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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited
Room 222 – the room from hell
Jim Harrington consults and speaks on quality and business performance worldwide. The author of many books, he is widely regarded as one of the foremost business and management "gurus" in the world today.
I am sitting in room 222 of Hotel GDDDD in Budapest. It is a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon around 3 p.m. and the temperature is well above normal. I am looking out through double French doors at the Danube River. With the sun shining it seems to have regained its beautiful blue color. Boats are gliding up and down the river with residents and tourists alike standing on decks, snapping pictures of what has to be one of the most beautiful and picturesque cities anyplace in the world.
The street in front of my room is alive with excitement. Cars weave in and out to get someplace a little faster than the one beside them. The electric trams come quickly to a stop as they turn the sharp bend by the side of the hotel. It is Sunday and business can wait another day before anyone will worry about it.
The GDDDD Hotel is the magnificent queen that reigns over the other hotels in Budapest. The aristocracy has, for the last 100 years, sought out this hotel for its splendor and its mineral baths. Its pools are a work of art with shimmering tiles, glimmering water, and tasteful decorations. The magnificence of the hotel impresses you at every turn. As you get off the elevator, you face a giant stairway framed by a magnificent stained glass window that would be the pride of any cathedral. As I got off the elevator, the morning sun was shining through the glass, causing red, yellow, blue, and green shafts of lights that criss-cross the hallway and dance on the opposite walls. How could the Sheraton, Hilton, and Hyatt ever compete with this regal lady?
We all know the story about the frog that was transformed into a prince when kissed by a princess. Well, this is the story of the queen that turned into a toad. At midnight, I dropped into bed exhausted. Between midnight and 3 a.m., I woke up out of my sleep five times as a squealing, high-pitched noise penetrated every corner of my room. From 3 a.m. on, I was unable to get back to sleep. The sound came from those same picturesque electrical trams slamming on their brakes as they turned the sharp corner to come to a stop. This shrill piercing sound occurred about every three to five minutes and lasted for about 15 seconds.
I tried stuffing toilet paper into my ears, but that did not work. I put the other pillow over my ears, with no success. I took my pillow and went to sleep in the bathtub, with the bathroom door closed.
That kept the sound out, but the bathtub was much too small for my huge frame. The high-frequency sound was going to haunt me all night. At about 6 a.m. I gave up and went in to take a shower. I unwrapped a very carefully boxed and paper-wrapped bar of soap designed like a flying saucer, about two inches in diameter and about a quarter of an inch thick in the center, tapering to a feathered outside circumference. It was designed to fly and it did. It flew out of my hands many times, sending me on a frantic hunt to find it as I tried to take my shower. There were also two packets of the same type of substance, two yellow and two blue. I assumed one of them was shampoo, but the writing on them was so small that I could not tell if they were shampoo or body lotion. I don't know about you, but I do not take my glasses when I take a shower.
As I checked out at 8 a.m., I asked to talk to the manager. I carefully explained my problem and he immediately agreed to put me in another room. I explained that I had already taken care of that by checking out. He replied, "People have complained about the noise in room 222 before, but didn't you enjoy the view?" I also suggested that he rent the room out as a viewing room, not as a place to sleep. I suggested that he spend one night in the room and then let me know if he thinks something needs to be done.
Room 222 was 2 noisy, 2 small; 2 bad I stayed there.
What can we learn from this example as individuals interested in quality?
Outside show may attract customers, but it will not keep them.
Every organization must walk in the shoes of their customers.
They must personally live the experiences that their customers undergo. They must design their processes so that the extremes, not the averages, are accommodated.
I am finishing this article five days after I left the room from hell. I am now in a small lodge in Nevsehir, Turkey called Katadokya Lodge. It is 35 F outside and there is an electric wall heater about three feet away from me blowing hot air on my bed. It feels so good after being outside, the bed is firm, and the staff is friendly. I am paying less than 35 percent of what I paid for my room in Budapest. It is 11.30 p.m. and I have not heard a sound, not even a door closing, in the last two hours. Boy, I am going to fall asleep so EASZ-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-L Y.