Monday, September 24, 2012

When Problems Arise - Make it Right!

When Problems Arise - Make it Right!
I have worked in customer service types of organizations for my entire working career. Whether it has been: retail positions, insurance positions, managerial positions, or now, owning my own Travel Agency, I've ALWAYS worked for customer-centric organizations. With that being said, I am fully aware of both sides of the "customer is always right." 

Sometimes you simply can not give people what they want; however, if there is anything that is reasonably within your power to right a bad situation, then I think you should do it. People want to hear SOLUTIONS not, "NO." Plain and simple. Once you've offered solutions and options, then it is up to the individual to make the best decision for themselves, based off the offered solutions.

This brings me to a disturbing story that one of my travel colleagues has been working through now for well over a month. The short story, her clients were at an all-inclusive resort (I will not state the name; however, they are on my "do not sell list"). While the couple was there, they placed some cash in their hotel safe (this is already starting off bad. If you have cash -  keep it ON YOU). The next to last day before they were to depart, they left their room to enjoy their day, and upon their return, they found their safe open and their cash was gone.

Here is where things get ugly. They reported the theft to the hotel front desk, and then it was escalated to the MOD (manager on duty), and subsequently others were brought into the fray. The final solution: They did nothing. They failed to make the situation right.
I am not implying that the property should have necessarily reimbursed them their money, because it truly is a "word vs word" situation; however, every step the resort took, was to cover their own, behinds; while leaving these people stranded, literally, with no money or other resources. And, to make matters worse, the couple felt as if they were the criminals. They were offered no compensation, and they were essentially left to fend for themselves (fortunately, they were offered assistance by a kind tour operator who took them to the police station to file a report). 
The resort failed in multiple ways:
  • They failed to make the couple feel heard.
  • The couple felt as if they were the guilty party.
  • The resort offered no assistance in helping them get to the police station to file a report, nor did they conduct an in-house investigation of their staff (the couple felt that it was an inside job).
  • The couple felt that the resort was trying to sweep the incident under the rug (the couple alleges that the manager directed them NOT to discuss the theft in the lobby area in front of the other guests).
  • The couple placed a lengthy status on TripAdvisor about this property (and interestingly enough, there were others who reported theft of money, and other items from this property). The resort responded to the TripAdvisor report and, again, failed to "right" the situation. Their sole purpose was to show they did nothing wrong, and to save face.
This is just a snippet of what transpired, but where I believe the resort failed was their defensive responses. If they had listened, truly listened to the couple, and then made them feel heard and conducted their own internal investigation, as well as offering some sort of compensation (even if it was not the full amount of the stolen money), I believe that, while the couple wouldn't have been thrilled, they would not have been left with such a sour taste in their mouths. As it stands, this story has gone "viral" within the travel professional community, and many travel professionals have decided they will no longer sell, nor recommend this property, simply based on the mishandling of this couples situation. 

Theft from a property is nothing new, and it doesn't matter if it is a luxury property, or a 1-star budget hotel on the side of the highway; however, it is the way that situations are handled when something goes awry, that sets the stellar businesses ahead of their competition. Unfortunately, this resort failed in every step of the way.

*Photo used from

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fact or Fiction: Truthful Hotel Review Sites

Planning a vacation can be a fun, but challenging experience. Many of my clients come to me because they have researched their travels, but are stymied by the overwhelming amount of information that is readily accessible on the Internet. Once they have made a decision, oftentimes they will go to review sites like TripAdvisor, in order to obtain additional  information on their hotel selections, and get what they think are unbiased reviews. But are the reviews really so unbiased?

A report was done recently (I believe it was on NPR), where a lot of smaller more boutique type property owners were concerned and upset by the reviews their properties were receiving on such social review sites (and larger hotels are concerned too). Some of them (purportedly) accused their competition of placing derogatory reviews online in an effort to deter consumers from staying at their properties. They felt that many of the reviews were written by their competitors' employees, or even by the proprietors themselves. While they have no hard and fast evidence of this, they sited that quite often very few, if any of the reviews that they read were a true reflection of their property, and further, no one had ever made any of the allegations to them that they were reading online. Obviously, these property owners are upset and outraged by what they feel are unfair and inaccurate depictions of their properties, but what can they do now once it is out on the world wide web?

The statistics that have  been bandied about regarding these types of online review sites is that over 50% of travelers review these sites prior to making their final selections, and that if there are an overwhelming amount of negative reviews, they will not book that property. I tend not to frequent a lot of sites like this because there are so many disparate opinions on what each individual considers a "good" or "bad" property. What I've found in general, is that there are simply some people who can never be satisfied, and others, who are generally laid back and are much easier to please. Obviously there are circumstances where consumers receive sub par service, and they are right to lodge a complaint with the property. Also, there are varying individual opinions as to what is a: luxury, budget, or mid-level property; consequentially, if one person is staying at a property they deem as luxury, but in actuality it's more of a mid-level property, their expectations will be skewed by their own perception of what level of service they should experience.

In all fairness, there are some entry level expectations that all consumers have regarding a property. Cleanliness, no bugs, courteous customer service, and availability of their room upon check in, which are all reasonable expectations, but from there the lines can be blurred. I liken it to the comparison of cars. A person who purchases a 4-cylinder vehicle should not expect the same power as a German built, V-8 engine vehicle. It's not realistic, and as the saying goes, "You get what you pay for." I would not have the same expectations of a Holiday Inn Express that I would of a Four Seasons Property. That's just the reality of it.

As a blogger, when we review products and services for pay, we are required to advise on our site, or within the review that we have received some sort of compensation for that review. This will allow the consumer to be fully aware that the review could potentially be biased towards the product and/or service. I have not reviewed any products or services yet for any compensation, but I would like to think that I would provide a fair and accurate assessment if I did, because the consumer deserves to be told the truth - or at least the truth according to what I thought of that product or service at the time of my review.

Given the rise of information being stored for all eternity on the web, there are companies that are popping up to assist companies and individuals in protecting their online reputation. One such company is called (formerly Reputation Defender). Do I think online review sites are inherently bad? No, because I review hotels, restaurants and the like too, but if there are no checks and balances to even attempt to ensure the information is valid, then the information could potentially be deemed as untrustworthy and unreliable.

*photo used courtesy of and taken by jscreationzs

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Restaurant Spotlight: Euclid Hall, Denver, CO

Euclid Hall Entrance and Upstairs Dining Area
What a fun and fantastic place! The aptly named, Euclid Hall, feels like a high-end hangout where college students would feel right at home; so it didn't go unnoticed to me that Euclid Hall is in one of the trendier areas of downtown Denver, but its entrance faces South on 14th street, which is the direction that most of the college campuses in that area are located.

A fairly short staircase invites you into the main floor of Euclid Hall's well utilized two stories. As you are coming up the steps you will see a giant chalkboard with varying information written on it, like the "glossary of terms," serving as a description of some of their fare, such as Schnitzel and Poutine.  Happy Hour drink prices are also listed on the chalk board under the name: Study Hall, as well as the name of a few of their beers. The kitchen is an open concept, so you can see the chefs preparing the food. There is a bar to your immediate right, and they have a lusty selection of beers available, so there will be no dry mouths at your table, should you decide to partake of a frosty mug of goodness.

I met a friend there who doesn't live in Denver. I told him that I had been wanting to try, yet another, of Jennifer Jasinski and Beth Gruitch's delectable restaurants (side note: they also own Rioja and Bistro Vendôme), so I recommended Euclid Hall. He checked out the link to the menu and gushed that he would, "have to try all the desserts on the menu!"

At first blush, for the non-adventurous sort, there may be an immediate thought that the food is a bit, well, interesting. Yes...yes, it is. But interesting in the best sense of the word, and not akin to when someone brings a jello mold filled with tidbits of 'goodness only knows what' floating about in it. I promise you that there is something for everyone. And even though the menu is fairly straightforward, and not excessively long, I was overwhelmed by choices. I changed my mind at least three times before the waiter came back to take our order!

Menu, Trumer Pils Beer, Fries with Bacon Ailoi and Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich - yummm!

I finally landed on the House-Made Kennebec Fries served with a Bacon Aioli dipping sauce.There were just enough crispy bacon bits to not overwhelm the dipping sauce, and the consistency of the sauce was smooth and thick enough to stand up to their perfectly executed french fries (I am a self professed french fry connoisseur), without being too thick. The flavor was slightly sweet, with a hint of smokiness brought on by the bacon.

The Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich was served on a toasted dill rye bread, with large pieces of relatively thin, sliced and battered chicken, which was comfortably tucked away on a bed of shredded, apple cabbage caraway slaw. The slaw was not dragged down by any typical gloppiness that some slaws can have. It was clean and crisp, with an immaculate blending of the flavors that only served to enhance the chicken flavor; especially since I thought the chicken batter could have used just a touch more salt; however, when I ate the rest of my sandwich the next day, the bread held up extremely well and wasn't soggy, and the chicken and slaw mixture marinated in such a way that it actually tasted better than the first day. Go figure!

My friend dug into his Brat Burger that was served on a "bretzel bun," which was essentially a pretzel bun. The top of the bun gleamed beautifully as if brushed with a hint of butter to make it glisten even more. The melted Jarlsberg cheese spilled out from the sides of the burger, as he ate it with great relish. Needless to say, he was extremely happy with his selection.

Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich
Finally, while I am not really a dessert person (although, most everyone I am associated with is), I did have a taste of my friends dessert. It was a difficult decision for him, but he finally landed on their Sourdough Waffle Ice Cream Sandwich. Yes, you read that correctly, a waffle ice cream sandwich! It was just enough; not too small, and not too big, but just right. It was served in a wrapped paper for presentation purposes, and then slid out onto the plate to dig into. The ice cream was a salted butterscotch ice cream with pralines. This had to be one of the funnest desserts I've ever tasted. The smooth and salty butterscotch ice cream with the pralines was a splendid partner for the slightly sweetened waffles. This isn't a rich dessert, but a satisfying one.

Euclid Hall has the type of food that you'd imagine enjoying while traveling throughout Europe; specifically in Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany - beers, brats and fries! Although, there is definitely a French influence on the menu with multiple dishes served with duck eggs and foie gras. I enjoyed every bite of my meal, and look forward to going back soon!

*photos by That Chick Té