tell you that lying is not serving them better than telling the truth. These people get kicked out of here and other businesses a lot. They need a way to get what they need without the lies. I need a legitimate place to send people who are in this predicament. I hate having no recourse but sending them back on the street. I hate that being kind means being taken advantage of. I hate that the media has made these people into monsters.

I have lots of ideas that might help, but they all need a source of funding. Most are the thoughts of an idealist that rely on the idea of ‘Pay it Forward’ actually working. I know that it has worked in some industries, but I am still skeptical about it working as an economic model on a large scale or over the long-term.

In the end, I am more willing to do what I can to find someone a job than to give them money. I could provide the homeless with an address, a haircut, a shower, photo id, and a reference. I would even like to provide temporary housing until they could get on their feet again, maybe job training too. The job market does not look kindly on long-term unemployment and this would likely by where my idea falls apart. In theory, once the person was able to move out they would, and would re-pay us over time. I do think that treating it as credit would result in more of these people disappearing before we were able to collect anything from them, whereas allowing them to donate to us to help another person in the future would work better.

give-a-man-a-fish-and

Advertisements

Fear & Trust

Once upon a time people knew everyone they came into contact with on a regular basis. When a stranger came to town everyone knew about it and was full of curiosity. That stranger was alienated by a sense of otherness, and could cause problems, but they were so outnumbered by the locals that it was not likely.

As cities grew larger people grew into small groups of trust, and people who were up to no good had the ability to blend in and hide. Bandits could come into town, work their mischief and leave as quickly as they had arrived. On the other side, locals could scam people, but if they tried to scam other locals they would probably be caught, and so most choose to prey on people passing through town or skip the scam and go the sneakier burglary  /pickpocket route.

As transportation has become easier, strangers are more common, and are largely ignored. In large cities no-one even knows who is local and who is not. Small towns seem to exist largely due to the tourism industry, and so strangers are just a part of everyday life.

Most people have just accepted this status quo of not knowing who is nearby. We routinely lock our homes and automobiles, women carry pepper spray to protect themselves, and we choose to live under the watchful eye of video surveillance systems to keep others in check.

Why do we, especially Americans, do this? We have been told so many times that the world is out to get us that we believe it. On the news we hear stories about people who were trusted with something taking advantage of, or just generally not deserving that trust. We hear stories of the time that a child was left in the day care’s van after a field trip and left to die, we hear stories of people’s lives being torn apart as the result of a burglary, and we hear about people being massacred on a public street. These are terrible things, and we should be aware of them.

The problem is that these are the only stories we hear. We do not get to hear the stories about a nurse who spends her time off the clock reading to coma patients, we do not hear the stories about the homeless man who picks up garbage in the neighborhood for free every day, or the bank manager who knowingly sets his own wages less than his employees and sets raises based on personal situations rather than work ethic.

We have been conditioned to think the worst of everyone around us. Fear is used for advertising everything from mouth wash to legal policies. It is also perpetuated by laws that hold the homeowner responsible for injuries on their property, even when the person is not supposed to be there. Many tales have been told of robbers who successfully sued the homeowner for injury, even if the robber themselves broke the window that injured them. In some countries homeowners insurance covers break-ins even if the front door was unlocked.

So how can we trust anyone? The short answer is we can’t. But as social beings who need human interaction, we balance risk and reward. We go to school, work, shopping malls, etc even though we know about the massacres that have happened in these places. Our experience tells us that these are very rare, and we take that risk. In fact we scorn the people unwilling to take that risk as insane.

As we meet people and make new friends we do develop a level of trust, but deep down we know that there is no way to know what they do behind our backs. This is part of what causes so many paternity suits and why we have structures built up to keep businesses accountable.

Today a movement known as the ‘sharing economy’ has been making an appearance. This is still largely a fringe movement, but some things have become mainstream, like eBay. In the beginning this was a very risky way to purchase or sell things. The product might not be what was advertised, or even exist at all. The payment may never arrive, and the seller had no recourse. Policies have been enacted since then that hold both parties responsible and protect them from the possibility of things going wrong.

Craigslist is still very basic. When using craigslist the risk is still a part of the user experience and something to be wary of. The company has published tips on how each party can protect themselves, but does not vet participants in any way, no reviews, or much in the way of account creation. They have chosen to welcome newcomers as equals rather than to embrace those who are in it for the long haul.

Both of these examples are largely just a way to facilitate a single transaction. Craigslist encourages in person exchanges, while eBay requires no face-to-face interaction. Other examples of this ‘sharing economy’ are just coming into the market. These range from renting out rooms in your home to hooking up for the evening or going out to eat at an aspiring chef’s home. These examples have followed eBay’s example to assist the users in trusting the other party. This allows participants a way to engage in activities that would normally be considered very risky with less fear. That is good thing, but some have also been accused of deleting negative reviews in the hopes of creating a positive public perception. There is also the issue of being held accountable for those reviews and not wanting to criticize a nice person.

I see this movement as a good thing as a whole. We need to find a way to trust again. Even if that trust is supported by a business structure. Anyone who has walked down a public street in New York knows that of the thousands of people we may come into contact with on a given day, we avoid 99% of them. Even those we do interact with, like cashiers, we cannot fully trust.

This is also a great way for people with similar interests to meet up and make friends. Even something as mundane as ride-sharing can lead to a lifelong friendship, especially if both parties are put at ease enough to open up.

As someone who works in customer service, I also see the potential, if this type of economy really took off, of the weeding out of the bad apples leading to public businesses, who have no way to review guests, having to deal with only those left out of the sharing economy. This means that since businesses are the only ones held accountable , they are forced to stretch themselves more and more to accommodate, and keep happy, worse and worse customers.

But is that really a bad thing? I could replace my income by renting out rooms and giving people rides, so long as I was a trustworthy person. I could use those services from other trustworthy people, creating a parallel, better, more transparent, economy. This would encourage people to be trustworthy, and so able to use this economy where people share the things that they value, adding value to the economy as a whole, without the need for more products. The economy of those who are deemed unworthy would be unsustainable, and self-punish those forced to use it. I honestly believe that most people are good. Even more so when being bad is not rewarded.

By supporting people who share only what they personally have, rather than those who have more than they need, this also creates a more equitable system. It could return the balance of power to the individual instead of the corporation, but only if you trust the corporation to properly vet the individuals.

 

Commitment & Classism

A while back I was very interested in purchasing a business. All of the numbers seem like it is profitable enough to support my family. It is a small inn, and having hotel experience I thought that work well. It is in a beautiful place. It seems to attract good people. Looking at the reviews and the website I could see a few things that I would improve, but overall guests seemed to love it, and it works well, so there would be very little to change.

I e-mailed the owners an offer directly, knowing that we might have issues if we tried going through a bank since we do not have a down payment. The response was bit rude, but I respect that they do not want to carry the contract. That’s fine. What bothered me was the off-handed reference they made to money as a proof of commitment. I know that people expect a down payment, and that banks will not proceed without one. My father had said something about ‘putting some skin in the game’. He was also referring to money, but I thought that there were other ways of showing commitment.

I brushed off the comment and proceeded to try to find some way to finance this purchase using the business itself as collateral. Everyone is more than willing to do that part, after all that is what a mortgage is. But without a down payment or additional collateral, I could find no way of doing it. We spoke to banks, bought nicer clothes, searched online, and pursued every avenue we could think of, even crowd-funding. In the end, the fact that we do not have enough money in savings means that we cannot buy this business, even though it would more than pay for itself and support us better than we are living now.

To me this seems like nothing more than a way to ‘keep people in their place’. I would think that if my family threw ourselves into the business, worked there for free for a few months to observe and learn, as we survive off of what little savings we have, would show commitment. If we quit our jobs to focus solely on the business, that would show commitment. Our intention to let our children run it when we retire would show commitment. All of these things we are willing to do. But to the world, if Donald Trump saw the place was for sale and wrote a check for the total that would show more commitment. Even if he never saw the business and never even thought about it again.

There needs to be a way for people to break through this barrier that we have found. Today we could work our entire lives, saving every penny for this purchase and not save enough. Even if we never took a vacation, did not send our children to college, and worked until we were too old to run the place ourselves. Eventually we were forced to give it up.

And this business is relatively inexpensive for this type of thing. I use the example of Donald Trump because his ‘small 1 million dollar loan’ would nearly buy it in full.

HOTELS.COM

I work at a hotel at the front desk. I have done so for several years. We receive reservations through many different third party websites. All of these take a high percentage of the profits, so I personally refuse to use them. Most hotels make sure that however a room is booked the guest pays the same. So there is not actually a savings. It is simply a way to take a cut from the hotel. Normally these third party sites work well for us, but have a nasty reputation of never giving refunds or the like.

Right now I have a guest waiting in the lobby because hotels.com system is down. The guest has been waiting for nine hours for them to “put the information through manually” She has called 9 times and they keep saying it will be dealt with by a certain time. I have been watching every communication method since I arrived. They have offered refunds that will be processed in 24hrs, despite the fact that she has told them that she does not have money in her account to pay for the room at the moment.

Now their system  shows that we have no rooms available. This is because we allocate a certain number of rooms to the different third parties to sell so that we do not get overbooked. However I have spoken to them and told them that we do have rooms. Since they did have rooms available when she booked, one of those rooms is already hers. All we need from them is a way to receive our payment. They refuse to give it, and without a guarantee I am unable to give her a room. They claim that they have e-mailed it, but I have not received it.

This poor woman did everything right, and still, because of hotels.com she is looking at the possibility of not having a room tonight.

NO VACANCY

I work front desk at a hotel. We have been sold out for much of the summer, even on weekdays. These are the most common responses people have when I tell them we are sold out. These people have usually been going to, or calling hotels for awhile by this point. I know they are sick of it, but when you are looking to rent a room, especially when it is busy, please remember that the person behind the desk has been dealing with the same question all night, probably has other issues, and someone at the desk at the time you called. On my worst nights I have a screaming guest on hold, expedia.com on hold, I have called for assistance with our new, fancy, totally broken computer system, and have a line of guests waiting to check in.

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “What is going on?!”

-My Thought:    “Does it make a difference to you at this point?“

-What I say:        “This is normal for the area, plus there is (any events I happen to know of)”

 

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “But the parking lot is empty”

-My Thought:    “Yeah, but the rooms are booked. Smart people who booked ahead expect them waiting for them when they arrive at 2AM”

-What I say:        “Some people have not checked in yet, but the rooms are already guaranteed for guests who reserved them.“

 

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “You don’t even have a closet we could sleep in?”

-My Thought:    “Yeah I could put you in the maintenance closet and beg you to sue us.“

-What I say:        ”(chuckle) No, I’m sorry.”

 

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “Are you sure?”

-My Thought:    “No, I just said that to see your reaction”

-Or:                        “Actually no, I just say that to make less work for myself.“

-Or:                        “Oh hey, the room of requirement just popped up in the system. It’s on the invisible 4th floor. You have to climb up the ladder outside”

-What I say:        “Yes, unfortunately.”

 

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “Would you have something later?”

-My Thought:    “I am not psychic. People may check out early, people may get pissed and leave. The owners may fix the problem in whatever Out Of Order room I have. But no matter what, the room would be gone in 5 minutes to whoever times their call just right, so it will not be you. Do not try, I have enough people calling without you trying back all night on the off chance that something happened.“

-What I say:        “No, have a good night”

 

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “Do you know if anyone has some rooms?”

-My Thought:     “Why do you think I would want to send you to the competition?”

-Or:                        “I am way too busy to deal with a persistent person right now, go away.“

-Or:                        “The other hotels usually fill up before us, so you’re screwed.”

-Or:                        “Because I totally have time to do your dirty work for you.“

-Or:                       “I know nothing is available, but if I tell you that you will keep me on the line for 5 more minutes, so I cannot help you and say to look outside of town, I have to let you run around on a wild goose chase.”

-What I say:        “I have not had time to check yet.”

-Or:                        “Online I see that ____ has some.“ (but sometimes front desk leaves rooms to only get sold online, so that might not help you)

-Or:                        “I have been looking and there is nothing in the area online. I wish you luck.”

 

And my personal favorite:

-Me:                      “We are sold out.”

-Customer:         “Well f*** you!”

-My Thought:     *dumbfounded “Why the f*** are you pissed at me? Make a f***ing reservation next time.”

-What I say:       “You too” And the guests in the lobby think they said ‘have a good night’ or something

I have even had people claim to have had a reservation, deny that it could have possibly been under a different name or at a different hotel. Sometimes they realize they were mistaken, sometimes they just get screwed. If you did make a reservation. Find where it actually was, because we don’t go through the time & effort to make a reservation and then not do it. You will get charged a no-show fee from the hotel where you actually booked. If you did not make a reservation, claiming you did will not help you get a room when there are none available. The laws of physics do not change because you claim that.

CHAPTER 6 (WIP) – BUSINESS MINDSET

The next night Jessica dragged herself out of bed. The sky was black as she went to take a shower. This is not when human beings should be waking up. She hadn’t even fallen asleep until the sun went down, despite lying in bed for several hours utterly exhausted. Jessica had no interest in going to work, but the responsible adult still conscious somewhere in her mind knew that she must.

Jessica felt as if she was rushing, but every time she looked at a clock, she was falling further and further behind. She would be late. From experience, she knew that if she left late at all, the crowd leaving the gym at closing time would slow her down. It sounds silly, but that is small town living. When the gym is the town hangout, not even a bar to go afterward that’s where the crowds are.

By the time that Jessica arrived at work she was nearly 15 minutes late. She ran in the door apologizing to Suzie, who rushed to the door so fast she nearly forgot to clock out. For every time she was later than normal, she knew she was pushing her luck with the daycare.

Once Kenzie arrived, Jessica supervised as Kenzie ran the shift. Kenzie did everything by the book, direct from her notes, like a robot. She did not stop doing everything on her list, even when it was time to wait before starting the next thing. Jessica did not stop her from doing the paperwork early. Kenzie would find out why it was advantageous to wait eventually. People do come to check in at three in the morning, and how you tell the computer about them gets far more complicated once the nightly paperwork has been done. Jessica did stop Kenzie from setting up breakfast so that it would be steaming hot at 2am.

So instead of having fifteen minutes here, and thirty minutes there to keep the girls occupied all night, they had more than four hours straight of dead time. Kenzie stood by one of the computers for awhile before turning slowly to Jessica and asking, “Well, what do we do now?”

“That is part of why I break up the work on this shift. But to answer your question, stay near the desk and do what you want. You can turn on the TV, use your laptop, or the work computers if you feel like standing. You can read a book, do homework, or hell, you can paint a masterpiece.” Kenzie turned back to the computer and stared at it some more.

Jessica was standing at the other computer looking for inspiration how to get her life on track. She searched the country for jobs in her field, only to find that they required a related minor or even a masters degree.

About this time Kenzie spun around on her heel in a hurry and went to the back room. She came rushing back with her phone and hunched over the computer to get to work. Jessica leaned over to see what all the fuss was about. As it turned out Ms. Thomas had assigned Kenzie some online training videos she had nearly forgotten about.

Jessica turned back to her own workstation as she decided to switch from looking for engineering jobs to design, but, as she expected, had even worse luck, since it was only her minor.

From Kenzie’s computer poured the party line about upselling, customer relations, and how making money for the company keeps you employed.

Jessica huffed before she decided to start her own business where she could sell her own work, “Elegant Engineering” she would call it. Then she asked the world wide web about business startup loans. After filtering through several websites she realized that either she would have to fork over money upfront to get more money, which would still require convincing people who do not believe in Jacks-of-all-Trades to put faith in her. So it seemed she would have to build something like this from the ground up by herself. With her own money. And her own time. Both of those requirements were positively laughable at this point. She could not find time nor energy to hang out with friends, when would she be able to work, and where? She couldn’t even pay her bills, how on earth would she afford materials to work with, unless she took the ‘reclaimed treasures’ route, which did not sit quite right with the ‘engineered for comfort’ bit.

Jessica decided to contemplate material to re-use that would work well and be easy and cheap to find. In the meantime she took a break for lunch, or dinner, or midnight snack. Whatever you call eating in the middle of your day when that happens to be in the middle of the night. As she ate, she listened to Kenzie’s computer spewing out this years buzzwords, “Motivation!”, “Upsell!”, “Goaldigger”, “It factor”, “Growth”, “Market”, “Passionate”, “Driven”.

 

Chapter 7 – Sell Sell Sell

Table of Contents

CHAPTER 5 (WIP) – MIXING IT UP

When Jessica arrived at work, Suzie rushed to communicate the issues of the day; not many since the hotel was nearly empty. But the most important seemed to be that Jessica had not even been on the schedule for that night, the manager had switched things up for a new girl. But since the girl who was scheduled to come in was not arriving for another hour and was not answering her phone, Suzie was about to call Jessica in anyway. Suzie had to hurry to pick up her daughter from daycare because they had a special arrangement that someone would stay late to wait for Suzie. Her shift ended at the same time the daycare closed for the night.

Once she was alone, Jessica did not know whether to be grateful to the manager for switching up the schedule, or upset because she had not been told. Jessica looked at the schedule, so then she was pissed at herself for not noticing. She could have actually slept tonight. But then again, she would have ended up coming in anyway, just a little later and so gotten fewer hours. In the end, she was pissed, but could not tell at who or why. She decided to blame the new girl.

Just then the phone rang, it was the manager. “Oh, hi! I was expecting Suzie to answer, but it’s better that you are there, I hope you don’t mind having to come in since I made a mistake and did not put you on the schedule to train Kenzie, Suzie called freaking out that no-one would be in for an hour. I looked at the schedule again and I realized the mistake I made, anyway I told the trainee to come in an hour after the shift starts, so no rush on doing the beginning of shift stuff, I want you to show her the ropes, I know you don’t like working with other people, but you are the only one who can train her overnight, and it means that you will have some days off coming up once she is trained, I will keep looking for more help to get everyone off of overtime, but in the meantime, Kenzie will be starting her own shifts soon, she seems like a quick study, make sure to cover as much as possible in the next two nights so that she only needs one shift of training on the other shifts, have a good night!”

“You too, Ms. Thomas.” As Jessica was about to hang up, she heard more.

“Do you have any questions for me? You know that if you need me all you have to do is call, right? Well have a good night, and please let me know how training goes tonight!” And she hung up without waiting for the requested questions.

Jessica pulled up a chair and plopped into it, speaking to the manager was always exhausting. Even though Jessica barely said a word, she always felt out of breath just listening. Since she had been asked not to do much until Kenzie showed up, she just sat and relaxed for a change.

Jessica knew she wasn’t really supposed to sit while she was working, but she never understood how having someone standing, legs getting more tired by the minute, feet aching and yearning for a break looked more professional than having someone sitting, who stands up to pay attention to a guest. The act of standing is a silent way of acknowledging the customer. If you are already standing, it has to be spoken, or conveyed in no more than a look. Since Ms. Thomas knew that Jessica did not ignore guests, she sat sometimes anyway.

Jessica reveled in her solitude until Kenzie arrived for her training. Jessica stood up and started going over the shift, while Kenzie watched in near absolute silence. She nodded occasionally, and wrote notes in beautifully clean handwriting in the notebook that she brought just for that purpose. Somehow Kenzie’s notes were perfectly organized, even though Jessica’s presentation was decidedly not at all. So went the night. Jessica had a very one-sided discussion through the evening, and when there was nothing work related, they stood in silence until there was.

Chapter 6 – Business Mindset

Table of Contents