Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Get Letters

Mostly from workers in the hotel business. In my dreams, agents write, suggesting a book, perhaps entitled “Hotel Doctor to the Stars.” So far these haven’t arrived, but physicians occasionally E-mail me. They want to know how to become a hotel doctor.

I suggest reading the earliest entries to this blog where I describe my own beginnings, but here's a short version.

To become a hotel doctor I advise them to (1) let local hotels know they’re available and (2) wait. It helps if (3) there’s no competition. That worked for me although it took over ten years from the time I began until 1992 when my yearly visits passed 1,000, and I quit other jobs to become a fulltime hotel doctor. By then others were entering the field, so newer doctors will wait longer. No one likes to read that.

My only advertising is a letter to general managers three or four times a year, but I'm aware that there are better techniques. Aggressive competitors who extol their services to desk clerks and concierges often take over my regular hotels, at least temporarily, but it didn’t work when I tried it. At better hotels, employees are nice to everyone, so they listened intently, eagerly accepted my business card, and promised to keep me in mind. The first few times, I left feeling pleased with myself, but calls never followed. At cheaper hotels and motels, staff seemed mystified at the concept of calling a hotel doctor. No one ever got sick, they insisted.

It’s possible I was missing the key inducement: money. Paying a bellman, desk clerk, or concierge “referral fee” has a long tradition in hotel doctoring. It’s illegal for a doctor to pay for a referral. All my competitors denounce the practice, but it’s not rare for a bellman to rush up and announce, “I’m the one who told Mrs. Jones to call you. I always tell guests to call Dr. Oppenheim…” They invariably look puzzled when I explain that I’m happy to provide free consultations to employees, but tips are against the law. They never argue, but I suspect they’re mentally crossing me off their list.

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