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The OG Fussy Guest

It was the summer of 2000, and I was a brand new guest service representative in a brand new hotel. Those first few weeks went by in a blur, as I learned the reservation system, the layout of the hotel, the pool hours, the breakfast offerings, and how to find a plunger at 10 o’clock at night. I was working the 3-11 pm shift, and in no time, I was flying solo. I learned to love that shift because it allowed me to spend time getting to know our guests. (If you’ve ever worked an evening shift at hotel, you know it’s a flurry of checking in guests, giving directions, making restaurant recommendations, and chit-chatting with weary road warriors. (And let’s not forget the nightly scavenger hunts for the aforementioned plungers!)

Each shift started with a review of the pass down log. Back then, ours was a sturdy, hardbound ledger with a spine cracked from overuse. We wrote everything in that book, and it was a great source of information and entertainment. Reading the pass down log helped me get prepared for my shift, giving me insight to all the important info: group arrivals, policy changes, maintenance issues, and the most detailed information: stories about fussy guests.

Now, 22 years ago, at least in my memory, fussy guests were fairly uncommon. Our hotel was the only property located near the beach in our coastal community, and that summer our typical guest was in town for a little sun & sand recreation. It’s hard to be fussy when you’re on a beach trip! So anytime there was a particularly troublesome guest, it was almost as entertaining as it was frustrating. Two decades and a global pandemic later, the number of daily interactions with fussy guests is skyrocketing. But that summer, fortunately, we had so few interactions with truly unhappy guests, that I still remember almost every one of them.

One of those guests was Ms. Smith (name has been changed, because honestly, I don’t remember her name!) Ms. Smith was our first long-term guest, camped out in her 3rd floor room for a few weeks while work was done on her beach house. Ms. Smith seemed to think she was staying in a full service resort location, not our modest, limited service hotel. Some of the things that made Ms. Smith unhappy, in no particular order, were lack of disposable coffee cups in her room, limited breakfast hours, lack of room service, noise of people in the hallway, noise of people in the parking lot, lack of housekeeping, too much housekeeping, not receiving her messages in a timely manner, and the weather. Our pass down log was chock full of notes about Ms. Smith.

After two weeks, everyone was tired of Ms. Smith.

One afternoon, shortly after I arrived for the start of my shift, Ms. Smith appeared at the front desk, and she was agitated. With no regard for the other person standing at the desk, she dove into her afternoon litany of complaints. I listened. I empathized. I apologized. The other guest watched the interaction with amazement. The list of issues seemed to go on and on, and Ms. Smith was determined to tell me how upset she was about our inability to respond to her complaints accordingly. The fifth or sixth item on her list that afternoon was the lack of disposable coffee cups in her room (again). The other guest audibly chuckled.

I nodded, and smiled, and jotted down her concerns in the pass down log. I assured her that, even though I was working solo that evening, I would be up to her room shortly with a stack of disposable coffee cups. I’m pretty sure she muttered, “I should hope so,” as she turned on her heel and marched toward the elevator.

“Wow…” the other guest exclaimed, eyes wide open.

“You don’t know the half of it,” I sighed as I put the pas