Wednesday, March 3, 2010

please please me

After my successful finagling of a free bonus night in Hawaii at the end of our recent family vacation, my sisters declared me The Brave One. I didn’t grow up brave, but at some point in my life I arrived at the realization that I am much more likely to get what I want if I just ask for it. I also figured out that even if I don’t get what I want, I always regret it when I don’t ask for it. I have to be careful not to overuse this tool, and to employ it only with manners and respect. Yelling and being rude might get you what you want sometimes, but that’s not my angle.

Hotels and restaurants are a service industry, and they want their customers to be happy. I also want the customer to be happy, especially when the customer is me. I feel that it is my duty as a potentially satisfied customer to give the service providers every opportunity to make me happy. If you don’t send your steak back, how will the chef know that it wasn’t made right? If you don’t ask for a better room, how will the front desk know that the first one had too much street noise? If you are willing to live with the offering you’ve been given, that’s great – but please do not complain to your poor unsuspecting table or roommates about bad food or an ugly room or poor service if you choose not to speak up.

Last weekend, I spoke up twice about things that were making me dissatisfied. Both were during the course of my son’s 11th birthday celebration. The results were emphatically diverse, and one was downright troubling.

It was a plan B birthday – our scheduled overnight trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain had to be cancelled due to the horrendous weather, so we planned a local extravaganza. We had overnight custody of our own kids plus 3 of my boy’s friends in torrentially downpouring rain. What else could we do but take to the skates? Yes, Skateworld. God, I love that place. As you can imagine, we were not the only San Diegans making a plan B on this rainy Saturday afternoon, and it was crowded. I directed the brood down to the benches next to the skating floor and claimed a corner for the storage of our shoes and our crap. At one point as I was skating, I glanced over and saw that two moms with teeny tiny girls were sitting in that corner, and some of our shoes were being relocated. I rolled over and asked the woman with my shoes in her hand a painfully obvious question: “Are you moving my stuff?” I hadn’t given the issue much thought, I saw my stuff being moved and I didn’t want my stuff being moved. I assumed that the woman would give me an oops or some kind of acknowledgement before moving her ass out of my corner. But she looked up at me with a snotty little fake smile (probably mirroring my own) and said: “Yeah!” and then: “I moved two pairs of shoes, I didn’t think it would be a problem.” And of course it wasn’t a problem in the sense that there are people in the world with real problems, but it was rude! I muttered about wanting to keep all of my stuff together and moved the rest of my group’s shoes and my bag to the middle of the bench and went back to skating.

But I was bothered. I’m just not used to dealing with rude people, I was taken aback and I felt like an idiot. But why? Wasn’t I justified in wanting my stuff to stay where I had left it? And there was a weird part of me that needed this woman to know that I was not an asshole, she needed to know how awesome I am! When I saw that her kids were struggling with their skates, I wanted to tell her about how the guys could tighten their wheels if she asked them to. But she was mean and scary, so I stayed away. But I kept an eye on her. When my peeps were ready to leave, we all smooshed into the little section of our bench that remained ours while the teeny girls stomped on my shoes and spilled those gross orange peanut butter crackers all over the bench. When my girl came to sit down, I grabbed an offending orange cracker from beneath where her bum would alight and I tossed it over toward their side of the bench, to my former corner. She said, loud enough for my girl and the boys to plainly hear and thus question me about for the next hundred years:
“Oh, give me a break. That is the most ridiculous woman I have ever seen.”
Me! Really? I got the hell out of there, without speaking up to defend myself, because some battles are just not worth fighting. And that woman was not in the service industry and thus summarily unmotivated by my apparent happiness.

We left skateworld and headed to the hotel where our slumber party was to take place. I had booked a suite with an oven, and had verified with the reservationist that the hotel had everything we needed for a perfect plan B:

Can we get a suite with an oven to bake pizza and pie? Yes.
Will the pool and Jacuzzi stay open in the rain? Yes.
Does the boat cruise around the bay at this time of year? Yes, on weekends.
Is the game room still free? Yes, because it’s spring break, but it’s no longer free all of the time.

We were all set. We got there and checked in, unloaded, got suited up, and headed to the pool and game room, where we found the pool delightful but the game room unfree. Sigh. I headed to the front desk.

The girls at the front desk were unabashed, no of course the games are not free, they’re not free anymore. Sigh. I asked for the manager.

The manager was all: “I can’t imagine why you were told that, the games are not free.” Sigh. I agreed that there was no explanation for why I had been told that, but the fact remained that this specific question had been asked and answered when I booked the room. I had even talked with the guy on the phone about how the hotel down the street was cheaper, but it did not have free video games. The manager, Scott, was unimpressed, he continued to shake his head in mock empathy. He offered me $5 in quarters. I actually laughed. Five kids overnight in the rain. $5? I tried to remember the name of the guy I had spoken with, but my guesses were met with blank stares. I knew, however, that I am a note taker. When I talk to people on the phone and they tell me their name, I jot it down on the post it where I’m writing down the rate and notes about the conversation. I was up to an offer of $10 in quarters when I left to find that post it note in my purse.
I had it!
I returned triumphant. The guy I talked to was named Dave, look where I made a smiley next to boat and video games. Look where I wrote oven. See? Scott got on the computer to pull up my reservation. He asked me if I knew when I had called. I was able to narrow it down to a two hour window when I realized that he might be looking for a recording of the call! I knew then that I had won. I took my $10 roll of quarters and told the guy to come find me at the pool when he found the recording. I was polite and respectful throughout, but also clearly pissed and using words like “unacceptable”, “misrepresented”, and maybe even one well-placed: “you’re ruining his birthday!” When I walked out I said: “I’m not trying to be difficult, if I were not so sure about this, I would let it go.”

About 30 minutes later, I was sitting in the Jacuzzi with my husband when Scott came walking across the rainy pool deck in his business attire. The kids had just used the last of the $10. I greeted Scott with a smile and asked if he had located the call. He said:
“We did, and sure enough, you were told that the video games were free. So just come to the front desk and let us know whenever you need more quarters.”
My husband said: "I'm glad you are on my side."
And we all lived happily ever after.
free! We didn't take advantage, but we never said no to another game
happiness is a rain-drenched jacuzzi
Sunday was a beautiful day, and of the miles of bayfront outside of our sliding door, look where they chose to play


Me, You, or Ellie said...

Oh, brave one. I love this. I can't believe what schmucks those hotel peeps are, though. Yeesh. And I hate the awful ridiculous woman. Hate.

And boys? Are weird.


desperate for SUN in PA said...

I have noticed that many people were raised without manners..and opt to open their mouths in public just to prove it.

I tend to share your need to make things "right" and my children are at an age where they now prefer "wrong" as long as it means there mom does not talk to ANYONE to correct things. SO frustrating, and yet I must admit that I ignore them 80% of the time and just go ahead and fix the "wrong"

and poor actually rained in CA. We here, surrounded in gray skies and snow, will have a little pity party for you :)

Me, You, or Ellie said...

Gotta love Bill's comment!

I can hardly belive the Bahia story. I mean, honestly, who is going to make such an elaborate story up regarding the game room? They really thought you were pulling it out of your ass? Good for you for making them eat humble pie. Hopefully Scott learned a valuble lesson (and oh poor Dave!).

You are brave, J, and inspriing. I'll remember this story next time I'm in some similar situation. (Practically impossible, but you get what I mean!)


Me, You, or Ellie said...

that would be "inspiring" :-)


Mom C said...

I'm so glad you didn't have a roller derby hair pulling contest! Love my brave girl who was the timidest little girl on the planet... Mom

Kathi D said...

My older sister was the queen of demanding justice when I was a teenager and she was a young mother. I usually slunk away to a dark corner and hid while she made store clerks "do the right thing" or whatever. She could take it too far, but I did learn from her that if you don't ask, you never get. So I try not to be unpleasant, unless somebody is really going overboard to be an asshole to me, but I will ask for what I deserve, or maybe just what I want.

Whenever I make a largish purchase, especially of a luxury item, I (playfully, I hope) ask what is going to be thrown in for free, because "I LOVE free stuff!" and more often than not, something will be thrown in. Sometimes something very very VERY little, other times pretty good stuff.

Oh, and I want to hunt down that Skate Lady and cut her. Just for YOU.