POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Mar 31, 2013
Question: I was recently in a hotel and realized I'd forgotten to pack my toothbrush. Fortunately, it was a chain that offers you free basic toiletries and personal-care products if you've forgotten something, so I called the front desk. No one answered. I let the phone ring at least 10 times. I called several times over the next 10 minutes, and it was the same thing -- no answer. It was late, and I just wanted to go to bed but I went downstairs and found a "back soon" sign on the front desk. The person who was supposed to be at the desk was smoking outside the front door. Eventually she saw me and came back in, but didn't ask if she could help me. I said, "I tried calling several times but there was no answer, so I came down. I need a toothbrush." She found one and handed it to me without a word.
I'm not out of line in expecting a phone call to the front desk of a three-story, midpriced chain hotel to be answered, right? What if I had an emergency? I checked out the next morning and didn't have time to speak with a manager about it, but the more I think about it, the more I don't want to let this go.
Answer: I don't know what the chain's policy might be -- perhaps they do have only one front-desk clerk on duty at night, and that person is allowed to take short breaks, and you just caught her at exactly the wrong time. But they should at least know that you, as a customer, weren't happy about this. Your concern about an emergency is valid. Obviously, if a life-threatening emergency were happening in your room, you'd just call 911, but what if your toilet started overflowing and you needed maintenance right away? Finally, even if it was OK for the employee to leave the desk, there's no excuse for giving you the silent treatment when she returned.
It's not too late to call the hotel and ask to speak with the general manager, or to email the chain's customer service department. You should describe exactly what happened (as you did above) and note the date of your stay, so they can figure out who was on duty that night.
Email travel etiquette questions to Lesley Carlin at email@example.com.