Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Lincoln would be embarassed.

I have just returned home from a conference on complex systems at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana. The conference was great; the hotel at which I stayed was terrible, and I warn everyone to stay away.

The hotel is called the “Historic Lincoln Hotel.” When I arrived at the airport Sunday evening, I should have know there was a problem I asked the person at the information desk about getting from the airport to the hotel. She volunteered that since the hotel has been taken over by new management, it has gone downhill. As it turns out, she was quite right. (The Historic Lincoln web site says that "Jay Bhaghavan Inc., purchased the hotel in July 2001." I believe that this is the new owner that the airport person was referring to.) Since I had a reservation, I decided to chance it. It was my mistake. Management was arrogant, and the staff was poorly trained and ignorant. Here is one example.

I called the hotel from the airport to find out the best way to get there. (The information person let me use the airport phone for this. I was generally positively impressed with Champagne-Urbana. It has a very pleasant small-town feeling about it.)

The clerk at the hotel told me he had no idea where the airport was. Since the entire Champagne-Urbana area is very small it’s hard to believe that anyone would not know where the airport was. It’s even more surprising that a hotel would allow a clerk to be on duty in the evening and not know where the airport is.

The clerk finally told that it didn’t matter; the hotel had a policy of reimbursing guests for transportation to and from the airport. He told me just to take a cab, which I did.

The next morning I asked for my reimbursement. (It was an $8 cab ride, to which I added a $2 tip. This really is a small town.) The Monday morning clerk told me she was too busy to deal with it and that I should come back later.

I returned Tuesday morning. This time the clerk told me that she couldn’t give me my $10 back until checking with management—and that I should come back later.

Tuesday night, the clerk told me that he had no instructions to give me $10 and that I should try again Wednesday morning.

I checked out Wednesday morning, as planned. The clerk told me that she still had no instructions from management about my reimbursement and that I should come back later.

I actually went to the trouble to come back at lunch time to see what would happen next. As one might expect, I was told that management had still not responded. But I was in luck, the manager was eating her lunch in her office and would be willing to talk to me.

After about a 15 minute wait, the manager deigned to come out to the lobby to see me. She told me that it wasn’t her fault that she hadn’t responded. Perhaps the clerk hadn’t asked the question correctly. I wasn’t quite sure where the communication breakdown occurred.

The manager asked me if I had a receipt from the cab company. I said that I didn’t but that the Sunday night clerk would vouch for my story. It didn’t matter.

As the discussion ensued, it turned out that a receipt wouldn’t have mattered anyway because I used the wrong taxi company. The clerk didn’t tell me which taxi company to use, so I use the one recommended by the airport information person. It turns out that this was the wrong one and that the hotel provides reimbursement for only a specific taxi company.

I suggested that the hotel was not treating me, its guest, very intelligently and that the $10 it was saving would probably not make up for the future business it was losing. I hope that anyone reading this will help make my prediction of a loss of future business come true.

1 comment:

Taliesin said...

My wife and I held our wedding reception at the Historic Lincoln Hotel back on June 12, 2004, and I have to say that Jay Bhaghavan is a complete and total jacka$$. The wedding reception planner wrote down the things he promised us, but the "manager", Jay, still tried to screw us over at every turn. Our gourmet dinner turned into cafeteria food, with no reimbursement from him, only the reassurance that the meal was of the "highest quality" because he was back in the kitchen helping to make it. During the wedding recption, he came down and grabbed me off the dance floor to come up and pay my bill -- talk about unprofessional! And he tried to charge us for something like 20 bottles of champagne that we didn't ask for and were never even opened! Fortunanely, our reception was still fantastic and our guests never knew the extent of the pain we went through in our dealings with him.

I was ecstatic to learn just today that the hotel is under new management after the bank repossessed, so good riddance to Jay Bhaghavan -- may he never run a business again!