Complaints, Compliments and Compassion
By William May
Published: 11/18/09 Topics: Comments: 0
She wanted to go to the beach. It was to be a special trip with her daughter who had special needs. Larger homes were her preference, but a plain ocean front condo was her budget. She asked for a first floor home and a vendor to provide oxygen.
On the coast of Washington State oceanfront means there is nothing between you and the ocean, except for a hundred yards of sand dunes, dune grass and sometimes scraggly pine trees that reach out to very wide, very flat beaches.
Upon arrival the woman requested a wheelchair unit for her son (not her daughter it seems), a view and easier beach access. The condo was on-grade with no steps of any kind, but she also now wanted a view. The condo faces the ocean but it is not exactly right outside the front door. It is as close to, or closer than every other accommodations in town.
She was offered and selected a different condo to the North. But after moving she complained there were too many pine trees blocking the view and no path to the ocean through the dunes to accommodate the wheelchair.
The next day, she wanted a higher view. After inspecting several condo complexes she selected one to the South but soon that was not to her liking. She then demanded and was upgraded to an ocean front house far north.
Was it enough? Well no, because then the guest insisted she be moved back to the very first condo. The dutiful staff loaded up her things and drove them back. She was offered the option of canceling and receiving a refund but declined. Then every day for the rest of the week she called central reservations office asking for a larger house.
She wanted some owner to donate a bigger home due to her personal situation? A difficult request but a staffer called competitors, asking for donations. He waived his fee to afford something even bigger, but in the summer high season there were no better alternatives.
The guest stayed for the week and upon departing complimented the staff for all their great help.
So it was a big surprise when THREE MONTHS later the guest filed complaints with the government and a TV station claiming that no one took care of her, no one satisfied her needs, no one understood her problems and no one solved them for her. And all it would take to make her feel better is to receive a full refund for her entire stay.
The TV reporter didn't check the facts, didn't ask to speak with the manager, and featured the wrong condos in his report. He didn't care that the guest signed paperwork that specified a condo that was exactly as ordered; that she saw actual photos before booking; or that she got driving directions a week in advance that also showed the photos of the home again.
He didn't care that she had been offered a full refund repeatedly. He didn't care that staff personally carted the woman's belongings from home to home to home to home. He didn't care because he had a deadline and needed to get a story out to please his boss. The facts be damned.
In 1861, Wilbur F. Story, Editor of the Chicago Times said, "It is a newspaper's duty to print the news, and raise hell." Unfortunately today's quasi journalists only remember the raise hell part.
For a number of years the company has been donating vacation rental use to a wonderful group called OutdoorsForAll.org. (Formerly SkiForAll.org). Their mission is to enrich the quality of life for children and adults with disabilities through outdoor recreation.
They take handicapped folks to destinations and into sports they could never imagine otherwise. Blind kids go skiing. The wheelchair bound go biking. They offer horseback riding, hiking, swimming, canoeing, rafting, water skiing and more.
The first time OFA stayed in a vacation rental from the company they brought a dozen kids to a ski area. It made everyone feel good to help, but housekeepers were disappointed found that the beds had not been slept in.
A bit alarmed a quick phone call was made to the organization apologizing because no one wanted them to think they could not use the beds.
The call was greeted with boisterous laughter. "Oh you don't understand do you?"; said the director. "These kids are mostly bed bound so staying in a big bed in a luxurious home is not an adventure," she explained. "sleeping in a sleeping bag on the floor by a fireplace is a thrilling experience for them.
They could hardly sleep." Everyone smiled and felt better.
Businesses are often maligned for being callous or uncaring. A media reporter then telephoned to call the company on the carpet for failing to do enough. The guest filed complaints with the State and the Better Business Bureau.
All of that is unfortunate because businesses are nothing more than people; people who care about every guest and work diligently to satisfy them.
Staff members were crest-fallen when that guest complained. But should they be? Their actions went beyond the call of duty.
Instead of worrying about one person who seemed to be asking for far more than she ordered, and whose needs were impossible to meet, they need to focus on the thousands who appreciate their lodging, notice how clean the linens are, appreciate the comfortable furniture, relax at the pool, use the fully outfitted kitchens and offer those little compliments everyone needs in life.
After a person has done all they can to help others, after they have gone far beyond what is reasonable, they need to have the wisdom to judge their own compassion by those who understand and appreciate it!
P.S. To see a much better explain of philanthropy visit VRAI's VacationRentalAngels.com program where Owners can announce their donations to worthy charities.
Or, go to OutdoorsForAll.org and make a donation to a worthy group. They deserve it.
Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0127 – 11/18/09