Sunday, May 6, 2012

Past Deadline: First-World Problems

I had the opportunity to attend a conference recently.

I love conferences. You get to learn lots and meet people. Someone else feeds you and does the dishes, and no cats wake you up in the night.

I love that staying in a hotel means I actually have a hope of keeping things tidy. There is no clutter. And even though you keep things neat, someone still comes in and makes the bed and cleans up. Bliss!

Like many hotels, this one had information about how you could do your part for the environment and not have your sheets and towels laundered every day.

The instruction was that if you hung their green choice card on your door before 2 a.m., you would be declining housekeeping for the next day and would get a discount voucher for food at the hotel restaurant. I wouldn’t need the voucher because meals were part of the conference, but with Earth Day just around the corner I wanted to do my part anyway.

If you wanted clean linens, you were to place the card on your bed, and towels that needed to be laundered should go on the floor.

So I merrily hung the card on my door that night and found the voucher under my door in the morning. I set off to make friends and learn things all day.

When I returned late afternoon, nothing had been touched in the room. The bed was unmade.

“Hm,” I muttered. I guess when they say “decline housekeeping” they mean everything.

That night I did not put the card on my door. For one thing, it is a thrill to have someone else make my bed, but also I was vying for refills of the in-room coffee. And emptying the garbage pails would be nice, too. I’m not asking for the world, here. It’s a hotel. One pays for these things.

The next morning, I was alarmed to see another voucher under the door, even though the card was on the table. As I left for my day of meetings, one of the housekeepers was in the hall.

I asked her if someone would be coming into my room and explained I had not actually hung out the card. “You’re not on the list,” she said. She must have assumed I was a giant scam artist, collecting $5 vouchers for the hotel restaurant that I would never use. I managed to snag some coffee filters from her at least.

Sure enough, when I returned late in the afternoon the bed wasn’t made and the garbage remained. Then, to my horror, I realized I had run out of sugar and whiteners to go with the coffee I had snagged.

The inhumanity of it all!

I decided I would stop by the front desk after dinner to get some condiments and to ask for clarification. I’m in communications, after all. I like to understand what the words mean.

At dinner I regaled some lovely new acquaintances with my tale of woe. Most hadn’t bothered with the card. No one had been abandoned like me.

“Maybe if you do it the first night they assume you mean every night,” someone suggested. Good thing I wasn’t staying for two weeks!

We had a good laugh about my horrific first-world problem.

At one point during the dinner program, one of my new friends disappeared and she returned with coffee filters and a package of sugars and whiteners from her room. I was saved!

It’s good to make friends at conferences!

That night I didn’t hang my card on the door because I was leaving the next day around noon and the green choice deal wasn’t applicable on the day of departure anyway. When I returned for my luggage, the bed was made, the bathroom cleaned, the garbages emptied....sigh. They had replenished the coffee supplies and left whatever I hadn’t used. They obviously figured I would be returning.

I just don’t get it.

One of my colleagues didn’t bother to read the green choice card and her housekeeping experience was flawless. Note to self: ignorance really can be bliss!

Published in The Perth Courier, April 26/12

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