Arriving at the Hilton Metropole in Birmingham last night, the last thing in the world I wanted was a problem. I’m tired and I just need a rest. The hotel is heaving with guests, many of whom are connected to The Showcase in the NEC next door – at 8.30pm there is a long line of guests at registration – and I’m happy to be able to join the much shorter line for Hilton Honors card holders. Our Polish desk clerk is polite and handles the process well – although there is the by now familiar exchange asking for a credit card swipe and explanation that our excellent booking agency (NGA) have already faxed “full account to company” details (we have to do this everywhere we go – conferencing in hotels never speak to reservations). Arriving at the designated room on the 5th floor – I realise that it’s a twin not a double. I don’t do twin-beds. Leave bags in room – it’s now 8.45pm – and wander back down to reception and re-join queue at Honors check-in (thank God it’s not the main queue). Back to Polish receptionist – who explains that “it’s not his fault” as the central booking system is a computer in America and there are no more double rooms available in the hotel. I no longer speak with receptionists or restaurant managers at this point (that’s the it’s not my fault point). Calmly I explain:
“Vladic – could you please arrange for me to speak with somebody who CAN help me?”
He sits me down in the business office and I wait 10 minutes until the duty manager Tina arrives – obviously a mature Brummie lass. I equally calmly explain that I use Hilton up to 50 times a year, plus up to 20 conferences. That I have a Diamond VIP card with a shed-load of points – that on Monday in Watford they couldn’t find my booking, on Tuesday in Cobham they were faultless – and that I’m very tired and want to sleep in a double bed somewhere. I give her my clear expectations:
minimum expectation – a twin room with housekeeping called to shove the beds together and remake them as a double;
middle expectation – find me a double room in another nearby hotel of a similar standard;
best expectation – find me a double room here.
I then explain that I’m going for a club sandwich – have left my bags in the original room and will be back in 30 minutes. What follows is a glass of rose and a club sandwich and a few chats with mates – notably Cathy Johnson and James Minns – both good old friends who I bump into in the bar. 30 minutes later Tina finds me – and hands over the door key to a 5th floor suite with living room, three leather sofas, a dining table that seats 8, a giant double bed and a magnificent bathroom with walk through shower and jacuzzi bath. She has exceeded my expectations. I go back downstairs and kiss her on the cheek after shaking her hand and saying “thank you”. It’s 9.45pm. Tina has been a talented ambassador for her employer – the reputation of Hilton is intact – and here I am telling you. That’s how it works – I could have been a saboteur but I’m enrolled as a raving fan. It cost them 2 nights in a magnificent suite that would have otherwise been unoccupied. And here I am at the dining table in my dressing gown and fluffy slippers (!) answering emails before I wander over the NEC to walk the floor. Thank you Tina.