THINKING BUSINESS
a blog by Chris Barrow

May I have a bagel please?

It wasn’t an overly difficult question as I see it. It’s breakfast at the Hilton on Saturday morning and the hotel, which has been deserted for the last 2 days, is bustling with 250 Italian women who are here for a conference (why would 250 Italian women go to London together to meet in a Docklands hotel?). Here are some of my customer service experiences from, of all people, Hilton:

  1. Well, as you know, they crashed their baggage trolley into my car on Wednesday night – still no news on that one;

  2. The new Hilton at Canary Wharf is super-trendy – but I object to paying £7.50 for a poorly presented vodka martini – and I nearly have a cardiac arrest when they tell me that a hot breakfast will cost me £19.90, when I’m paying over £200 for my room. After negotiation the breakfast price is reduced to zero;

  3. The staff are mainly very helpful (and the concierge team apologetic – I think the poor waif who crashed into my car has been dumped somewhere round the back with a copy of the Hilton Brand Standard shoved where it fits);

  4. But it’s in the breakfast area that the “suspension of disbelief” collapses;

  5. On Thursday and Friday I am served politely by a collection of foreign workers – there’s nobody else about so they have time to practice their English on me;

  6. Friday’s request for a boiled egg requires some translation – but eventually I get what I ask for – a boiled egg. That’s an egg that’s been boiled. Boiled to destruction. I get a plate – with an egg on it – shell removed and so hard that you could throw it at the wall and the wall would break. It’s a boiled egg. They obviously haven’t heard of chucky-eggs in Lithuania. In fact, thank goodness I didn’t ask for a boiled egg and soldiers;

  7. Saturday is, as stated, a female Italian mob – interlaced with German tourists – so you can imagine that the concept of queueing has been abandoned. Just a host of chattering, gesticulating, shoving women;

  8. I am escorted to my table by Maria and when I ask for tea and white toast she responds “Oh – I can’t do that this morning, because it’s self-service when we are busy.” £19.90? Self-service?

  9. So I have to wrestle with the Twittering Sisters of the Immaculate Docklands for 10 minutes to find a tea-pot, fill it with hot water from an urn and then dig out some tea-bags and carry the whole palava back to my table;

  10. The toast machine is surrounded – no chance of getting anywhere because even if you manage to throw your two rounds on the revolving grill, there is no guarantee that you’ll get the same two slices at the other end – and it’s all looking very unhygienic to me;

  11. So I corner a young male waiter and ask for a bagel. Just a bagel please;

  12. He returns some time later with a plate full of pickles. Pickles?

  13. “No – not pickles – I’d like a bagel please”;

  14. Eventually he’s back – with some rashers of bacon. Bacon?

  15. I don’t want bacon – I want a bagel.

  16. “I want my £19.90 bagel and I want it now”.

  17. Having obviously conferred, he produces a plate with about 10 bagels on it. I take one and he stands there looking at me. I ask him to take the other 9 bagels and let the Italians have them. He looks confused and wanders off.

Sorry Hilton – your Canary Wharf hotel looks good, the rooms are lovely, but your restaurant team suck.

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