THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

Is this racist?

I’m going to say something controversial. I’ve just spent 2 weeks in Greece – travel including the sophistication of Athens to the relatively primitive facilities of one of the smallest Ionian islands, Ithaca. Everywhere, the customer service has been excellent, the English either faultless or well-spoken, the prices reasonable, the quality first-class. You would expect that in Athens – but in a harbour-side cafe in a remote fishing village it’s a lovely surprise. I arrived back in England on Saturday night and I’m back in a world of high-prices, low quality products and services and – here comes the controversy – lousy command of the English language. I was due to stay at The Bush Hotel in Farnham last night (which hotel I have used for years) and finally rebelled against a room rate of £175 for what is at best a 3-star hotel. Last time I was here it was in a small room with no air-conditioning, above a crowded and noisy bar – I asked for a move but was told the hotel was full – I moved myself to a Hilton about 20 miles away (just as hot and awful). Last night I stayed at the Holiday Inn in Guildford and, for £135, the room was OK (only OK – no air and I was woken by noisy neighbours in the middle of the night) but I felt slightly less ripped off. This morning I drove over to The Bush early (my business meeting today is here) to avoid the traffic and settled down to emails. I ordered a coffee and some toast from one of the Eastern European waitresses about a half-hour ago. It was quite obvious that “please can I have some coffee and toast in the lounge?” was completely beyond her repertoire of English language phrases. Repeating my request to another Eastern European waitress – I have just been served with coffee – but no toast. I am heartily sick of Eastern European hotel and catering staff in this country. It’s not their fault by the way – the responsibility is firmly with hotel chains, like the owners of this place, who are increasing their prices as they ride the supply/demand curve on accomodation for business travellers, whilst at the same time taking on slave labour at overseas salary levels and giving them minimal training. I’ve had enough of The Bush – and we have recently decided to move our workshop locations for 2007 back to The Hilton in Cobham, Surrey – that will lose The Bush around £10,000 of my business next year – and I bet they don’t give a damn.

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