Emerald Events & Weddings

Brilliantly Green Events & Education, oh my!!!

Pity Nuts – Examining Customer Service in Emergency Situations

A few weeks ago, I was staying in a local DFW hotel attending a large craft beer festival.  On the second night of our stay, my husband & I had the scary experience of being trapped in a defective elevator with three other gentlemen a foot above the 15th floor for 90 minutes.   (Being claustrophobic and and scared of heights didn’t help the situation.)

To me, this was the ultimate secret shopper opportunity.  The staff didn’t know how much business I had brought to the Westin DFW or other Starwood chain hotels, I was just one of 5 customers trapped in a faulty elevator.  Had I been grading them, they would have recieved an F from me and the 4 gentlemen also stuck with me.  I have never been treated with that much disdain,double talk and ignorance in my entire life.  Which leads me to today’s top 5 list.


1) Always make sure your elevators are less than tip top shape – Situations happen.  I get that.  What I still have yet to understand is why our emergency call box didn’t work so we could notify the front desk of our situation.  We had to call down on cell phones to our friends waiting for the elevator, so they could notify the front desk that we were stuck.  Had we not had cell phones, I firmly believe we would have been stuck in that elevator all night.  Also make sure that you don’t post the last inspection date of the elevator in the elevator itself.  Keep that date a secret and never, ever tell anyone what the date was.

2) Make sure to show & tell the customer how little they mean to you – During the course of the ordeal, we were told by the night manager that the fire department couldn’t pry open the doors of the elevator because “the elevator was more important than getting us out”.  And true to his word, when we were finally released, after he gave us a once over, he immediately went to the elevator to check on it. 

3) Don’t communicate any night issues with the day staff – When we got up to leave the next morning, we had a message to please stop by the front desk, that there was something for us to pick up.  When we did that, the front desk representative looked at us like we were crazy, said there was nothing for us.  When we told her why there might be, she hadn’t heard anything about the elevator situation.  In order to finally get us to leave, she went to the back room and came back with a small box of nuts,  pushed them across the counter and announced that was what we were supposed to pick up.  If we would have known “pity nuts” was the reason Westin wanted us to stop by, we would have skipped it.

4) Always make sure the answer doesn’t match the severity of the problem – We were stuck for 90 minutes in a broken elevator with an unknown inspection date & a call box which didn’t work 15 stories above the ground.  I became closer with those strangers than I wanted to be.  We had even had to figure out where I would look while the men I had just met urinated because they couldn’t hold it any longer. Everytime someone moved, I thought we’d fall and die.  After we were freed I had a panic attack the likes of which I’ve never experienced.  To this day (5 weeks later) I have to steel myself to get on elevators & I have nightly panic attacks about being stuck again.

The night manager’s first offer of compensation was a bucket of complimentary beer.  When the gentlemen I’d been imprisoned with protested vehemently, he raised that to a complimentary stay for each couple.  Oh and don’t forget our “pity nuts” the next day.

Not believing that this was enough for our suffering and embarrassment, I pursued this with Starwood customer service and after 5 weeks, their final offer was 6000 Starwood points which they’d be happy to put into my account and was almost enought to purchase 1 night at one of their swankier hotels.  I turned them down.  They can keep their 2nd round of “Pity nuts”

5) Don’t ever know your customer – In the middle of my hysterical aftermath, there was a knock on the door. Room service had brought us a bucket of of Bud and Coors Light. My husband at first thought it was a joke.  Like I said we were there for a craft beer festival.  Offering Bud Light to a craft brewer is like giving a Kobe beef rancher a Mcdonald’s hamburger.   

So folks, remember by following these simple 5 rules, you ensure you will never meet Melissa, her corporate clients, her brides or anyone she ever has the pleasure of recommending hotels to again.  And if you ever need a shining example, just swing by the Westin DFW.  They’d be more than happy to show you how to do it……..

***We later found out had been “acting funny” for several hours & reported to the front desk previously, but that is another story altogether.


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