Wanted: All the Things we Desperately Miss Since our Check-Out. By Roland Wildberg ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends Friday, 8th February 2013
Exclusive Feature: A direct way how hotels could immediately reach the heart of their customers: efficient lost and found management.
The loss is banal and painful at the same time: During the weekend visit to this romantic chalet-hotel in Switzerland a glove disappeared. Of course, only one! Gloves seem to be made to separate themselves at the first opportunity - it turns into a problem if you can not identify the moment they divorce.
What's a lost glove, many might say, every winter probably millions worldwide go down the drain. You are right - but there are also special gloves, just as there are special garments that mean more to us than just being useful objects. Souvenirs and such stuff.
Why the long preface? It is to explain that the loss to us - especially the female owner of the gloves – was a very hard hit. Months went by in which the pain could not be healed, because every now and then the individual glove - now incomplete - in the locker came to light and the loss made visible again.
Well, this is not a glove portal. So watch how we catch ourselves again: In fact, it took until the fall, when we came up with the idea where half the couple might have been lost (honestly, we still do not know it exactly!). Finally, when the cozy little place was the subject of hilarious memories again, an inspiration came across: maybe there we lost the glove!
A call destroyed all illusions: "It's possible", a friendly concierge said on the phone, but unfortunately all found items are kept only for six months and then sifted, auctioned or thrown away. That's it – terminal stop of all hope.
In hotels, we not only get rid of stress and everyday life, we often leave something of ourselves back at these special places. Keys, socks, ties, toys (mainly our children’s, but there are exceptions), books, phones (rarely) and phone chargers (often).
Sometimes, like a concierge from a 5 star property in central Munich once told us, sometimes even a laptop remains in the room. Much less frequently it happens that women forget their belongings - almost never the discovery of perfume essences or other wondrous chemistry is reported. The legendary case of a golden vibrator abandoned in the junior suite of that hotel was quite a few years ago, but still provides amusement among the staff. It does not cause surprise that nobody ever reclaimed it. Probably it was from a salesman’s sample case.
If hotel manager wanted to store unlimitedly all the scattered things guests forget there every day, every property would probably double the floor space. A comparison we found in the final report and statistics of the Munich Oktoberfest 2012, the biggest folk and beer festival in the world: In the four week’s party the special Oktoberfest lost and found bureau gave home to 950 identity cards, 570 wallets, 480 mobile phones and 300 pairs of glasses! No word on the other hand ... about the 300 people who since then without glasses toddle through Munich and the surroundings.
A probably very effective measure against such thoughtlessness, the French, German, Danish and other European state railways have developed: Each car of any long-distance train, is equipped with broad screens of information – on which is showed before each station the symbol of an umbrella and the message: "Do you have forgotten anything?" Unfortunately, there are no estimates of how many tears of customers and how much storage space for artifacts this little reminder previously helped to avoid. It certainly is good for tens of thousands of umbrellas, hats, scarves and bags, we believe.
For hoteliers, it may be worthwhile to consider an effective lost and found system. Too often seemingly worthless artifacts without documentation are thrown directly into the trash. I will not remind you of our beloved glove. "Every day we find chargers, toothbrushes and a variety of clothing," says the housekeeping manager of a large Berlin hotel. Actually the assignment of the find to the individual guest will cause little effort to the management - as well as a short email to her or him with the question, how the missing piece should find its way back.
Worthwhile the time and expenses for a mass-product, which costs only a few dollars, many will ask doubtfully. However, we decided to say - it's worth it because it is service that shows the host takes over responsibility for their customers much longer than just during their stay - and this remains anchored in the client’s memory for long. Your guest will never forget it. And that is all you want, correct?
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Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.
Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb
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