CRM Can't Respect Marriott
By Denny Hatch
When I checked out of my room at noon, I left my brand new $500 Burberry raincoat hanging in the closet of room 717 at the brand new Marriott hotel on Baltimore's inner harbor. I was in a meeting all afternoon and, as I retrieved my checked luggage from the bellman at 3:45, I realized my loss. I stopped at the front desk and the clerk called lost and found who claimed not to have the raincoat. Would someone check the room? That was apparently done.
No raincoat. The guy at the desk shrugged his shoulders and turned away.
In my early career, I frequently stayed at Hilton Hotels when they were under the iron hand of founder Conrad Hilton. Whenever Connie stayed at one of his hotels, he left a quarter under the radiator. If he came back to the room and the coin was gone, he fired the maid for theft. If the quarter was still there, he fired the maid for not cleaning under the radiator. Hilton's last words to the family gathered around his deathbed were reportedly:
"Remember, the shower curtain goes inside the tub."
Yeah, I was stupid for leaving the raincoat. I was preoccupied with my client's business and not paying attention. But, Marriott, it seems, does not have the high moral standards and love of customers that Hilton inculcated in his nationwide staff. Does anybody these days?
In the early 1960s I was a book traveler—crisscrossing the country selling books to bookstores, wholesalers, schools and libraries. Book salesmen were a collegial lot who loved long boozy dinners and weekend outings. One Saturday a bunch of us gathered at a country club in the Chicago area for an afternoon of relaxation and, later, dinner. A few of the guys played golf; about 12 or 13 of us repaired to two poker tables in the men's locker room. I remember Chicago author Nelson Algren spent the afternoon wisecracking with his salesmen chums and getting pleasantly schnockered at the table adjacent to mine. Everybody called him "Nelse." At my table were the Weismans, the very wealthy father and son who had bought the giant A. C. McClurg book wholesaler, arch rival of the equally huge Baker & Taylor Company. At the poker table, my philosophy was basically that of the most famous gambler of the day, Nick "the Greek" Dandalos: "The greatest thrill in the world is winning," the Greek said, "and the second greatest thrill is losing." Turn over three kings only to have the guy across from you show a full house, and it's a stab in the gut. But you know you're alive. I played very conservatively that afternoon in Chicago so many years ago, because I could not buy a winning hand. I remember I lost $75 or $100—a fair hunk of money out of an annual income of maybe $6,000 a year. But the banter was guy talk and book trade gossip and it was fun.