Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"The Crab Tasted Funny...."

“No one but my wife had crab cakes in the hotel restaurant last night, and about 4 a.m……”

A miserable problem for the guest’s wife but also a difficulty for me. The caller had no doubt that his wife was suffering food poisoning although no one can make that diagnosis unless more than one person gets sick. In developed countries, viral infections cause most upset stomachs.

“She says the crab tasted funny…” That was not helpful because common food-borne toxins are tasteless.

I expressed sympathy, quizzed the husband for details, assured him that these illnesses were usually short-lived, and gave suggestions for relieving her symptoms. I would have made a housecall if asked, but on calls like this I hope the caller doesn’t ask.

If he asks, I mention the fee. My worry is that the guest, certain the restaurant poisoned his wife, will insist that the hotel pay. News that I am not a hotel employee never changes matters. Suggesting that the guest take this up with the manager never helps. Sometimes management refuses responsibility, so I’m confronted with an angry guest who suspects, despite my disclaimer, that I’m in cahoots with the hotel. I hate accepting money from a resentful guest, so I don’t.

Sometimes the manager tries to mollify the guest by agreeing to pay. A hotel manager is an exalted figure. I rarely meet one, and I want the first encounter to leave a good impression, so I wave off the money. They always appreciate it, but don’t assume I earn their undying gratitude. I did this in July of 2015 to the manager of the huge Doubletree in downtown Los Angeles. The hotel hasn’t called since.

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