Steve Faulkner - Distinctive Magic
29 Feb


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This may sound like a rant, and I may sound like one of those complaining hotel guests that anybody working in the hospitality industry (including myself) dreads. But this is far from it. The following is not intended as a vehicle to vent my dissatisfaction, but just something to illustrate a very important point, which, in these times, is more vital than ever.


I have stayed in two hotels this week, and by coincidence, both have been in the same part of the country. I am sitting in the second of these as I write. This morning I find myself in a very rare situation; I have some time spare before leaving for another booking in these parts. Some time to work, practice and god forbid, exercise. As I was performing late last night, the hotel has very kindly given me a great rate and a late check out, which is a good job as the surrounding countryside (of which I am in the middle) is thick with snow. Anyway I am getting off the point.


This hotel is in stunning surroundings and the building itself is old, historic and beautiful. My room has one of those old, rustic exposed roof beams. I love them! The hotel I was in last week was lovely, but more modern, and the surroundings, even though very nice, were less breathtaking. For environment and first impressions, this one wins. But last night and this morning I began noticing some interesting details.


First was the room. Whilst lovely, there was no soap, shower gel, or remote for the TV. Fine, I had my own stuff and didn’t need the TV remote. Just something I noticed. A little later, before I was due to perform, I tried to order a meal. I was informed that the bar food had finished three minutes ago. When I asked if there was anything I could order at all, as there was nowhere nearby to get anything to eat, I was told ‘I dunno, you could ask someone’. I was under the impression that I was already doing so. I then found the manager and asked, very politely and with apology (I have a terribly british affliction of constantly apologising, and I hate myself for it),  if there was any way I could get something to eat. He gave me an exasperated look as if I had been naughty and said,


‘OK, if you need something, order something, but only a simple sandwich.’


I thanked him and ate my very simple sandwich, two hours later. I felt a bit awkward asking in the first place, I felt more awkward after I had asked.


I then began to notice how some of the staff were speaking to the guests. None were outwardly rude or offensive; they just seemed a bit pissed off with it all. As if the guest was asking just a little too much, whatever the request. This was even more apparent at breakfast. Two very nice ladies next to me had asked three times for their coffee, again politely, and then had to repeatedly ask for their ordered food. At this time the restaurant was quiet, with only three tables eating. On top of this the breakfast buffet was very basic and not replenished, resulting in guests having to ask for more eggs, fruit etc. (Stay with me here, I know I’m sounding like a grump but there is a point to all this).

I then went down to the gym (again a rare occasion) and all was good, but when I got into the changing rooms everything looked as though it was on its last legs. The locker doors were falling off, the walls had most of the paint peeling off them and the grouting around the showers was thick with black mould, everything had a very ‘cheap’ feel to it.

In the other hotel, the facilities were clean and maintained and the food was excellent. Nothing flash, just what you would expect from the room rate. The staff were smiling and seemed genuinely happy to accommodate. I didn’t feel guilty asking for anything. This was important, as with a two year old, you have to ask for rather a lot. Notice how much I have written about this place.

So what’s this got to do with anything? Well, back to the present establishment. After performing and whilst packing up, I noticed how the manager was speaking to his staff. Afterwards I found out that they were all exhausted, as the snow had caused mayhem. Many of them had stayed hours after their shift had ended; they were seemingly given no thanks and were still being talked down to like children. I even heard a very friendly waitress told that she must work later, as the night staff couldn’t get through the snow. When she accepted this she was, again, not thanked. I later discovered that she had worked until the last guest went to bed, at 3 am. She was serving breakfast this morning at 7. This was a classic case of poor leadership resulting in unhappy staff, which then resulted in unhappy guests, who had paid well over £250 per room.


After speaking to the staff last night and this morning, I was told that the hotel was struggling to stay in business in the current economic climate. The previous week, I had noticed that the other hotel was extremely busy. The point I am making is that the difference in these two hotels were the details, none of which would cost anything, or very little to rectify. A bit of care, a lick of paint and maybe a decent leadership course for key members of management. None of these things bothered me, I am very easy to please, but then again I was just working and needed somewhere to sleep. Some of the guests had saved up for months to spoil themselves, some of them were celebrating anniversaries and birthdays, and some were celebrating getting married. These were the people who deserved to feel that they had spent their money well.


Details. This is something many people seem to brush over. You go to a restaurant and eat good food,  and that’s what you want. You go and see a comedian and he/she is funny and that’s what you paid for. A magician shows you some trick and you don’t know how it’s done. Are all these things fulfilling their desired objective? Absolutely. However, I don’t believe that this is enough anymore. We can eat good food at hundreds of establishments, including our own home. We can see good comedy in any city or town, and again in our own home, and you can see a magician performing tricks to people at corporate events and restaurants across the country and sadly, all over YouTube. These days you can even find out how the trick is done if you are so inclined, again good old YouTube. So why do we continue to spend our increasingly precious pennies on these things. The answer of course is that we are buying an experience, and the ingredients that make the difference between a good and bad experience? The details. The look and feel of the venue, the friendly staff, the manner and presentation of the magician. The details should reinforce a positive experience. If anything causes someone to think anything other than happy thoughts, that is the memory that they may well leave with. I truly believe that the companies and individuals who are surviving this financial mess are those who understand the importance of the details.


One of the favourite quotes of the legendary magician Dai Vernon


‘Details make for perfection, but perfection is no detail.’ Michelangelo


Just a thought.





One response to “Details

  1. A smile costs very little but is probably the most valuable thing a person can own, eh??
    And that smile can be the difference between someone coming back for more or complaining by using their feet and walking out the door..

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