Businesses often don't get what customers want
The day had come for me to make room reservations for a short trip I and my wife wanted to make to a car show in Colorado, so I picked up the phone and called the motel chain I have stayed at for years. What I was looking for was a nice room at a reasonable rate.
What I found was frustration.
"I would like to reserve a room at your Craig, Colorado motel," I told the young lady who had answered the phone. "I need it for the night of June 18."
"Before I do that for you would you be interested in our special bonus offer that we give to frequent stayers?" she said with enthusiasm.
"No I wouldn't," I said with mild irritation. "Besides I am not a frequent stayer anymore. I used to be when I had my own business because I traveled a lot. That is why I have one of your companies 'Special 12 Person Card' to reserve my room with."
"Sir I'm sorry but we don't use the "Special 12 Person Card' anymore," she stated. "That was discontinued a couple of months ago. But we now have a 'Special 12 Discount Card' that can get you frequent stayer points which are good for airplane tickets, car rentals, meals at fine restaurants, tolls for certain turnpikes in New York, 20 percent off your latest sewer bill, dog grooming at Superduper Pet, tires for your lawnmower at Jack's Fix It Shop which has locations around the west or half off a Flexpro toothbrush kit from Drugmart Stores that are found everywhere in the world. Would you like me to turn you over to the Special 12 Discount Card representative so you can apply it?"
I was more that mildly irritated.
"All I want is a room reservation," I retorted. "No discounts, except on my room, if that is possible."
"It isn't," she said. "The card is only good for the things I listed. We don't give discounts on rooms because we have ended the Special 12 program."
"Ok," I said in what I considered to be a patient way. "You are telling me that I can't use my card to get a reservation anymore, and even if I did get one of these new cards it wouldn't help me with a discount on rooms in your motel chain, but that I could get my one of my dogs a haircut with it."
"Well, not completely," she said. "It only gives you a discount on dog grooming, not a complete price break. However, I know that I was able to get some free special smelling perfume for my little Fluffy at Superduper Pet when I took her in."
Just what I needed for my kennel dogs. I kept my cool and said, this time a little more impatiently than my usual impatient tone, that all I wanted to do was to reserve a room.
"Well I can do that for you, but first would you like to hear about the special cable package we offer in rooms you occupy for only $14.95 more per night? It offers 275 more stations than the normal 40 we have in our standard rooms. It really is a great deal."
My hand started to twitch on the kitchen counter and my wife immediately pulled out my blood pressure cuff to see if I could set a record. She knew from my body language that this conversation was headed toward Strokesville.
"No," I said still somewhat patiently. "I am going to arrive about 9 p.m. in the evening and leave at 5 a.m. I doubt I would even have time to channel surf through that many stations if I stayed up all night. And if I were to stay up all night, why would need a room?"
She ignored that last comment but did pick up on the time we had planned to arrive.
"Sir we cannot reserve a room for late arrival with less than three credit cards," she stated. "I am sure you understand."
By this time, however, I was understanding much less than I did when I began the conversation.
"Look, when I had my own business I stayed at your motel chain just short of 20 days a month continually for seven years," I tried to explain. "I got this card for being such a good customer. I always used it for reserving rooms and besides it gave me 10 percent off any room with it. That is why I stayed at your chain. I didn't need a credit card or anything else whether I was showing up at 3 p.m. or 1 a.m. It also allowed me to cash checks up to $100 per day at any of your locations. I found that valuable. I don't find new tires for my X-Mart brand lawnmower valuable. Besides I don't even have a credit card to my name anymore. I got rid of them all. "
There was silence on the other end of the line, a lack of noise like the world had ended in that location. She finally did speak to me again, but her voice had changed like someone trying to communicate with Martian for the first time.
"I don't think I have ever talked to anyone who didn't have a credit card. In fact I don't see how anyone can survive without one. "
That was enough.
"Look all I want is to reserve a damned room," I told her more than emphatically.
"Well sir you don't have to get mad," she said to me. "We have policies in place that I must follow. I can reserve you a room with no credit card if you show up by 1 p.m."
I was perplexed by what she said.
"Isn't the earliest you can actually check in 3 p.m.?"
"Yes," she told me. "But without a credit card to hold it you must show up early."
"Let's say I did that," I questioned. "Does that mean I have to hang around the lobby until 3 p.m. to keep my room?"
"Oh yes," she told me. "But we have a fine in-house newspaper to read in the lobby of each facility and there is always a television on in that area to give you information about our special offers. You'd have plenty to keep you busy during that short two hours."
At that point I said "No thank you" and hung up.
I then looked on the internet and found a nice family owned motel and we stayed there that night. When I called the owner said he would hold the room for late arrival, no matter how late we would be. But he did ask one thing of us: To call him if we would be in after 11:30 p.m. because they needed to keep the office open if we were going to show up that late.
When I got there they didn't want to sell me anything but a room, and it turned out to be nicer than the one I would have stayed in at the chain. They offered free ice, 30 channel cable (which I watched for three minutes before I fell asleep) and a very good cup of coffee in the morning. The room also cost me $20 less than I would have paid at the other place.
That same morning I took the 'Special 12 Person Card' out of my wallet and tossed it in the garbage.