Friday, December 19, 2014

A Dog-eat-dog Business, Part 7

A travel insurer sent me to a large airport hotel that hasn’t called this year, so I decided to reintroduce myself.

“We don’t have a doctor,” said the lady in the security office.

“I’ve made hundreds of visits. Your office called me all the time.”

“I never did,” she insisted. She summoned a nearby officer who agreed that no one knew about a hotel doctor. She accepted my card and put it in a drawer.

My next stop was the concierge desk, but it was vacant. When times are tough, concierges are the first employees to go. The front desk clerks agreed that having a hotel doctor was a wonderful idea and thanked me for my cards.

“I guess no one’s been sick,” said the bellman cheerfully when I queried him. I had no doubt that whatever doctor he called tipped him $20 or $30 or $50 for the referral. This is illegal but a common practice. My veteran colleagues express outrage, and I have no reason to disbelieve them, but we all agree that several aggressive young doctors are paying generously. It’s the quickest way to break in. The bellman thanked me for my card and put it in a drawer.

If you assume that general managers hate choosing a doctor on the basis of his kickback, you’d be right. Sometimes. When I informed the GM of the Westin, he took action. When I informed the GM of a famous Beverly Hills Hotel he merely passed my letter on to the chief concierge who phoned to announce that I need expect no further calls from that hotel.

Sick guests often call the operator, so I dialed the hotel.

“Hi, Doctor Oppenheim. It’s been a long time.”

That was a pleasant surprise. The operator explained that she had worked there for twenty years and spoken to me many times. She added that her directory contained no doctor's name. She would be happy to take down my number and pass it around.  

I left feeling pleased with myself because I hardly ever market myself to employees. But that was in August, and the hotel still isn’t calling.

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