Thursday, February 17, 2011

 Hotel reviews
A few years back I thought I would never engage in this hideous, mentally retarded or retired people's occupation. But after a few dreadful experiences, I started checking Tripadvisor and what a relief that was. No more 60-style places, dirty, impersonal, 4-star but actual 2, with misanthropic service. Instead I found myself spending a night in a no-star hotel with the off-the-scale hospitality in Greece, the unbelievably spiritual resort in Laos and the the coolest perception-changing airport hotel in Singapore. Since I was reading reviews, I felt I shall contribute too. I like to travel quite a bit, but it's not only about that. Let's face it, we are all consumers of service, even without leaving the boundary of our hometowns. In a way, it's our responsibility as customers to navigate the industry in the direction we want it to go. If we want better, cheaper, friendlier, faster, we just need to state it, and if needed, over and over again. 
I have always believed that good work should be encouraged and celebrated and a lousy job exposed. The problem about that and writing reviews though is that the bad hotels, or restaurants, or even the local dry-cleaner, that the bad ones that even want to hear from you. They know, just as their customers insufferably learned, that what they offer is terrible, a rip off or plain mediocre. And they don't want to hear about it! They avoid eye contact at the hurried check out, they never asked "How was your stay?" for fear that you might actually tell the truth. The same truth that is hanging like a big elephant from the ceiling between you, the "holly" customer, and the unfortunate downhearted hotel clerk, because ain't  chance avoiding suicidal thoughts in a working place like that. 
On the opposite of the spectrum, the good businesses love to send you a survey. Like insecure beauty, they keep on fishing for compliments. How can we improve? What can we add to our services to make you like us even more? And you just know that someone there will read your answers carefully and even implement some of your suggestions to elevate that nearly-perfect place even closer to the Good service heaven. 
Writing reviews has its benefits of which I happily became aware. After complaining about the in-desperate-need- of-refurbishment Red Lion at Port Angeles, WA, the manager sent me a two night free voucher of any of their properties and assured me my comments will be taken into consideration. I used a previous favorable online review ones, as a reason for getting a major discount in a particularly expensive high season. I know I get a table in some popular restaurants while others need to wait an hour or more. People tend to remember you if you compliment their already great job, so they give you even better service next time. Which happens even in the Netherlands, where service is routinely inexplicable. Please write reviews, it's a generous thing to do. It's a way as a consumer to contribute to the society. Just imagine the pain you can save a stranger, or the joy you can cause, by simply sharing your experiences. And let me be the Devil's advocate. You don't have time for that, right :) Come on, 5 minutes of charitable community work instead of wasting time on social media, we all can do that. 

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