Sunday, August 07, 2011

Weekends and Superficiality

I've discovered some very interesting things.

We've spent the last two days scratching our heads about the way real estate agents work in Miami. It seems they prefer not to work on the weekends!!! One fellow told us that his listings don't allow showings on the weekends but only during weekdays and during office hours. I asked if people were expected to take time off work to find a place to live and his answer was "yep, if they want to find something."


So as a result we have been sitting here - Saturday and Sunday - without seeing anything at all in terms of an apartment for Stacey.

The other interesting thing I've learned is the depth to which insincerity can go.

When we checked into the Conrad (described as a luxury Hilton) we were given vouchers for two free drinks in their bar. The desk clerk gave me the vouchers and pointed out that the vouchers would get my two drinks but I'd have to sign for the gratuity - I thought "fair enough."

The bar is on the 25th floor, as part of the lobby, with a nice little, narrow, long deck with tables and chairs. Unfortunately they allow smoking on the balcony.

So that night Helene and I went to the bar and used our vouchers to have a drink each. What made an impression was the lackadaisical attitude of the folks that worked in the bar. It took forever for them to recognize us, a longer time for them to serve us and they never did offer us bar nuts, food or anything else. but the bill came with an automatic 18% gratuity.

Breakfast is included here too. Same business - forever to seat us, forever to get coffee, flip almost rude (well not almost - rude) behaviour - very little attention paid - but an 18% gratuity included.

A built in tip leaves no incentive for the server to try to be helpful or nice. They provide the semblance of excellent service but the reality is far from excellent

On the surface this place looks luxurious and the rhetoric is right up there with the luxurious facade. The letter slipped under our door on the first night said "Exceeding your expectations is our goal." And on the surface it seems that they do exceed expectations.

For instance take the towels in the room. The are huge, fluffy, folded beautifully to show the embroidered "Conrad" and look soft and cuddly! But using them is like trying to dry off with aluminum foil or waxed paper. Looks beautiful but isn't functional.

By the end of the second night here I had it with the rudeness and the inefficiencies (we asked to have the electrical outlets checked as our cel phones didn't charge on the first night. They promised us it would be taken care of right away. We left for the day and when we got back in the evening the outlets still didn't work. they sent an engineer up immediately who discovered that the outlets weren't plugged in - a 30 second service call - the rhetoric of excellence - shoddy experience).

I spoke to someone at the front desk and let them know what I thought of their service including the 'upgrade' to the room (they upgraded us to a bayview room - we see water from our window - right beside the elevator so we get to hear everyone's conversations as they wait for the elevator - all night!! To their credit they offered to move us but we are staying here for 9 nights and were all unpacked already and we refused to move)

And here is the hypocrisy - this morning we were greeted by name as we walked into the breakfast area - the waitress served us within seconds, the hostess came to chat as did the Canadian supervisor. Tonight when we got back to the room there was a cheese and fruit tray sitting on the desk in our room with a note apologizing for any problems we may have had during our stay.

So it seemed that the default mode here is rude, careless service within an atmosphere that tries to convince you that you are in the lap of luxury. Good service is provided it seems once they are called on it which leads me to believe that the good service isn't really sincere.

I don't believe this is the Hilton chain mentality. We have used Hiltons almost exclusively since we came back from Africa. Our experiences at the Sandton Hilton and at other Hiltons including a Hampton Inn in Troy, Alabama were spectacular - its why we come back to Hilton's. At these places we have been dealt with in courteous, respectful, agreeable ways from the second we walked into the lobby.

I have never had to complain before to get 'adequate' service.


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