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It's Story Time: A Monster of a Guest - Wife-Zilla
By Steve Cokkinias
It was February 2001 and we were hosting a VIP global leadership conference at my hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. The COO of the company had flown in with his wife just for one day, and was leaving on the night of the gala dinner. All of the other 250 employees of the company would be poolside for the dinner, the hotel was sold-out, and as the Front Desk Manager, I had only one job to do: make sure they get to the airport on time for their 8pm flight back to Washington. As it turns out, that was easier said than done.
Now typically this would not be a difficult assignment, but this particular COO had a specific annoying habit that everyone warned me about: his wife. Or to be exact, his second wife; half his age and a high-maintenance, ex-model, chain-smoker. And they weren't kidding. As they checked-out at 6pm for their evening flight, she was already wearing her brown, full-length fur coat (it was 34c) in preparation for their landing back home in wintery Washington. She was in a hurry to depart, and kept no secrets about the distaste she had for our impoverished 3rd-world island. As their limo drove off into the sunset on the way to the airport, I waved goodbye and breathed a sigh of relief. Mission accomplished. We hurried to clean the suite that they just checked-out of, and within 30 minutes, had checked in another guest who had arrived late in the afternoon.
And naturally, that's when the un-thinkable happened. My phone rang, and it was my Airport Manager. "Get another suite ready" he said, "They're on the way back to the hotel." The flight to Washington had been cancelled.
We had one suite remaining, and although it was assigned for a late arrival that same night, we would have to inconvenience that guest and give them another room. The vacant suite was going to the COO and Wife-zilla.
Now interestingly, their preference profile clearly stated 2 things: a suite close to the elevator, and 6 ashtrays. And the only suite I had was at the very end of the hotel, literally about a 70 meter walk from the lobby. The 2 long hallways that extended from each side of the lobby like arms were shaped like a "Z", and the suite was at the very end. A lovely room, right on the tip of the ocean. I was sure they would love it.
When the car arrived back at the hotel, I greeted them personally. Mr. COO was very grateful that we could accommodate them for another night, and was a complete gentleman. Wife-zilla looked at me with disgust and spat "I hate your god-forsaken little island, and can't BELIEVE I am trapped here for another night!" I smiled, and began escorting them to their suite, explaining that it was a bit far, but it was the only suite we had available in the hotel as we were full. I was informed each step of the way that her feet were "killing her", she was "hot and exhausted", and that the suite was "way too far". Perhaps if she removed the full-length fur coat she was wearing it would help.
Finally, as we reached the final bend in the hallway, and the door to the suite was nearly visible just around the next corner, I experienced something that I have never seen before, or since, in my 17 years in the hospitality industry. Wife-zilla turned to me and screamed at the top of her lungs "I cannot walk another STEP! You find me a suite RIGHT HERE!!" And she SAT DOWN on the floor in the middle of the corridor, crossed her arms and legs, and pouted (fur coat still on).
I looked down at her in horror, and then looked up at Mr. COO, whose face had a similar expression. Very kindly and softly, he said, "Steve, we'll wait here, see what you can find that is a bit closer." Still stunned by what was happening, I sprinted back to the front desk, relayed the story to my team (none of whom believed that she was sitting on the floor in the hallway wearing a fur coat), and we scanned our computers, desperately looking for a creative solution.
The best solution we could come up with was 2 standard connecting rooms, which were in the general vicinity of where Wife-zilla was planted. My team ran to place the 6 ashtrays in the room, and I delivered the keys to the waiting couple. Luckily this was a one-night compromise that she could live with, and they entered the rooms without further incident. As the door closed behind them, I could hear her screaming inside the rooms, and I just turned and ran, hoping the monster would eventually tire and go to sleep.
About Steve Cokkinias
Steve Cokkinias is the Founder & CEO of InnSense Leadership (www.innsense.com) which he established in 2012 after a successful 17-year career in the hospitality industry that included senior positions with Ritz-Carlton, Westin, and Sheraton in the U.S.A, Caribbean, and Asia. An inspiring and sought-after speaker and executive coach, Steve has delivered energizing programs on service, leadership, and talent management to a wide range of international companies. During his 9 years as General Manager in Kuala Lumpur, his hotel was named "Best Employer in Malaysia" 4 times consecutively by Hewitt & Associates, earning him a place on Human Capital Asia's "Hot 40 - Asia's H.R. Superstars". In 2010, Steve was named Malaysia's "General Manager of the Year" by the Hospitality Asia Platinum Awards. His new book, "InnSanity - Leadership Lessons from a Lifetime in Luxury Lodging", is due for release in early 2013. Steve can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow Steve on Twitter: @stevecokkinias.
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