Working at the front desk meant dealing with “oversold” situations and tricky guests. The 33rd part of a series describing the unknown triumphs and travails of doing international business
Our landlord at Dorchester, though was kind enough to shift us to a new complex, told us that our rent has increased by some 10% from next month!, However, this notice was served in the middle of the month, which gave us some time to work on the situation.
Linda was kind enough to allot me a weekend one day off, which meant that I would either get a Saturday or a Sunday holiday, considering the fact that my wife was also working, and we practically did not see each other!
Our house hunting had begun in right earnest, after we had received the blunt notice for increase; our agent happened to be a person of Indian origin, settled in the US for more than 30 years. The maximum commission charged by the broker was up to 5% of the contracted value of the house purchased, though one could negotiate less.
We had settled for 3% and had gone around looking up 'townhouses' and had made a bid on his recommendations. After inspecting the house, we were keen to finalise the deal when our agent had come with us and began the discussions with the owner's agent. We were not in the picture, and he went back and forth, to increase our written bid, which we did, because we were keen to get the house. The final straw came when he demanded increased commission to 5% and up our bid by another $15,000. Later on we came to know that he was also asking for a share of 2% commission from the owner's agent.
Meantime, Neela had gone around talking to the neighbours and came to know that another townhouse, almost next door was coming up for sale in a week or so, and gave us the name of the owner's agent and suggested that we should not increase our bid anymore. We decided to go ahead with the neighbours' suggestion, did not change the bid, but decided to go all out for the next house. The Indian broker tried to coax us back into the bid process, but we remained rigid on the issue and our contract fell through the next day, when the bid expired!
Couple of days later we met new broker and after our discussions with him, made a bid on his advice. He also recommended a suitable financier, who was operating through the bank. Our bid was accepted on the third day, even before the house hit the market. However, true to their word, the owner 'sold' the house to us, though for complying with regulations, the house was in the 'market' for 30 days!
Our son, had, by then, moved to Chicago, but he came down and helped by my colleague Robi from Courtyard, we hired a self-driven truck and transferred all our worldly possessions from Dorchester to the Chimney Wood Court townhouse we had bought! Practically, the rent that we were expected to pay in the Dorchester was the monthly mortgage payment for our new house! Buying a new house on our own in a new country was not only a satisfactory achievement, but it proved to be an absolute asset in the long run.
In the office front, we continued to have our regular training programmes, as Krista Webster in the Human Resources was always pursuing various courses herself and imparting new techniques in handling our customers. As we were close to the airport, except for weekends, our hotel was sold out most of the time. In fact, many a times, we had the unpleasant task of having to 'relocate' our guests, because of the 'oversold' status.
Let me explain this a little further. Most hotels, based on their bookings and experience would invariably 'oversell' themselves. This means, in our case, though we had only 242 rooms, including Hospitality Suites, our sales management would actually go ahead and book rooms for 260 to 266 guests; they would 'expect' some 10 to 15 cancellations, forty-eight hours before the due date, when there would not be any charges. A few others, would still have the rooms committed but for a variety of reasons, like bad weather or sudden change of programmes, etc, would simply not turn up! All said and done, there were chances for us to have a sell out by guests occupying 242 rooms and there were a few days in the busy week, that we may still have five to seven rooms unsold or unoccupied!
It was therefore, the responsibility of the front desk staff to ensure that we always made a 'perfect' sale; and, of course, when had the unfortunate situation of having guests turning up at the front desk, and not having a room, because we had 'given it away' it was our job to relocate them into some other suitable accommodation, at our expense!
We paid compensation for such acts, and those of the guests, who were our regular members, and had our 'Club' membership. We gave additional some points so that they could use these for free stays at a later date.
The evening crew, and the night auditors, who worked the graveyard shift faced this dilemma when they had to 'walk' or 'relocate' the guests, and still ensure that these guests came back again, after this unfortunate lapse! Angry guests would lodge complaints; others, though they were deprived of their rooms, but were taken care by the front desk staff, would also write to the management, as to how they were treated, and by whom. All these mattered to the management, who kept a close watch on the situation.
Of course, there were days, when one of the night auditors failed to turn up, for whatever
Reasons, it became the responsibility of the evening crew to stay back and assist the auditor. Also, we have had occasions when due to inclement weather (snow at take off point or arrival port), flights were cancelled and we had to manage with the influx of passengers that came from the airport. There were days, when I have had to stay on duty for 16 to 18 hours at one stretch!
Working at the front desk had also its perils. We had, on one occasion, a couple with a child in a pram, who had booked and paid for in advance for a two nights' stay. Checking in was only possible with proper ID and payment guarantees either by cash or a valid credit card, on which we obtained prior approval for payment. The gentleman left with a request at the front desk that we take extra care for his wife and baby, after he had spoken to the supervisor on duty. Some two hours later, the woman came down with her baby, and told us that they were actually in the process of separating and had come to meet the lawyer for working out settlement terms, as it was by 'mutual' consent.
Every time the couple met everything was cordial; and both in fact, came on second day and sought an extension of stay by at least four days. We could manage three for sure but told them that fourth day availability could be only confirmed on the morning of that day itself or late at night on the third day. They requested that they be allowed to pay cash at the time of departure.
Although this was not done, an exception was made because of the 'circumstances' explained by both of them. On the third day, as our crew was changing in the afternoon shift, we did see the lady and child moving out in the pram; and the gentleman was, in fact, talking to one of the front desk agents seeking some directions for a location not far from the hotel. We did not know how or when their luggage was removed from the room, but they were not to be seen in the evening; only the next morning, when the cleaning crew went the room, it was empty! They had simply walked away without payment! Collection was made, but months later!
There was one other problem the front desk staff faced, as they also handled the incoming phone calls. These would jump from the telephone operator's main line, generally after three rings, and we would take and answer on her behalf. The caller would identify himself as the "line engineer" from the telephone company and would say that "he is responding to your complaint" of "poor connection". "Would you connect me to any room number starting with 915 ?" Or he would say, "dial 0 and put me on to 921?" Actually, when we did that, the so called line engineer was able to 'highjack' our line, switch over to make international calls, at "our expense"! In fact, we were victims of this fraud a few times before we could catch up with these high-tech criminals!
Since we had other associate hotels in the area, we would help each other in case of need for rooms, or for bringing in or dropping guests to and from airport. Since Crystal City, Arlington and Alexandria were all small important townships, or I would say counties and close to Washington DC across the Potomac river, our crew in the hotel or the guests for that matter where from various ethnic backgrounds, most of whom were naturalized American citizens. The oneness was totally in American attitude of friendliness!
Read more articles by AK Ramdas
(AK Ramdas has worked with the Engineering Export Promotion Council of the ministry of commerce and was associated with various committees of the Council. His international career took him to places like Beirut, Kuwait and Dubai at a time when these were small trading outposts. From being the advisor to exporters, he took over the mantle of a trader, travelled far and wide, and switched over to setting up garment factories and then worked in the US. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
There were 21 people on board including one pilot and 15 of them, including 13 Indians, were killed
Kathmandu: Thirteen Indian pilgrims were among 15 persons killed on Monday when a small plane with 21 people on board crashed in northern Nepal after hitting a hill top while attempting to land at a high-altitude airport, reports PTI.
Six others, including three Indians and two Danish nationals, miraculously survived the crash of the Dornier 9N AIG aircraft belonging to the private carrier Agni Air, nearly eight months after 10 Indians perished in an air disaster near Kathmandu.
The plane, which flew from the resort town of Pokhara on its way to Jomsom, crashed at 9.30am local time while landing at the mountain airstrip, said an official at the Rescue Coordination Committee of Tribhuvan International Airport.
The passengers had chartered the flight to take them from the central tourist hub of Pokhara to Muktinath, a famous Hindu pilgrimage in Jomsom near Tibetan border at the foot of the Thorong La Himalayan mountain pass, the official said.
He said there were possibilities of a technical fault. "Thirteen Indian nationals and two Nepalese crew member were killed in the crash," the official said, adding rescuers have so far recovered nine bodies from the wreckage.
He said three Indians including two children, a Nepalese air hostess and two Danes have been rescued alive from the crash site.
The injured were taken to a hospital in Pokhara and the three Indians who survived were out of danger, said Rescue Coordination Committee of the Tribhuvan International Airport.
The high-altitude Jomsom airport, about 200 km northwest of the capital, is a gateway to a popular tourism and trekking destination situated more than 2,600m above sea level.
TRAI said its analysis shows that mostly, the impact on tariff is less than 4 paise per minute and often much lower. This can be either absorbed by the service providers from the additional minutes that are generated or recovered through charges for different retail and wholesale service
New Delhi: Despite pressure from industry, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) stood by its recommendation of high base price for auction of spectrum saying the increase in the tariff can be absorbed by operators, but gave marginal relief in the price of frequencies being used for CDMA services, reports PTI.
In its response to Department of Telecommunications (DoT) on Spectrum auction proposals, TRAI said that its analysis shows that recommendations do not adversely impact the profitability of the wireless industry or the entry of new operators nor do they adversely affect the affordability of the consumer.
"The results indicate that mostly, the impact on tariff is less than 4 paise per minute and often much lower. This can be either absorbed by the service providers from the additional minutes that are generated or recovered through charges for different retail and wholesale service," TRAI said.
On 2nd May, the DoT had sought clarification from the TRAI on likely impact of telecom tariff if its recommendations on spectrum auction is put in place.
TRAI has recommended a base price of Rs3,622 crore per megahertz (MHz) pan-India spectrum for 1800 Mhz band (being used for GSM service), which is almost 10 times higher than the price at which 2G licences bundled with 4.4 MHz spectrum were allocated in 2008 by then Telecom Minister A Raja.
Justifying the recommended price at par with international prices, which in European countries ranges between Euro 0.4 to 0.6, TRAI said "present recommended reserve price of Rs 3622.16 per MHz for 1800 MHz band works out to only 0.25 euro per MHz per population."
The Regulator has also recommended that price of spectrum in 800 Mhz and 900 Mhz band should be double the price of 1,800 Mhz.
However, in its clarification, TRAI gave some concession to telecom operators for providing telecom services in the 800 Mhz frequency band which is currently being used for CDMA service.
The Authority would be open to the Government fixing the Reserve price of 800 MHz spectrum at 1.3 times the 1800 MHz reserve price. This is only where 5 MHz spectrum is not being made available," TRAI said.
This means a telecom operator interested in bidding for spectrum in 800 Mhz band will have to pay around Rs23,530 crore instead of around Rs36,200 crore as per earlier recommendation.
TRAI also did not differ on its stand for refarming of 900 Mhz spectrum, but reiterated need to create Spectrum Refarming fund to compensate existing users of the frequencies in these band for upgradation of their equipments.
This is one of the major concern for old GSM players, mainly Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, as cost of infrastructure increases for providing mobile services through high spectrum band compared to low frequencies.
If TRAI's refarming recommendation is approved, then old GSM telecom operators will have to use high frequencies of 1800 Mhz band for transmitting signals for mobile services compared to 900 Mhz band frequency which they use at present.
Telecom companies Vodafone and Idea Cellular have indicated that refarming will cost them Rs10,000 crore and Rs17,000 crore, respectively.
Taking high reserve price of spectrum and cost of spectrum refarming, telecom operators have said that tariff in some telecom service area can rise up to 100% over existing rates.
However, TRAI's recommendations have addressed some concerns raised by Norwegian telecom company Telenor by not forcing network roll-out obligation on companies.
"...the bidders will be bound only by the conditions stipulated in the auction tender document, mandating roll out obligations on the successful bidders, subsequently may not be legally feasible," TRAI said.
Telecom companies have pointed out that mandating roll-out obligation along with high spectrum price will make it tough for them to do business.
Roll out obligations were mandated on operators to ensure that they rolled out services in rural areas, increase connectivity across the country within a stipulated time and therefore, increase teledensity in remote areas as well.
TRAI also increased scope of more companies winning spectrum in the auction that are due before 31st August.
It has recommended that additional spectrum slot can be auctioned only if the number of registered bidders is more than four and in telecom circles where spectrum is available after reserving spectrum for refarming.