by Samantha Bartlett

Holiday tidbits

Weird, wacky hotel requests

The interior of the imperial Taj Hotel, Cape Town
JJS_1250.jpg

Most hotel staff could write books about the strange side of human nature they come across at work, but since discretion is the watchword, none of those experiences are ever likely to see the light of day – except on the Protea Hospitality Group’s annual list of weird and wonderful guest requests submitted anonymously by staff from their 125 properties all over Africa!

The list of things guests ask for is topped by a handful of pretty standard requests such as cellphone chargers, toothbrushes, razors, extra blankets or more pillows.

But bedding is also where the walk on the wild side begins, with one executive travelling alone asking for the white cotton duvet cover on his king-size bed to be replaced with a Ben 10 duvet cover. 

Sticking to the decor theme, a hotel general manager in KwaZulu-Natal tells of a guest who insisted on being moved to another room because she did not like the colour of the walls, while a hotel in Gauteng had the sticky task of dealing with a severely vertically challenged guest throwing an almighty tantrum at Reception because the king-size bed in his room was not of extra-length. 

We all know that it is not the easiest thing to fall asleep in strange surroundings, but few adults are in need of a lullaby – unless they are Sheldon Cooper of The Big Bang Theory fame. But that is exactly what a rooms division manager in Gauteng had to do, when a burly guest insisted that being sung to was the only sure cure for his insomnia.

And strangely, he was right!

Singing a lullaby is small fry compared to the Cape Town general manager who had to go out to a mall at 8pm, searching for a goldfish for a guest who insisted she would never get to sleep unless she could watch swimming fish.

Food is another area where things can move into the twilight zone. Hotels are used to dealing with guest allergies and intolerances, but few are equipped for odd requests – such as the Eastern Cape chef who had to make a delicacy out of goat's meat for a guest who would not eat anything else, or another guest in the Western Cape who sent back his room service soft-boiled eggs five times, until the chef finally figured out the man would only eat eggs with speckled shells.

And while it is not uncommon for airlines to misplace luggage, the fallout can sometimes give hotels big headaches. One guest relations manager in Cape Town had the unenviable task of finding a ballgown for a guest at 9pm on a Sunday night, when her luggage went AWOL somewhere between the United States and South Africa.

That is nothing, though, compared to the poor receptionist – also in Cape Town – who had to go hunting for a pair of size-12 stilettos for a Priscilla Queen of the Desert guest who was due on stage in two hours, and the airline had lost his shoe bag!

The requests that probably take the cake, though, include the executive who called down to the reception of his Bloemfontein hotel one night, demanding a fortune teller be sent to his room to help him make a decision about a multimillion-rand deal, and another in Johannesburg who wandered down to reception in his birthday suit, asking for someone to go out and buy him tighty-whities.

Protea Hospitality Group marketing and advertising manager, Nicholas Barenblatt, says that what may be outrageous behaviour to most people, hotel staff will generally take in their stride.

“After you’ve been asked by a businessman to check his cupboard for monsters, not much is going to surprise you.

“Nine times out of 10, we will be able to fulfil these requests because it’s that level of extraordinary service that makes our hotels unique. Sometimes we can be defeated by acts of God or airlines – but if you ask a general manager to find a tiara, chances are you’ll get one,” he says.

“We do draw the line at animals, though. No good is ever going to come out of a request for a monkey or a rooster; and donkeys are most definitely a no-no!”

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