Hotel clerk's smoke break leaves traveler fuming
Question: I was recently in a hotel and realized I'd forgotten to pack my toothbrush. Fortunately, it was a chain that offers you free basic toiletries and personal-care products if you've forgotten something, so I called the front desk.
No one answered. I let the phone ring at least 10 times. I called several times over the next 10 minutes and it was the same thing -- no answer.
It was late and I just wanted to go to bed, but I went downstairs and found a "back soon" sign on the front desk. The person who was supposed to be at the desk was smoking outside the front door.
Eventually she saw me and came back in, but didn't ask if she could help me. I said, "I tried calling several times but there was no answer, so I came down. I need a toothbrush." She found one and handed it to me without a word.
I'm not out of line in expecting a phone call to the front desk of a three-story midpriced chain hotel to be answered, right? What if I had an emergency?
Also, what are the next steps I should take? I checked out the next morning and didn't have time to speak with a manager about it, but the more I think about it, the more I don't want to let this go. I usually like this particular hotel chain and think someone should know they have a few things to work on at this location.
Answer: I don't know what the chain's policy might be -- perhaps they do only have one front-desk clerk on duty at night, and that person is allowed to take short breaks, and you just caught her at exactly the wrong time. But they should at least know that you, as a customer, weren't happy about this. I think your concern about an emergency is a valid point.
Obviously, if a life-threatening emergency were happening in your room, you'd just call 911, but what if your toilet started overflowing and you needed maintenance right away?
Ten minutes could make a big difference there. Finally, even if it was OK for the employee to leave the desk, there's no excuse for giving you the silent treatment when she returned.
It's a pity you didn't have a chance to speak to a manager, because it's always best to give feedback in person when possible.
But it's not too late to call the hotel and ask to speak with the general manager, or to email the chain's customer-service department.
You should describe exactly what happened (as you did above) and note the date of your stay, so they can figure out who was on duty that night.
Lesley Carlin writes for TripAdvisor.com.