5 Star isn’t the building. It is the service

Alright alright! These hotels are marvelous; World class if I’ve seen one. We aren’t talking Monyonyo in Uganda, we are talking Burj Khalifa; everyone knows where that is. We are talking Michelangelo in Jo-burg. If I had been to Vegas, I would drop other hotel names, but you get my point.

300 Million Dollars, 20 Million Dollars, 5 Million Dollars, 2 Million Dollars, Mariott, Radison, Zinc, another Radison, and another, and Serena, etc.

The finesse is Haut de Gamme, so is the Haute Cuisine. Yeah, that bad: merci beaucoup… I have slept in a 5 star hotel; I haven’t seen this before.

One worry I have though: Rwandans!! It is like what they say about Italy and the Italians. You see, God loved Italy so much, he put in the sun, the wine, the olive oil, the lasagna, the Michelangelo and the Pavarotti. Other Europeans complained:

– ‘This is unfair O God, you’ve given everything to that country!!
– And God said, I’ve heard your prayer, I’ll make things even, I will now put in Italians…

Five Star isn’t the building; Five star is the people.

Here is how it works at the ‘Old Ship’, a one star guesthouse in Brighton, rural England: There is a concierge at the entrance, impeccably dressed in military posture! As you come in, he walks up and salutes you by stamping his leg on the floor as hard as he can, as if you were an African Navy Admiral commending an Armada stationed just off Brighton’s shores.

The weather in the UK is never better, exceptionally in Brighton, so he apologizes about the weather, although it is hardly his fault, which, if you are nice, you readily point out, but he insists, tells you normally at this time of the year it is supposed to be less chilly, another lie, you feel good, you smile, he looks genuinely pleased, he asks if you would like a seat by the window…

While he is attending to you, another Concierge has taken his place at the entrance, waiting for another guest, this one bends to salute a lady who comes in. Your worry is that he’ll break into two, perfectly sized pieces, but that’s his job, Japanese people do it all the time, it’s good yoga exercise…

– What would please you sir?
– Would you care for our special wine Sir, straight from France… A fact you’ll never verify, and whose meaning, as a Rwandan you honestly don’t comprehend…
– Certainly sir, Right away Sir;
– Brilliant day to you Sir, Splendid Sir, etc.

In the process a whole team is rotating around him in concert, and like a maestro, he is conducting them using small hand gestures and facial expressions. before you know it, the famous French wine is in his hands, being poured to you, then the menu is in yours, through which you receive thorough, expert guidance, for the best possible meal.

Once your order is placed, he is available either for small talk; where do you come from, etc., or discretely lets you be. A sign of hand, a nod, and he is instantly there, all smiles, bent in a perfect geometrical angles; – Yes Sir?

You feel valued, you feel exceptional. Although the note, in the end, reveals unkind, the impeccable service received, cushions the shock, somewhat…

Now, here is how it happens at a big Hotel in Kigali, where, as a new member, I had the misfortune of going to swim without my membership card:
– Niko di, Mubanze munyure hano…; N’ukubanza mukatwishyura, As if I thought theirs was a natural lake and their dedication, to offer benevolent swimming services to the Rwandan society;
– Ko ndi membre? I try to explain, honestly intimidated,
– Eh, twabibwirwa n’iki? Answers the woman of little faith;
– Heu, nta carte ndabona, ariko ndi membre…
– Ubwo rero n’ugutaha mukayizana, cyangwa mutwishyure…

As a lawyer by profession, and member of the debate team throughout high school; I was speechless this time; doesn’t happen often.

In the evening the same speech would be held to me at the Gym of the same hotel, I had given up swimming, I wasn’t going to give up on the rare workout I get in a busy week, at which point I asked to speak to the sports manager, who is usually absent, asked for his cellphone number, called him on loud speaker, in the presence of his colleague. After he gave me full course on audit and hotel administration, I patiently shifted him from his colleague’s bouncer position onto one of a hotel manager, through a preposterous session of pedagogy.

In the end he hesitantly admitted that there are many ways to verify in the hotel books that I am indeed a member. That my employer, who’s been their client for many years, was not, this time, going to skip town and change her identity; that in fact, they can be reached on the telephone for further verification, etc.

Alas I did the exercise that day, and other days, I now just have to frequently express my sincere gratitude to the towels handler, my accomplice, who reminds me each time; Ka gakarita se mwarakabonye? With a little smile, just to imply how privileged I am to be at his Gym: Sans card!

Yesterday I snapped, told him enough with that question, that my day’s ambition doesn’t usually revolve around how to access a Gym card, that I was there to relax, that he can make the damn card and keep it. He was offended…

I knew that ‘abanyarwanda bakunda imanza’ that’s why I went to law school, I thought I was never going to run out of clients, I just wish they could pay lawyers as well too.

But people who work at hotels should stop arguing with clients, or in my case, lecturing clients about how complex their work is.

Also, people who work at the hotel look the same to us. Forgive me if I mistake you for a waiter, while you are actually a senior waiter. The time you spend clarifying your credentials to me is longer than that of taking my order…

One more thing, clients shouldn’t yell to call a waiter. I have seen one young efficient waitress named Axel (at Unity bar in Durban – Check it out when in SA) run a five, six table restaurant for four, five hours, and walk off with tips the size of two months salary. Her secret? Not hanging out with her colleagues by the counter while clients need them. She always stayed on the look out.

Bourbon Coffee once had this crazy idea of timing client’s orders. If the time elapses before the order is served, the client is allowed to consume it and leave without paying. The Bourbon in town tried it that one day; they almost went bankrupt. They are clinically unable to provide quick service…

In some places waiters aren’t paid salaries, they are paid off tips. In that way, they understand that the client needs to leave satisfied. Maybe we should consider that here…

The pool guy, after using the powers bestowed to him by the hotel and denying me the right to swim, he went and lounged on one of the stretchers by the pool and called his girlfriend. I was 20 meters away, I heard everything. The sun was shining, the weather was sweet and, for a moment there, he blended in with other clients, except, he was a bit of a loud, rude client…



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