Plain Bad Business
Dec 2003 Archive
I used to give my business to one bank that I had been using
since I opened my first account when I was 14. They were very good and I was
happy. But then my bank merged with another, bigger bank. (read: was
bought out by the other bank). I remember saying to my parents, who also used
this bank, that if they started acting like a "big bank" instead of
the great way they always had, then I was going to take my business
elsewhere. I was saving money for college, so I had quite a high
balance in my account. As this account had a good interest rate (especially as
it was a chequeing account) I was earned about $6 - $8 a month in interest,
which I was quite happy with.
About two months after the banks had merged, all interest
rates were drastically cut. Okay, fine. But, they cut the interest rates without
bothering to inform anyone. A courtesy letter should have been sent - that's
just sound business practice. I only caught it about a month after it happened
when I was looking at my banking statement and realized that instead of the
amount I usually earned, I'd only earned about $0.68 in interest! (From $6 to 68
cents - hmmm.) Certain that this was a mistake, I asked the teller when I was
cashing my next paycheque. That was when I was informed of the change in
interest rate. I understand that a bank has a right to change
their interest rates, but I do think that their customers should be
After my account was basically emptied by my paying for
college and my wedding, I didn't use it anymore, as I had opened another account
at a different bank. Over the next year, my completely inactive account shrank
from $30 to less than $5 because of "service fees". I don't really see
how you can justify service fees on an account that hasn't had a transaction in
a year, and not even bother to send a single statement to the account
owner. After that, I closed the account, and have never gone back to
that bank again.
I once worked for a store, aimed at children, where they could
stuff their own plush animals, and select clothing for them. Now, this
particular store was not the larger, better known chain, and during the time I
worked there, we were apparently dodging a lawsuit. Signs went up in windows
denying any association with the other chain, and we were told to keep our eyes
out for people who might be acting strangely and writing down prices and things.
All very paranoid.
Our dress code was simple enough, a polo shirt with the
store's name embroidered on it, khakis, and closed toe shoes. I was told I could
not wear a skirt, even a long one. I asked about policies regarding hair style
and accessories, and was told there were none. Apparently this was incorrect, as
I was sent home one day for wearing a bandana on my head (it was purple,
matching my work shirt, and not tied in such a way as to be a
"do-rag", which is what my manager called it). I asked if I could
simply remove the offending headgear (I had a scrunchie for my very long hair on
me, as always), but was told no, they'd just have someone else cover my shift,
and I should just go home. I was also reprimanded for wearing a bracelet one day
that apparently was too "flashy" (it was a natural leather cuff with
flowers tooled on it, very tasteful).
As this store was, essentially, a toy store, we had a lot of
interesting experiences with children. Often, women would drop young children
off in the store and leave to do their shopping, treating us like a free day
care service. These children often wound up wreaking havoc in the store, pulling
merchandise off the walls, throwing tantrums, and generally being little
terrors. We had at least one incident with one of the "stuffing
machines" which used air pressure to push polyfil into the animal selected
by a child. One little boy figured out how to turn the machine on, and then
stomped on the pedal that released the stuffing, shooting the protective cover
off the pipe and sending stuffing clear across the store. The pipe was angled,
and thus somewhat pointy, and could have been dangerous, which is why we kept it
covered. Every employee spent the next ten minutes scrambling around trying to
clean up the stuffing before anyone slipped on it and sued the store, while I
was stuck cleaning out the cover so I could get it back on the machine, and the
little cretin responsible was told very firmly to sit next to me and wait for
his mother to return. When she did, she proceeded to scream at me about how her
son had been treated, that clearly we should have been watching him, and how
dangerous it was for us to leave these machines unattended (the one he played
with was turned off, and he had to find the on switch on the back before he
could pull his little stunt). I remained very polite, but my manager seemed to
think that perhaps this woman was right, and reprimanded me as well, since I had
been the one to pull the child away from the machine in the first place.
On at least five or six other occasions, I or one of my
coworkers was berated by an irate parent whose child had left the store while
they were shopping elsewhere. Clearly we should have been aware that nobody was
looking after their little darlings. Other customers would come into the store
carrying food or drinks, and refuse to leave when told that these were not
allowed in the store (this was posted on the door). These same customers
frequently ruined merchandise by handling it with sticky or greasy fingers or
spilling smoothies on it. Still others would come in five minutes before we
closed, and when informed that it usually takes about half an hour to complete
the process, would proceed to spend the next hour or more puttering around the
store, often without buying a thing!
Still others made special demands of us, like could we
embroider something on a bear for them, or could we make a special animal for
them (we had certain animals, such as bears, bunnies, tigers, and even moose,
all sewn elsewhere and shipped to the store). One man wanted me to take the
antlers off a moose doll, attach them to a tiger, and create some sort of
elaborate wing structure for the resulting creature. When I explained that I
personally do not have the skill for that sort of thing, and that we cannot
alter the base animals like that, he got very angry and began shouting in my
face that I was there to serve him, and that if I wouldn't make this animal, he
would never shop in our store again. I was terrified that he was going to hit
The manager was another piece of work. She tended to look down
on those of us who were only there for the summer, as opposed to long time
employees. As a result, she would often let her favorites leave early and make
the one or two remaining workers do an entire close, which included cleaning out
the stuffing machines, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and restocking shelves for
the next day. These same favorites also tended to take long (up to two hours)
lunches, leaving us to take up their slack. She also tended to ignore scheduling
requests. I had an evening class two days a week, on Tuesday and Thursday. I
submitted my written request for those evenings off, and even talked to her
about it, explaining why I couldn't be there for those hours. Lo and behold, the
next week, I'm scheduled for both days, for hours *beginning when my class
does!* I asked her about it, and am told that she thinks that "I really
should be here those days". I swapped my schedule with a sympathetic
coworker and told the manager that I really do need those hours off, and if she
can't work with that, I'll find a job somewhere else.
This same woman also reprimanded me for spending too long with
a single customer (the store was nearly empty and these people were buying at
least a dozen different outfits for their new stuffed animal), by running back
into the warehouse to find things that they wanted or asked about (this was what
I had been told to do when I was trained by the same manager). She was often
late for opening, meaning that the workers, who did not have a key to the store,
had to stand outside and wait on her. This often meant that there were several
customers waiting to get into the store with us by the time she arrived, who
assumed that we would be ready to serve them the moment the doors were unlocked.
This same manager, who spend most of her day in the office playing solitaire or
surfing the net (I could see her computer screen whenever I went into the
warehouse), was very strict about staying in our assigned stations at all times.
Often, when it was slow (as it frequently was mid-day on a weekday) we would sit
down in a group near the stuffing stations and relax, and none of the other
managers ever had a problem with this. They even frequently joined us.
We were doing this on my very last day (my classes were
starting up full time again, and I didn't have time to do this, my other job,
and school, so I had submitted my two weeks notice), and this manager told us
that we needed to get to our stations. I shrugged and headed back to my part of
the store, which was in the back. One of the other girls asked me a question as
I was making my way back, and I stopped to answer her. Before I could say three
words, this woman interrupted me and said she needed to see me immediately. When
we got to the office, she proceeded to tell me that although it was my last day,
she felt I should know that she didn't care for my attitude just then. When I
asked what she meant, she said that I had "stormed off" when she told
me to return to my station, apparently because I didn't say anything to her when
she did this (what, prey tell, was I supposed to have said?), and proceeded to
"annoy" another employee instead of doing what I'd been told. I was
dumfounded. I told her how I had seen it, and then informed her that since it
was indeed my last day, she shouldn't mind if I left a couple hours early, so
she wouldn't have do deal with my "attitude" any longer, and left.
This was three years ago, and I have since moved across the country. The other
day I got a call from my father, saying did I know what this message that was on
their answering machine was about? Apparently this woman was hurting for holiday
help, called my old number, and left a very brief, nearly incoherent message on
my parents' machine, which does not have my name in the message. All in all,
very bad business.
My husband and I like to travel. We lived in England until a
year ago when we moved to Spain. Anyway, before we moved here we traveled
extensively in the States. In the autumn (fall) of 2003 we went to New England.
Wow! We had a wonderful time, touring Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire,
Maine etc. Everyone we met was lovely, with the exception of one snotty
brat of a waitress in a small restaurant in an off season ski resort which shall
remain nameless. No, why should it? The town was Killington, Vermont. As it was
off season for a ski resort, the town only had one or two restaurants open and
as we entered the place, I should have known!!! All the clientele were very
quiet and nobody had anything more than salads on their plates. We were shown a
table and had a look at the menus.
Now, I appreciate some restaurants are more exclusive than
others but the prices here were astronomical! I checked the surroundings but
nope, nothing justified over 12 dollars for a house salad. However, hubby and I
were starving and I ordered the lamb and he ordered some beef dish. Now, I can't
complain and say the food wasn't nice but there really wasn't enough of it to
form an opinion! My husband and I sat for five minutes, waiting for the
vegetables to arrive when a lovely man at the next table leaned over and
whispered "That's it, honey. The veggies are on your plate" Oh, excuse
me! I didn't realize parsley garnish was a vegetable! The waitress slouched
around the restaurant slapping bills on tables when they hadn't been asked
We finished our meal and before our forks came to rest on the
plate, our bill was waiting. (Well, it was 9.30pm, maybe it was early closing?)
I nearly died! Our bills were 45+ dollars for the meal and two drinks, but
here's the kicker. There was a 22 and a half per cent service charge! Now,
before everybody rushes to criticize us.... yes, we English are not known for
being big tippers but we have traveled enough to know what is expected in
America. My husband nearly fell off his chair! Well, I am afraid I could not let
this go. I called her over and loudly questioned the service charge. The
restaurant clientele went even quieter and all eyes were on us. She said
"Well, we have to put that on otherwise I wouldn't get any tips" I
told her I wasn't really surprised owing to the amount of food served and the
dire service she was providing.
I (and I am not proud of this) recalculated the bill,
including a 12.5% tip and we left that instead. We got up to leave and suddenly,
we were applauded as we walked out by the other customers. As we stood outside
dying quietly of embarrassment, the lovely man and his wife came out of the
restaurant. He laughed and said, "Wish we'd had the nerve to say that. I
left 12 and a half per cent too" But you know what? If we'd have been in
the UK, she wouldn't have got a tip at all. But I suppose she *did* bring it to
the table..... I realize waitresses rely on tips but surely it isn't acceptable
to add on a huge charge just because you have a waitress with a bad
attitude and she needs the money?? Anyway, apart from that we had a fabulous
holiday and at least I didn't put weight on!!!
I had just started grad school in a new town and I was told
that I would have to provide my own accompanist for my music audition. A friend
of mine referred me to someone that she said would do a good job. I called the
person and she said she would be available to do it. I planned to give her some
money for her trouble even though she never said anything about charging me. I
knew it was difficult for her to do this on such short notice and I wanted to be
The night before the audition, she tells me, "I charge
$30 an hour and we rehearsed two hours plus $25 for the recital so you owe me
$80. You can give it to me after the audition tomorrow." What? The last
time I checked, when you charge a person for services, you're supposed to tell
them before you agree to do anything for them. If I was really mean, I could've
just refused to pay her because she didn't even have any form of written
documentation of an agreement. I was expecting to get paid that Wednesday so I
told her I would give her a check on Wednesday. When I
found out that my money would be delayed a couple of days, I decided to write
her a post-dated check for the day that the funds would be available.
As I wrote the check, she asked what bank I used. I told her
it was an out-of-state bank that had an ATM in the area that accepted deposits.
She waited until I wrote out the check to tell me, "It would be easier for
me if you just give me cash." Why didn't she tell me that in the first
place? Then, she suggests to me that I should open a bank account at a bank in
town. I was ready to suggest to her that she needed to take some business
etiquette 101 classes to keep someone from taking advantage of her. I don't
claim to be the queen of business practices but I was taught that whenever money
is involved, the party receiving the money should issue either a receipt or an
invoice so that there is written documentation of the transaction. Maybe I
should make her some invoices and give them to her as a
I started babysitting when I was thirteen, and within a
couple of years I had a built a reasonable little clientele. I had never
set a firm per hour price, because every family I had dealt with had been very
fair with payment. This was 1995, and the going rate was anywhere from 3-5
dollars per hour, reasonable for a girl that age. I was always happy with
how the families treated me, until Donna S. (yes, this is her real name... I hope
she reads this someday and realizes that she is burning in the lowest tier of
Etiquette Hell) came along.
Donna called me before the school year started (I was fifteen)
and asked if I'd like a permanent, daily babysitting gig. I was to take
the bus to the boys' elementary school, pick them up, walk them the
half-mile or so home, fix a snack and amuse them for an hour and a half before
their mother got home. I had only sat for her once, but her kids had been
okay and I figured that a steady income would be nice. Huge mistake.
Huge! Donna had two boys, ages six and nine. And once I began
to interact with them on a daily basis, I discovered that they were brats.
The older one would constantly push to see what he could get away with. He
whined and wheedled for hours, testing my limits: example, if I told him
that he had snacked enough and couldn't eat any more cookies, well then,
couldn't he just have some crackers? A piece of cheese? Some toast?
Please? Please? He pushed and pushed at every boundary I tried to
establish, and when I stood firm, he'd get furious, work himself into a frenzy,
and scream. It was exhausting. The younger boy was sometimes sweet
but always spoiled. His parents babied him. As a result he acted
much younger than his six years... he'd cry at the drop of a hat and expected to
get what he wanted at all times. I discovered all of this in my first
week, and dreaded going to that school to pick them up every day.
Nevertheless, I did my best with the boys, and cleaned Donna's
house and dishes for her, too. Often it was cleaner when I left than
when I had arrived. In the meantime, I was there for up to three
hours every day. I never knew when Donna would get home, and I would
start to despair sometimes, because I had my own homework to do, and couldn't
with the Little Hellions running around. Besides, it was my responsibility
to watch them, not to sit there and do my homework. Now, keep
in mind that I was fifteen and not old enough to drive myself home. My
small town has no public transportation, and I lived three miles away from
Donna, across a river with a narrow bridge. We had decided that Donna
would drive me home in the evening. She was often impatient about this,
never said anything but I could tell it irritated her and she felt very
inconvenienced at having load her kids into the car and drive across the river
every night. I really don't get this, as she could easily have hired
someone older, or in her own neighborhood if she expected them to get
home on their own.
At any rate, it was often frostily silent in her minivan
during the drive. Come Friday of that first week, time for
Donna to pay me for the first time. Again, we had never discussed payment,
which, yes, in hindsight, was a big mistake. But she and her husband were
well off, had a really nice house in a great neighborhood, and I figured she'd
be fair. She didn't pay me at her house, waited until we pulled up in
front of mine. She stopped the car but left it running and I paused,
not wanting to have to come out and ask for my money. Donna reached into
her purse, fished out a bill, and handed it to me. "Here you
go," she said smoothly. I sat there and stared, not quite
believing my eyes. At the five dollar bill in my hand.
Five Dollars. Five. Freakin'. Dollars. For five days I
had gone to that school, walked those brats home, and spent at least an hour and
a half, sometimes two or three, playing, coaxing, cooking, cajoling, and
cleaning. Five dollars was one dollar per day of work. It
worked out to be something around forty cents per hour of pure exhausting torture
with those obnoxious little hellions.
Donna sat there expectantly, waiting for me to get out of her
car so that she could go home. She never said anything like "Oh, is
that Okay? Is that enough?" I was so stunned, I just went inside.
I was kind of a pushover as a teen, especially with adults. I always
trusted them to do the right thing, and so I didn't comment. I even
convinced myself that perhaps Donna had made a mistake, that she meant to pay me
more. But no. The next week, twelve hours of work, five
dollars on Friday. Maybe in her mind Donna was subtracting the amount of
money it took for the gas to drive me home; perhaps back in her day, forty cents
an hour was a decent wage for a babysitter. Maybe (and more likely) she
figured that a teenager would be a great source of slave labor. At any
rate, I couldn't handle it anymore, and finally worked up the nerve to quit two
weeks later. And to this day, I loathe that stingy woman with a deep
passion. A dollar a day. I still can't believe it.
This is not a terrible story, but still was annoying at the
time. I used to work for a company that produced a newspaper and a full-color
digest-sized horse magazine. When the magazines are delivered, they are packed
into small boxes of 100 copies. These boxes are then stacked onto a skid, and
the whole thing is shrink-wrapped to keep it together during transport from the
publisher, about 2 hour's drive away.
One day, the driver shows up with our magazine. First off all,
he looked completely unprofessional. He was wearing jeans that looked about one
wash away from falling apart, a t-shirt with more holes than material, and
beaten up running shoes with broken laces dangling out of them. When he drove
the truck, he much have been jumping curbs and pulling tricks with it, because
the skid had broken apart and the boxes had flown everywhere inside the truck,
getting all dirty and banged up. Luckily, all the magazines were packed in the
boxes pretty tightly, and so hadn't been damaged. One of my
coworkers had to sign for the shipment, but he noted on it that we had not
received our stuff in good order - that the skid had broken and the boxes were
damaged. The driver proceeded to berate him not to write that down, asking him
to "please help him out." When my coworker refused, he got mad, and
started calling him a jerk in front of the rest of us for making him look bad.
(I bit my tongue, but it was all I could do not to say that he didn't need any
help in being made to look bad.) Sorry, but if you want someone to say that you
did a good job, then DO A GOOD JOB!
If the gentleman who wrote the story (previous archived
story) about the cashier who refused his card on grounds that he had not
signed it would simply flip his card over and read the not-so-fine print
underneath the strip you sign, he would be surprised to find out that his card
is not "valid unless signed". The last time I checked, "See
ID" is not a signature.
It is quite possible to both sign your card AND write
"See ID" in that spot, and that would be my suggestion to him in the
future. Also, placing a strip of clear tape over the signature prevents it from
wearing off, too.
Assuming that the cashier did not know her job and looking
down on her for it is rather boorish, too, I might add. Many of us are either
college graduates or going to school, and are far from stupid.
Several years ago I put "See ID" on the signature
strip of a new credit card. Sure, it's more secure for someone to see your
license with your signature AND your picture but I did it more to see how many
people actually looked at the signature strip (about one in ten by my count).
Anyway, I was in a local supermarket chain and a very young cashier flipped my
card to look at the signature strip. I hadn't been given or signed the
slip yet but I had my license ready and I was giving the store points for
training when she said, "I can't accept this card it isn't signed".
I showed her my license (with the picture, the signature and matching the name
on the card) but she insisted she could not accept the card without a signature.
I explained that having her check my ID was more secure than signing the card
and the card said "See ID" but she persisted and people behind me were
grumbling so I asked for a pencil and a pen. I signed the back of my card
in pencil and the slip in pen and handed both to her. She completed the
transaction (with a big smile...all was now right with the world) and I erased
my signature from the card. This was a clear and funny case of
someone who was doing exactly as they were told without having the foggiest idea
of why she was doing it!
My husband and I, who are very clean-cut and respectable
looking, but young (in our twenties) find that we are often ignored when we go
to shop for big-ticket items (such as cars, furniture, etc). I have no idea why
this is. I would think that such places would be eager to help young people, as
they are more likely to require financing, which means that the business would
make more money! And besides, why is the business of a young person less
valuable than the money made from a more mature customer? We have
gone into many car dealerships, and were ignored for over half-an-hour. The only
place that didn't treat us like this was the Honda dealership. Is it any
wonder that we now only buy our cars from them?
Once, we went into the furniture gallery. We were looking at
furnishing our first home, so a big commission was in the offering. We're
talking bedroom set (bed, dressers, end tables), living room (couch, loveseat,
stuffed chair), coffee and end tables - everything! Yet no salesperson came
to help us for fifteen minutes, until I jokingly said to my husband that
these people shouldn't ignore us, as for all they know, I might be the daughter
of an oil-sheik. Funny how a salesperson showed up a second after the words left
my mouth! And no, we ended up buying at the XXX, where they treated us
Salespeople, please realize that your young customers have
just as much right to proper service as your more mature ones. You will lose out
on many potential commissions if you ignore your young customers.
This is a response to a story posted in your Bad Business
Etiquette section, BadBusiness0820-04, about a supposed bad situation involving
a credit card. I agree that there was bad etiquette involved, but it was on the
part of the person writing the story, not on the part of the business.
A little background, I work for a major retailer doing fraud
investigation, and almost all of my job involved dealing with credit card fraud.
Needless to say, I'm required to have a strong understanding of the laws and
policies around credit cards.
Contrary to the author's assumption, the signature on a credit
card is not intended as security feature. It is an indication that the
cardholder has accepted the contract with the issuing agency to use the card. An
unsigned card is not a valid credit card. Attempting to use an unsigned card is
technically fraud, and prosecutable as such. Erasing the signature on the card,
regardless of whose it is, invalidates the card and is also prosecutable fraud.
Also, most stores do not check for ID, because their contracts
with the credit card issuing agencies do not permit them to decline a sale on
that basis. If a store refuses to accept a credit card because the cardholder
has no ID, they are in violation of their contract and can lose their ability to
accept that card. On top of that, any store that accepts and unsigned card, and
then receives a chargeback for the purchase (for example, if the card is stolen
and used fraudulently) is liable for the full cost of the chargeback plus fees.
If the card is signed, and the store has abided by the terms of their contract
with the issuing agency, then the bank will be liable for that cost.
Now, in the real world, things don't really work that way most
of the time; but the author of the story was wrong in almost every thing he did.
The cashier was acting exactly how she should have, and the faux pas was the
author's for not understanding how credit cards work.
I read this item on your Business Etiquette section:
I contract with a large, well known company which
provides computer and hosting support for a well known government agency. The
following email was sent to everyone. I was not the only one appalled and
rather insulted. I highly doubt that very many people will be attending! (I
cannot post to the forum, so please feel free to post).
"Company A" is planning on holding a Holiday
party on the weekend before Christmas. All of the folks working on the
contract and their spouses or significant others are invited. The party will
be at a "local" country club, and will include dinner and a DJ.
"Company B" cannot contribute to the cost of
the party, so anyone from the team who attends will have to pay their own way.
The cost is $42 per person.
"Company A" is initiating plans for the party
and they need a count of who would be interested in attending. Please pass
this note along to your teams, and provide me with a count of how many folks
Please let me know by close of business, Thursday, Oct.
Thanks for the invitation, but I think I'll decline!
While this may seem to be bad business and tacky to boot,
companies that contract with the government are legal obligated to follow some
very stringent rules with regard to prevent conflicts of interest or the
appearance of impropriety. "Company B" most likely was prevented from
contributing to the cost of the party because of conflict-of-interest rules.
FWIW, at the company I work for, we cannot even offer
government employees a cup of coffee unless we at the same provide a means for
them to pay for the cup of coffee. By the same token, they cannot offer us any
"freebies" when we visit their offices.
You would be doing a great favor to all by posting a caveat on
this story to the effect that in dealings with government agencies or in regard
to anything that touches on government contracts, legal and ethical
considerations trump what might seem to be ordinary good manners and etiquette.
A contractor who violates the rules on contact with government contracting
agencies might find themselves banned from bidding on future government
contracts, or even have work on existing contracts taken away from them. The
rules are very strict on these matters and there is no "wriggle room"
I love your website and as I was reading some of the business
hell on earths it reminded me of my experiences with banking in South
Carolina. We had just moved to the Charleston area from California
and my husband got there a few months before the kids and I. He had set us
up with a large well known regional bank in downtown Charleston which was
perfectly fine. I should have done a little more homework when we got
there because all banks and staff are not created equal. We had deposited
the proceeds from the sale of our house in CA, which were quite considerable
into our account - 10's of thousands. They immediately proceeded to bounce
20 checks in a row. I was mortified and on top of it all, it
took several phone calls and me having to chase checks down to finally make it
all right and get them to apologize and cover all the fees. They initially
said it was because the check hadn't cleared - right, a cashiers check from
Wells Fargo hadn't cleared in 5 days?! Baloney. Should have learned
There were various other annoying mistakes along the way but
better fight then switch was my motto at the time. Mistake. They
continued to do things like not credit deposited checks, checks that had been
deposited in the AM until the following business day. BUT the icing on the cake
was when we went to move back to CA. We had to purchase a car at the last
minute. I went to the back to get the paperwork out of our safe deposit
box. Guess what, the safe deposit box had been drilled and the contents
taken out and put into the safe because we didn't pay the safe deposit fee!
WHAT!!!!! It had been paid just a couple of months before. I had to go
home and find the cashed check to prove it had been paid. I found it
immediately and went back. You should have seen the bank manager - talk
about mortified. It wasn't her fault, but as with everything with this
bank it was continuous screw ups. She was so grateful I didn't lose my
cool, which I could have. I proceeded to tell her about the years of
mistakes that her bank had made and that I couldn't wait to get out of
there and get back to a place where you could get real service, competent
service. We have been back in CA for 8 years and have NEVER had a screw up
at the bank !
This happened while I was down in Texas, volunteering with the
American Red Cross (ARC) to help with the aftermaths of hurricanes Katrina and
Rita. To make a long story short, near the end of my two weeks, I was getting
badly stressed (a very common problem among disaster volunteers, especially
newbies like me). For my health, the Powers That Be decided I should get a
modest hotel room to myself instead of staying in the slightly dilapidated gym
of a local church with 75+ other volunteers.
Though this was supposed to be several steps up from current
accommodations, I was slightly worried. As this was also the same time the
Houston Astros were hosting the World Series, all the local hotels, motels, and
other assorted inns had cancelled their ARC contracts to cater to the baseball
fans. (Though it left the ARC scrambling, I could hardly blame the hotels
for doing this: hosting the World Series was a once-in-a-lifetime, golden
business opportunity for them.) One of the places that still had rooms for
rent was that way for a reason: it was literally a roach motel. ARC
volunteers didn't even set their bags down before they skedaddled, for fear of a
roach crawling into their gear. Fortunately, the motel I was sent to was
not the afore-mentioned Roach Motel. Unfortunately, things weren't much
I got to this place with my Red Cross room voucher and found a
boy of 12 sitting behind the counter. This must have been a small,
family-run business. (Note this for future outrage.) He didn't know
what to make of my voucher, so he asked if I could wait "about 5
minutes" (!) for his mother. Fortunately, she arrived in
substantially less time than that, but she wouldn't be winning any prizes in the
Miss Congeniality contest. Practically no eye contact, no smile, no
"happy to see you", nothing. Oh, well; I figured I wouldn't have
to deal with the office very much....
I walked into my room. Dear Heaven, where do I begin?
1) They had a nice, portable CD
player/boom box in place of the usual clock radio. That was fine, but
there was no off switch up front. And in order to keep anyone from
stealing it, they'd wired it so tightly to the wall that you couldn't get behind
it to find one, either. This radio was on forever and ever, amen. I
settled for turning the volume down to 0.
2) I was slightly concerned
about the TV. They had a substantial corner shelf for this behemoth, but
it was slowly giving way. By now it was tilting at a 10 degree down slope,
and if/when it went, the 40"+ TV would land directly on the micro-fridge
and microwave underneath it.
3) Biggee #1: when I stepped
onto the carpet in front of the bathroom, my foot nearly sank into a puddle of
standing, stinky water. The carpet was SOAKED, and it left my sock green.
I almost slipped getting into the bathroom itself, because of my wet socks on
the linoleum. (And yet there were clean towels in the bathroom, which
meant the maid must have stepped in this puddle to get in to change them....)
4) Biggee #2: I could *shut* the
bathroom door, but not keep it *closed*. This is because a large swath of
doorway had been torn out, especially that little spot that allowed a door to
latch. Someone had clearly broken into the bathroom at some point.
5) Exhausted mentally and
physically, I just wanted to shower and relax before I went into the office to
complain. But once in the shower I was afraid to let the shower curtain
touch me. The bottom 6" or so was crusty and brown, and a good
millimeter thicker than the rest of the curtain. And this was a
dollar-store curtain at best! How much would it have cost for them to get
a new, clean one??
6) Even *more* exhausted, but at
least clean, I decided to rest up for a minute or so before heading out to
complain (and request a 7am wake-up call), so I turned on the TV. I went
through the channels, figuring they probably had cable. Boy did they ever:
I flipped to channel 11, and met *PORN!!* face to face. Shocked, I quickly
switched to the next channel. You guessed it: more *PORN!!* Now I'm
worried that everything after channel 10 was an "all adult, all the time
channel", so I shut it off and marched into the office.
This time there was a man there. He also never smiled,
rarely made eye contact, and generally treated me with annoyed tolerance.
Compared to him, the previous lady was an angel of compassion. I told him
about the soaked rug and the broken door, and asked if it was common to have
unrequested porn smack you in the face here. He neatly sidestepped
everything by shrugging and asking if I wanted the channels blocked. With
a stiff, forced grin, I said that would be nice, so he accompanied me to my room
to check it out....
First of all, he *didn't believe me* when I said the carpet
was soaked. What, you think I'd LIE? I asked him to touch the floor
if he had doubts. He blew me off, said it must have been overflow from the
bath, and said they'd put "some white stuff" on the floor to draw out
the water, and it'd be fine. I pointed out that the shower head pointed
the *opposite way* from this spot (you'd have to fill up a bucket from the
shower, then cart it over and dump it for that scenario to work), and that this
was too soaked for anything but a pipe leak. AS I SPOKE, he interrupted me
and said he couldn't see what was wrong with the bathroom door. (!?) I
actually had to point out the damage, even though it was at least 2 feet of wood
missing from the frame. His response? I quote: "Oh, yeah,
sometimes when someone gets locked out of the bathroom, they can't get in, they
kick the door in to get in." Um... just what kind of clientele do you
have that you EXPECT this to happen? And what kind of idiot ignores a
problem as severe as an internal pipe leak??
And now, to the porn. I asked him again about it, and he
said he'd block it. And then he turns the TV on, goes to the porn
channels, and monkeys around with the remote to black out the picture and sound.
WHILE I'M IN THE ROOM WITH HIM. "Uncomfortable" doesn't even
begin to describe this situation. I'd have been really worried if he had
made eye contact, but since he didn't look at me once during this whole thing,
it was a safe bet that he had no interest in me either. He also had the
nerve to complain that the Red Cross "barged" in, "demanded"
rooms, and "didn't give him time to clean them up", which is
apparently why the carpet is soaked and the doorframe damaged. Yes, I'm
sure that the maid, given a "proper" amount of time, would have
repaired both doorframe and broken internal piping while she changed the towels:
it's all part of her extensive carpentry and plumbing service package for $5.75
an hour. This creep knew I was getting a damaged room, and he stuck me in
there anyway. Guess he hoped I wouldn't notice or something.
I honestly don't remember if he offered me another room.
He might have, but if so it was done in such an offhanded, sneering way that I
didn't bother. Any other time I would have read him the riot act, called
ARC, and demanded something else, but as I said, I was exhausted, and I knew
this would only be for two nights, as I was going home in a few days. I
used a pair of thongs when I stepped on the carpet near the bathroom, and that
The kicker came when I left. I tried to call out on the
phone for my ride, but the phone's #5 button got stuck. All the banging in
the world wouldn't release it. I complained, so Mr. Warmth and Comfort
trudged in and changed out the phone without a word. I tried to dial out
again, then discovered the ARC Motorpool number I'd been given wasn't local, and
you couldn't make any long distance calls from this phone. Fine, so I
needed a payphone. I went and asked Mr. Warmth and Comfort if there was a
payphone available, so I could make a credit-card call. He then pulled
this transparent "not quite to be understanding English" bit as he
tried to sell me a calling card. At this point, I blew my stack; I had
clearly told him I HAD a card, and I needed the phone to call with! He
snapped he wasn't "forcing" me to buy his card and that there
"might" be a phone in the shopping center across the freeway.
So, in short, if I had bought his card, I guess I couldn't have used it here
Trying to get a hold of the ARC call center was an adventure
in itself: apparently Rita had knocked down lots of long-distance phone lines in
this area, and I had to try several payphones before I got a connection I could
*barely* use. I reluctantly schlepped back to the hotel to wait outside
for my ride, as I didn't trust Mr. Warmth and Comfort to call my room when the
courier came, but I was uncomfortable sitting on the cement out there, so I went
into the office. I was planning on giving Mr. Warmth and Comfort his
well-deserved tongue lashing by this point. However, a different man was
behind the counter, apparently the true patriarch of the family. He was in
his late 50s or early 60s, distinctly polite, friendly, and professional.
Thank GOD. On the very real chance his underlings were screwing him, I
told him about the problems in the room before I left. He wrote everything
down. (And no, no "white stuff" had been put on the wet spot so
far as I could tell, and it was still soaking.) I finally complained about
the appalling behavior of Mr. Warmth and Comfort. His response? An
amiable, helpless shrug, and a "Yeah, you pay minimum wage, and they act
like this, and what can you do?"
In case it wasn't obvious, I soon after discovered this place
was locally known as a rent-by-the-hour "no-tell motel". (I
actually saw some guy pull up on a motorcycle with his girl and come into the
office asking to rent the room for one hour. Seeing as that bike was there
the next morning, I assume now they only rented by the day.) There was, I
realized upon leaving, a condom dispenser in the office. The porn was
desired by all patrons, and they complained when it wasn't on. And, of
course, remember that a 12 year old boy was serving there. Just lovely.
As for the horror the ARC travel people felt when I relayed this story, let's
just say ARC won't be visiting this place again. Ever.
Perhaps the funniest thing about this is that channels 11 and
12 were porn, and channels 10 and 13 were Christian Faith channels. I'm
convinced God put me in the room so I could give my fellow volunteers a good
laugh in relaying this story.
My Husband and I were invited to a business meeting in New
Mexico by a company that wanted to merge with ours. This meeting was
supposed to impress us enough to partner our company with theirs. The
gentleman that arranged all this worked with my husband on a particular job
several months earlier and was happy with the results and determined the idea of
a merger between our two companies would have been a smart move.
So this gentleman had our travel arrangements taken care of.
Since they were the ones that wanted us there, they offered to take care of all
our accommodations. During the course of the plans, he and his wife
decided that we would be far more comfortable in their guest room rather than a
hotel. We accepted the invitation. It was ONLY one night. I felt
that it gave us the opportunity to become better acquainted with them.
About a week before our trip, we were told that they had
scheduled a baby shower for their son and daughter-in-law that was to take place
several hours before our return flight. Not to appear rude, I ran out to
pick up a generous gift for the new parents to be.
We arrived and NONE of the preparations for the baby shower
had been taken care of. The day we arrived we were involved with many
business meetings and company tours. After the meetings we were all
invited to the other owners home for dinner. After dinner we went to a
local Casino, not arriving back to the house until almost midnight. Early
the next morning, we woke up and my husband returned to the company to sit down
and talk business. I ran out with our hostess to the local grocery store
for last minute items. We return to their house and she sat around
complaining that she will never get everything done in time. So, I offered
to help with her preparations. Next thing, I know I am left in the living
room alone making all the little decorations, and wrapping party game prizes and
making little party gifts.
After the party we were taken back to the airport. The
meetings hadn’t gone as planned and we decided to not consider the offer they
had proposed. So when we were dropped off the gentleman said, I noticed
that you two talked for a few moments, did you make up your mind. We told
him to put together a different proposal and we will take a look at it.
We never heard from any of them again. They never
thanked us (verbally or in writing) for the help with getting their sons baby
shower preparations taken care of or the generous gift card.
Story #1: My parents belong to a group of neighbors who like
to go out to local restaurants once a month as a group. Each month, one couple
chooses a restaurant, gets RSVPs from the rest of the group, and makes the
reservations. This month, the restaurant was a smallish but scenic place on the
river, and reservations had been made for 12 people at 6PM on Saturday.
My parents and their friends arrive at the restaurant a few
minutes early, and are asked to wait in the lobby. It's a fairly popular place,
so the lobby is getting full. They wait. And wait. And wait some more. Finally
at 6:45, they are told what the problem is. A wedding party had rented the
"large function" room for a luncheon after the wedding. That had gone
smoothly, but now the entire wedding party was refusing to leave! They had
ceased to order anything, even coffee or water, and the entire family was
sitting around having a family reunion in a room they had been expected to
vacate mid-afternoon. There was no DJ or dancing or gift opening, the cake had
been cut hours ago, but not one of the guests had left. In the meantime, they
are taking up space in the restaurant that had been promised to other patrons,
and not producing any income for the restaurant.
Finally, my parents and their party were seated at two
separate tables, and had a quite good, although late, meal. I can understand
wanting to spend lots of time with your friends and family, but refusing to
leave so that a business can conduct its scheduled business is just rude.
Story #2 I was at a scientific meeting, and the organization
hosting the meeting had rented the entire conference suite of a hotel for the
duration of the meeting. The meeting started on Wednesday, and the last speaker
was scheduled at 4:45PM on Saturday night (ending at 5PM). The hotel annoyed the
organizers early on by not providing coffee, water, or pastries for the coffee
breaks (this was in the contract), but that was straightened out.
However, Saturday afternoon I and a colleague emerged from the
2PM session to see that all of the large poster boards on which scientific
results are presented had been moved from the presentation area and were crammed
into a small corner of one room. People who were still in the sessions did not
know where their posters were, and had to hunt through stacks of the poster
boards to retrieve their posters. This was odd, but upon exiting to the main
gathering area, we discovered that all of the vendors were taking down their
booths much earlier than usual, and that there was a giant Tiki statue in the
middle of the hall! We got hold of a friend of ours who was one of the
organizers. She said that while we were scheduled to have the rooms until 5PM,
the hotel had scheduled a "Hawaiian-theme" wedding reception, with
sit-down dinner, to START at 5PM! The hotel staff had come around and were
forcing all of the scientific people to leave early so they could set up!
This continued through the rest of the afternoon, with hotel
staff entering the rooms *during the sessions* to remove chairs and tables,
clear away water pitchers, and attempt to force us out early. The poor
embarrassed staff members were as quiet as possible so as not to interrupt the
talks, but you just can't stack chairs quietly, nor take down tables without
blocking someone's view. The speakers were some of the more popular ones, so the
sessions were well-attended, and that did not make taking down chairs any
easier. The hotel had the misfortune to be located in the same city as the
headquarters of our scientific organization, so our lawyer was there by 3PM. I
believe we got a significant portion of our bill refunded by the hotel for their
poor planning. You would think that a hotel event coordinator would know to
leave breakdown and set-up times between functions!
A while ago, I decided to visit a new clothing
consignment shop, since saving money on nice clothes is one of my hobbies.
I was happily browsing away when the clerk approached me and said "Just so
you know, the plus-size clothes are over there." I was speechless.
Even if I was plus-size - and I was size 10 at the time - presumably I could
find clothes in my size all by myself. I left and never went back.
They went out of business not long after.
Page Last Updated May 18, 2007