I don’t remember exactly when I noticed the little green and yellow vase in the Stecoah looked somehow off. But once I did finally pick it up to see that it had been carefully superglued back together along several major fissures, none of us could pinpoint how long it had sat in that condition. Kathy noticed it was broken as she dusted around it for weeks, but she thought I had put it back together and returned it to its perch. Alison thought the same, but with Kathy playing the part of repair technician instead of me. The men on our staff had noticed it, but thought it was supposed to look that way. A collective “huh” rumbled between us as we all went back to work to ready the cabin for the next guest.
I took the vase home with me, and I thought a lot about it as it sat in the passenger side seat, nestled for safety in my waded-up jean jacket. I wondered who had broken it. I wondered why they hadn’t mentioned it to me when they checked out. My guess was they wanted to avoid a charge for damages. They did a great job of patching it back together, so if that was their intent, they certainly succeeded. But mostly, I wondered how many other guests between then and now had noticed the little green and yellow vase that wasn’t quite right.
The Little Green And Yellow Vase Hid This Way For A While....
If you’re in the hospitality business for any length of time, you’ll find that things like this happen pretty often. Kathy and her team find all kinds of broken things propped up to look not broken, folded just so to hide the stain, or tucked behind things in the cabinet to mask the chip in the plate. And most of the time, these things are easy to spot by the eagle eyes of my cleaning staff. But –like this little vase – sometimes the damage is hidden so well that is goes unnoticed for a long time. That bothers me. And probably not for the reason you might think. Guests who accidentally damage things fear a charge, but as the owner, I fear what this hidden damage might silently say to my next guests. It might mean one guest escapes blame for a problem, but to another it could mean finding our place to be not as magical as they expected.
So, here’s what I’d like you to know.
First, we seldom charge for damages. This isn’t an invitation to wreck the place, but we can tell the difference between disregard for our property and a simple accident. In nearly fourteen years in business, I can only recall one or two instances of purposeful damage. So, tell us when something goes wrong. And if it feels really wrong, tell us as soon as it happens. Not so we can assess a charge to you, but so we can prepare ahead of time if we need to in order to fix it properly for the next guest. We want everyone to walk into their “wow” experience with us, and we can’t ensure that if we don’t know that something out of the ordinary needs our attention.
Second, if we know, we can make it better. Me, Kathy and her team love what we do. And we can be pretty resourceful, too. We want our guests to feel a part of that team – to help us keep things awesome, to let us know if we need to fix something. When we know, we can do that. And it usually turns out to be something even better than it was before.
The Final Fix...
And that little green and yellow vase? Now that we know, we did just what we love to do. We made it better.