So What Makes It a Ritz?

Recently I did something that was very new for me and slightly out of character, that is if I have any character.  I stayed at a Ritz-Carlton. This is new for me on many levels.  First off I am very comfortable with Hilton Garden Inn’s and a big upgrade for me is the Embassy Suites.  Free drinks, free breakfast, a big atrium with water falls, what isn’t to like about an Embassy Suites.

The other thing to understand about me is for the last 5 years I have had a declining income.  It started when I retired from the Air Force Reserves and reserve retirement pay doesn’t start until I reach 60.  Second I fly (now part time) for a major airline and we have taken three pretty good paycuts in a row.  Finally my business was slowing down a little, and I was investing heavily to insure it stayed alive.  Along the way I just “adjusted” my lifestyle like so many of us have had to do.  It is just the nature of the world we live in, or is it?

When my partner from Raleigh North Carolina suggested a vendor meeting in Atlanta I immediately thought of a very nice Marriot Peachtree which was finishing up a remodel.  Rates there were usually pretty good and I knew a couple of pubs close by for good cheap home food.  I made the reservation and forgot to tell him about it.    I had done the same thing to him in Myrtle Beach just two months ago.  Last time didn’t work out so good.  He picked a neighboring hotel and it was a “dump” according to his wife.  They didn’t even stay the night, meeting wasted.  This time he decided to make sure he didn’t make that mistake again.  He booked himself at the Ritz-Carlton and had them call me to book a room also.  The meeting was to important to both of us.

Some years ago at a management seminar, one of the speakers was from the Ritz-Carlton.  He talked about how to look at a customer, how to treat them, how to treat employees and so on.  At the end of his speech someone had asked if they had any competition, he spoke like there wasn’t any.  His reply stuck with me, he said “you should make your competition, not join a competition.  We don’t gauge ourselves by any measure other than our customers.  That said we do watch two words, Four and Seasons.”  The statement said a lot about the company, it’s direction and it’s training.  All things I needed to work on.

I decided to go ahead and re-book at the Ritz-Carlton in order to make it more convenient for my partner.  The initial sticker shock didn’t exactly start me out the door yelling “Yippee, I am going to the Ritz.”  When I arrived, the building was quite un-impressive from the outside.  The Ritz was a brick high rise hotel like all the others in the area.  I couldn’t even read the name on the canopy as I pulled up from the street.  There wasn’t anything remarkable to say I had arrived.

They saved the good stuff for the inside

From there the aura of the Ritz came to life.  As I rounded the corner there was a very nice, clean overhang for Valet Parking.  Valet Parking was included wasn’t it?  Hmm, I had forgotten to check and didn’t care by then.  Check in was very quick and efficient.  I had never been there so they didn’t know any of my preferences.  How do they learn all the stuff about me that makes the Ritz Carlton so famous?

The elevators sat open as if waiting just for me.  This ever so simple difference brought the hotel more to life than I had expected.  Yes the elegance was obvious once I was inside and it was still different.  When I got off on my floor, my first reaction was “It looks like every other hotel”.  As I walked down the hall it wasn’t any wider, wasn’t any narrower.  It was just like every other hotel.  About halfway down the hall I realized how clean it was.  Not new clean, just clean.  The light color wall paper didn’t have any scuffs yet was clearly a little aged.  The carpet wasn’t stained yet showed a hint of wear.  Then a door opened and closed without a slam.

As I entered the room, I was again struck by the cleanliness.  For the first time in years I felt like it was fine to walk around with out socks on in a hotel.  Floor stains weren’t hidden by dark colors.  My white socks stayed white, so I took them off and my feet enjoyed the breather.  The air conditioner noise was barely noticeable, no fan whine and it didn’t blow so much air that I could skip the blow dryer and stand in the vents.  What this room had that others didn’t was an aura of Peace and Calm.

Calm because I was relaxed like I would be at home, even more so since there weren’t dogs or cats jumping around vying for my attention.  Peace, simply because it was quiet.  This truly is luxury.

The more important aspect that I went to see was simply the service.  I wanted to see what Ritz-Carlton did that we didn’t.  The answer was just about everything.

They made me feel welcome walking in the door.

They made me feel like I was the only person staying in the hotel.

They made me feel like it was my home.

This is something every business owner/entrepreneur should try at least once.  Go with an open mind.  I know you aren’t in the hotel business, but we are all in the image and hospitality business in one way or another.

I already see a problem.  I might have to come back, or try another location.

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