Mel's Diner: When Customer ServiceGoes Lifeless: A Cautionary Tale

Had some nightmare travel stories? See if you can top this one. I arrived at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for NAB around 11 p.m. on a Sunday night, checked in, and as I opened the door, a whoosh of heat poured out, as if the heater had been cranked up for days. The lights are all on, and I step into the room and yell “Hello?,” thinking maybe housekeeping was there. Then I saw something. A pair of bare feet at the end of the far bed.

Like a scene straight out of a horror movie, the momentum of my steps brings me just far enough into the room to see an elderly man lying face up on the bed seemingly looking forward, at the ceiling or maybe the TV (which does not appear to be on), just as the hotel door shuts loudly behind me. The man on the bed does not move. I yell again, to no response.

It seems a stranger in my room has checked out—permanently.

I fired out of there and to the front desk faster than I ran the 50-yard dash in 7th grade, for which I may still hold the Pierce Middle School record.

The front desk person asks if there is a problem. Had I been remotely calm, I would have said multiple occupants of the same room have problems, though one probably more dire than the other. I got a grip enough to explain what happened.

Her response, in a shockingly carefree manner considering I had probably just found a corpse: “OK, he probably just didn’t check out and is sleeping. We’ll still send a welfare check up there and I’ll get you someone who can put you in a new room.”

Then they offered me a free buffet.

The next day I told my boss the story, still very freaked out. At his urging, we went back to the hotel manager to find out what had happened, hoping indeed the mystery guest was just a very, very, very deep sleeper.

Unfortunately, the manager says she doesn’t know anything about the situation and when she finds out can’t tell us due to privacy law, which we understand. But I got the sense she didn’t completely believe me. Then she offered me free use of the gym.

When I get back to my room that night, I see a message is ready on my phone. Is it a customer service call following the investigation of the incident? Someone offering me a free stay here next time to make up for this nightmare? Nope. Just a voicemail ad for a special the hotel is running.

When I speak to a manager by phone the next morning to request a late checkout, and bring up the situation, the manager says: “Yeah. Poor guy.” Then she offers to cover my breakfast.

Unfortunately checkout does not go well (though it apparently was better than for the occupant of my original room). Of course, breakfast is there on my bill.

There were so many opportunities for this hotel to jump in with great customer service. Could you imagine if someone found a dead guy in your hotel? You’d be begging them to even consider coming back, throwing free rooms at them, for sure.

At the very least, at checkout someone could have said, “Thank you for your business. The general manager extends his apologies for the incident. Here’s a hotel credit you can use however you’d like here.” Hell, I would have settled for “Sorry about the dead guy….”

I would have walked out of there with a crazy story—but one that I would tell friends, not publish as a cautionary tale of shockingly bad customer service in a national magazine.

As I head to New York this week for our starstudded “Keynotes & Cocktails: Women of N.Y.” event, here’s hoping I find some better hotel hospitality. Or at least a room without a dead guy.

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