Not long ago I attempted to check into a hotel. I looked forward to putting away my luggage, feeding and watering my service dog and giving him some exercise and free time. However, I came across two failures of the hotel’s management that prevented that from happening as soon as I would have liked.
I gave my name to the desk clerk and that’s when things went downhill. When things go badly at the first point of contact with a hotel employee, it sets a bad tone for the rest of the hotel stay.
She smiled politely as she entered information into her computer system, looked up and quietly and said, “Can I see your dog’s certification?”
“His what?” I asked
“His certification papers, you know, proving he is a service dog.”
Now, despite the fact that federal law does not require assistance dogs to wear any identifying gear or “uniforms”, my dog does wear a vest boldly proclaiming that he is a service dog. It also identifies the school at which he was trained. Still, this clerk decided the vest wasn’t enough proof of my dog’s right to be in a hotel. We needed to produce certification papers. This is a problem.
There are no official federal or state-issued certification papers for assistance dogs. Some local or state governments do issue special tags, often part of the rabies tag program, to assistance dogs, but most do not. And so I explained that to the clerk. She insisted I produce papers that do not exist. We had this exchange in front of other guests and I was feeling a little embarrassed.
Finally she began calling her boss to see what she was really required to do. This took some time during which I had to stand awkwardly among other guests who were checking in or out. I was singled out, I was definitely frustrated and, after a day of flying, I was tired and in danger of losing my friendly demeanor.
Eventually her boss told her exactly what I’d been telling her. She gave me a less than sincere apology for the time she’d wasted and we were permitted to check in.
The first problem here is fairly obvious: hotel management failed to train this clerk properly. She was ill informed about service animals and about hotel policy. As a result she embarrassed a guest and did so in front of other guests.
The second problem is a little less obvious. The hotel management failed to train this clerk to think independently and to make decisions without having to report to her superiors.
Tom Peters, well know management consultant, author and lecturer, wrote a series of books on the pursuit of excellence in business. He examined the management practices of corporations across the country. Among those corporations was Ritz-Carlton, the hotel company. Peters wrote about Ritz-Carton’s policy of giving employees the power to make decisions on their own in order to provide the best possible service to guests. It was a policy that helped the guests and created better employees. It also gave the hotel chain a reputation for excellent service.
Perhaps the hotel I stayed at should take a page or two from Tom Peter’s books.