Journal of a 77 Year Old Gay Man Coming In For the Final Landing

Posts tagged ‘hotel work’

Why I Work at a Hotel

Hampton Inn Team 1This is my 20th year working as a hotel front desk clerk.

I didn’t plan a career in the hospitality industry. When I graduated from high school I decided to join the Army and get that three year obligation out of the way.

After my discharge from the Army in January of 1963 I moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The reason I moved to Pittsburgh instead of my hometown of Downingtown at the other end of the state of Pennsylvania was that I wanted to come out as gay. A friend of mine from the service, Sal DeRosa, had ended his enlistment in the Air Force. We were both stationed at Fort George G. Meade, Maryland.

When I moved to Pittsburgh I needed a job. I got a job through an employment agency with the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel in the Golden Triangle.  My job was as a night auditor.  My pay was $250 a month, payable on the 15th and 31st each month.

The night auditor job was easy. I went into work at 11 PM and we left when we settled our restaurants.  There were five of us, all guys. Don Meanor was the supervisor.  I also worked with Fred Hunt and two other guys whose names I cannot remember. Fred had just left the Army too a few months before me.  We weren’t stationed together though.

The Pittsburgh Hilton had five restaurants. Each of us got the stack of waitress checks that we had to check the math and then enter the totals on the old fashion green bar columnar pads. This was in 1963, when Lotus and Excel were just a twinkle in some programming geek’s eye.

I only worked at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel for three months.  I was lonely and freaked out by the gay scene in Pittsburgh, a rich subject for many future blog postings.

I quit my job, having never seen the front desk of the Pittsburgh Hilton hotel. We worked in the bowels of the basement.

Returning to my hometown of Downingtown I got a job as an accounts payable clerk at Lipsett Steel Products, Inc of Coatesville, PA. My pay was $80 a week. A much better pay than I was making at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel.

I worked at Lipsett Steel Products for two years until I quit to move in with my present partner/husband Bill Kelly. I had secured a job at Girard Bank in Philadelphia, PA through my friend Ron Hampton.  Sal and Ron were my best friends at Fort Meade.

The next twenty-two years I worked at Girard Bank which was taken over by Mellon Bank of Pittsburgh in 1982. In 1986, during a downsizing, I lost my job at Mellon Bank. I was fortunate in that I secured another job immediately with Fidelity Bank of Philadelphia, right up Broad Street from Mellon Bank.

The next seven years I worked at Fidelity Bank which was take over by First Fidelity Bank of Newark, New Jersey.

April 1st of 1994 I quit my banking job at First Fidelity Bank. I had a job opportunity with Sun Bank of Atlanta Georgia. I was going to drastically change my life. Unfortunately, after interviewing for the job at Sun Bank, I was turned down. My friend and former co-worker Ellen Powell had arranged the interview for me. Later I was told I was asking for too much money.

That summer I was unemployed. I eventually got a job as a gardener on a businesswoman’s estate at $8.45 an hour. Not a huge amount of money nor a livable wage but I was bringing some money in while I was living off of my savings and 401K.

Then fate stepped in and a job opportunity opened up at Downingtown National Bank. They were looking for a trust operations supervisor. That was exactly the job I had for twenty-two years at Girard Bank then Mellon Bank. I interviewed for the job and got it.

For the next four years I worked at Downingtown National Bank. I loved my job. Things were going on fine until there was a change in management.  I lost my job. I will not go into the details at this time (it is a long and ugly story). I was again unemployed.

I applied for unemployment. After being first turned down I eventually was granted unemployment benefits. After collecting unemployment for three weeks, I became bored. I saw an ad for a night auditor at a nearby Hampton Inn. I applied for the job, knowing it was an easy job, I was hired. Much to my surprise I found out that the night auditor position had changed drastically from my first night auditor job in 1963. I wasn’t adding up restaurant checks. The Hampton Inn didn’t have in-house restaurants. I would have to stay the whole eight hours. From 11 pm at night until 7 am in the morning. I was the weekend night auditor.  It was rough working all night into the morning. I was paid $9.00 an hour, an extra dollar an hour because I had experience.

After several months a job opportunity opened at another Downingtown bank, the First Financial Bank. I began working both jobs, part-time, for the next four years. I would begin work at the bank at 8 am in the morning.  I would leave an hour early, 4 pm to work at the hotel from 4 pm to 11 pm at night.  The bank let me leave an hour early and the hotel let be arrive an hour later.  I worked almost every day in the week, weekends included, for the next four years.

Then I had a disagreement with the assistant manager of the Hampton Inn and I quit my job. For a short while I worked at the nearby Marriott Residence Inn, Then I decided to move lock stock and barrel to Delaware. I could no longer afford to pay Pennsylvania taxes. I moved to Delaware because my best friend from my Army days, Bob McCamley lived in Sussex County, Delaware and I wanted to escape the high taxes of Pennsylvania. I could only afford to live in Pennsylvania since I lost my high paying bank jobs because my Mother was giving me and my brothers $10,000 a year. She could no longer give me and my brothers that annual tax free gift distribution.

For the first three months of living in Delaware I became bored again so I went looking for another part-time job. Of course a hotel job made sense. I applied at a dozen hotels in the Rehoboth Beach/Lewes area. None would even interview me.  I suspect they wanted young girls working the front desk, not an old geezer like me. Dejected, the last hotel I applied  was the hotel where I am working now, The owner of the hotel happened to be sitting at the manager’s desk.  He interviewed me right away. Two days later the manager called and told me I was hired. That was April 2007. I’ve been working at this hotel ever since.

I’ve often been asked how long I will work at the hotel.  My answer is always the same, I will work until I can no longer function as a competent front desk clerk/agent.

I’m working tonight. I love the interaction with the guests. I love providing a good experience for them and most of the guests appreciate my efforts. It’s a win win situation for all of us.

Someday when I leave hotel work I will write about my experiences as a hotel front desk clerk. I don’t write about those experiences now because of confidentiality and I don’t want to embarrass any of the guests. But folks, I have stories to tell. Oh do I ever. Someday, maybe.

 

“Thank You”

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Sometimes a simple, sincere “Thank you” is the best part about working. 

 

As regular readers of this blog know I work parttime, two night a week at a small hotel in downtown Lewes, Delaware.  In my previous life, I worked as a trust operations manager at a major Philadelphia bank.  Since retiring ten years ago I began working parttime as a hotel front desk clerk. 

 

Those of you who work with the public know that it can sometimes be frustrating.  Sometimes I wonder “Why am I doing this?”  Yet there are other times like this evening when I knew exactly why I am working in the customer service/hospitality business.  It is because my nature is to serve and please. 

 

The way a stand up comedian get reinforcement by the laughter from his audience from a joke he tells or an actor receives applause, I get my reinforcement from a guest who looks me in the eye and says “Thank you very much Ron.”  Why it’s almost as nice as a raise.  (“Almost”, I said.  I’ll still take the raise.)

 

This afternoon when I came in on my shift at 3 p.m. I got a call from room 304.  The guest told me she didn’t have any glasses in her room.  I apologized for the oversight and told her I would take two glasses to her room right away.  She also asked if she could have “some milk or half and half” for her coffee.  I told her I would also take that up to her.

 

A few minutes later I knocked on her door.  After what seemed like an interminable length of time, she opened the door.  I handed the tray to her with the two glasses and the covered stryofoam cup of half and half.  I told her it was “half and half.”  She said “Whatever.”  Uh oh.

 

When I returned to the front desk I asked my co-worker “Is there a problem with 304?” (we usually refer to our guests by their room number – hotel talk).  He said “She’s not happy with her room.”  I said “What’s the matter with her room?”  He said “She doesn’t like the view, she wants a clearer view of the water.” Note:  Our hotel is located next to the Lewes-Rehoboth Canal and not all rooms have an unobsturcted view of the water/canal.

 

These guests were staying four nights and we are full this weekend (The Lewes Car Show) so I couldn’t offer them another room.

 

Later on, as I was passing through the lobby, I saw the couple sitting in the lobby reading newspapers.  I asked them if they had dinner and how was it.  The lady put down her newspaper, slowly looked up at me and said “It was fine and thank  you very much for asking.”  She seemed somewhat surprised that I even asked her.

 

I went back to my front desk and noticed that a room with a better view was available the next three days.   I offered the room to her (at no increase in cost, the room is more expensive because it is on the top floor with the best views and a king sized bed).  She looked at me again and for the first time I saw a smile come to her face like the morning rising sun.  She said “What is your name?”  I told her “Ron.”  She said “You know Ron, you’re the first person since we’ve checked in here that has shown an interest in our situation.  You’re the first person who cares. I thank you for that.”

 

I was a bit taken aback by the unexpected compliment and momentarily at a loss for words.  After all, this is my job to take care of our guests and to make sure they have a pleasant experience during their stay at our hotel. 

 

I thanked her.  I told her that I operate on the theory that I treat the hotel guests the way I would like to be treated when I am a hotel guest.  To me this is a no brainer.  She said “You are the exception.  Most people in the customer service world don’t seem to care.”  I told her that I’ve experienced the same thing. I also told her that when I did receive good customer service, it was a rarity instead of the rule. 

 

She was reluctant to move to a differnt room because they were already settled into their room.  I offered to have one of our staff move their things to the new room with the better view.  Her eyes perked up at my suggestiong.  She said she would get back to me after she asked her husband. 

 

A few minutes later she called down to the front desk and said “Yes, we will move.”  I said “Good! I’ll take care of everything.” 

 

About fifteen minutes later I heard the elevator bell ring as it opened it doors on the first floor.  The same guest I was just talking too exited the elevator with a smile on her face.  She said “I just happened to look out our window and saw that my car light were on.  I’m glad I looked out.  There is a God!” 

 

She turned off her car lights and came back in the door by the front desk.  She looked at me, again with that same smile on her face and said “Thank you for everything Ron and have a good night.” 

 

And that folks is why I work.