2016 gave me its fair share of customer-care standout moments. I will try and erase my experiences in Arusha and Dar es Salaam — Tanzanians' passive-aggression is still not my cup of tea and I don't care how much you lot think that Tanzanians are totally, absolutely so much better than Kenyans. None of the hotels in Arusha or Dar es Salaam that I stayed in can hold a candle to the Kenyan ones I patronised in 2016, including the hotel that gave me the worst customer-care experience — the Serena Beach Hotel in Mombasa.
I had been invited to a conference which would take place on the 12th and 13th August. I arrived on the 12th, at around 11:30 am. I had been forced to take a taxi to the hotel because the hotel's airport transfer vehicle had already left and the driver was unwilling to return for another passenger. I let that one go; after all, my attendance at the conference was organised at the last minute. When I arrived, there were three other clients I could see being attended to, so I waited my turn. It took five minutes for whoever were at reception to notice. I introduced myself and was informed that because the hotel was fully booked, I would be put up at another hotel. Again, I had no problem with that because everything was done at the last minute. I am grateful that I was given access to a room to wash up and change. That was the last bit of courtesy received.
I wasn't told where I would be put up, whether it would be for both the nights I was to be in Mombasa, whether any or all of my meals would be catered for, or whether I would be picked up from this other hotel in order to make it for my conference. I changed and attended my workshop hoping that someone would provide the information later on.
Lunch was nothing to write home about; the Serena Beach chef sure loves his oil. When our conference ended for the day, I asked whether or not a vacancy had occurred and whether or not I would be staying the night at the hotel. I was informed that I would not. I asked for my bags to be brought from the room I'd been given access to, which they were but which also raised the question: if the hotel was fully booked, what were my bags still doing in that room? This is when the apathy and disinterest of the hotel staff became apparent.
First they wouldn't or couldn't tell me what I was required to do in order to check out even though I hadn't checked in at all. I managed to figure out what I needed to do in order to get that exit ticket hotels seem to issue these days from the rude cashiers. It took them ten minutes to find the guy who was supposed to let me know which hotel I would be put up in which he didn't. But worst of all was I had to insist that the hotel find me a taxi to drop me off at this other hotel (turned out to be The Shaza).
Even as I was checking in into the Shaza, I had no idea that I was only supposed to spend one night there. Our conference had concluded a day early so I had no reason to come back to the Serena. What I didn't know was that other members of my delegation were informed by the Serena that they would only spend one night at the Shaza and that rooms were now available. I wasn't. When I checked out on Sunday, I was confronted with a demand to pay for the extra night I'd spent there. I refused. I stood my ground and they let it go. I don't know what they did to square my extra night at their hotel. I did not enjoy the experience. I will never arrange to stay at the Serena again and cause it the inconvenience I obviously did last time.
But, as always, the other side of the coin is a thing of wonder. As the Serena proves, chains and franchises tend to lose on quality the more branches they open. I fear that when it comes to Java, they have fallen victim to this phenomenon. But not at their Embassy House branch, one reason I have an expanding waistline.
I don't know any of the names of their members of staff — I don't want to be accused of being a creep by checking out their bosoms every time I pretend that I forgot their names, see. What they are, though, is polite, quick-witted, very accommodating of my penchant for extra chillies and delightful. I love having my lunch there, even when their WiFi is iffy at best. Even when it is overrun by a lunchtime crowd made up of entitled crybabies from "Parliament Square", they are unfailingly professional in their service. And just so you know, their salads have never, ever been adulterated by snails or similar slimy things.
I wonder what 2017 has in store for me.