Dear Quebec City Courtyard Marriott
Say you were an overnight guest in my home. Say I suggested you let me park your car for the duration of your stay. Say when I went to fetch your car in the morning, to both our dismay, it had been broken into and robbed. Items stolen, and containers dumped out everywhere. Say you were shocked and upset and your smallest child began to cry.
Imagine you had gone out of your way to stay with me, and that it was an indulgence for you on an otherwise tight and frugal itinerary. Imagine you had a long, hard drive ahead and your departure time came and went while you were still trying to put things back together.
Suppose I told you I felt bad, but these things happen. Suppose I offered to call the police, but beyond that, there was simply nothing else I could do. Afterall, it wasn't me and my family who broke into your car and robbed you. It's like bad weather, I'd keep saying. Beyond my control. Unfortunate, but...Goodbye. Come again.
Of course, I would never act that way or say those things, because what kind of host would that make me? I can't prevent crime or bad weather, it's true. But I could ask you to come inside, sit down. "It's very upsetting," I'd say. "Let me make you a cup of tea, while we figure out what to do. How about a cartoon for the children. I'm so sorry. This doesn't normally happen. I hate that it happened to you."
You'd be very shaken and upset. I'd try to learn what your itinerary was. I'd invite you to stay the night, while we waited for the police, give you a chance to regroup, and hopefully, revise your parting impression of me and my city. If you had to be on the road, I would see if I had friends on the way who might ease the day's journey. Because, while I can't control crime or bad weather, I can provide comfort and shelter. Together they add up to a little thing I call hospitality. You should look into it.
After being told repeatedly that the hotel was in no way liable for bringing our valet-parked vehicle back to us robbed and vandalized (bad weather was the oft-used analogy), I got on the phone to Courtyard Marriott customer service. My first contact put me on silent hold so long, I finally had to drop our call to attend to the children, who were completely ignored by hotel staff in the lobby. At the second call, I was told they would see if the valet charge of twenty dollars could be waived. No one seemed to have anything to offer beyond fatalism, so I suggested to the hotel manager that our 250.00 room charge be waived. He seemed to find this quite beyond reason. After several exhausting and emotional minutes in which bad weather was much invoked, he agreed to take half of our bill. I left the hotel in tears, feeling doubly robbed.