“I never forgot how kind this hotel was to us”

Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock
Kimberly Palmer/Shutterstock

I’m researching an article about hotel cancellation policies for the Washington Post, but one of the stories shared by a reader resonated with me so much that I just had to pass it along. It’s another heartwarming, almost too-good-to-be-true tale of customer service.

Last winter, Lauren Staley and her husband were driving from Colorado back to California, where they live. They’d planned to spend the night at the halfway point, in Elko, Nev. But they never made it.

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“A huge snowstorm caught us unaware,” she remembers. “We ended up stopped on the Salt Flats [in Utah] for several hours due to an accident, and by the time we got moving again the sun had gone down and the roads were completely iced over.”

The hour was late and they still had almost 200 miles to their hotel, America’s Best Value Gold Country Inn & Casino.

“I called the hotel to let them know we weren’t going to make it and had fully expected them to charge us,” she says.

And with good reason: Its cancellation policy is crystal-clear. “If reservation [is] not cancelled by 6PM day of arrival and guest does not show then 1 night will be charged,” it says on the hotel’s website.

“But the desk agent not only cancelled our reservation without penalty,” says Staley. “But the agent also helped us to rebook a reservation at another hotel — not of their chain — very close to where we were stuck.”

“I never forgot how kind this hotel was to us,” she adds.

Staley is no stranger to the hospitality industry. She’s worked at the front desk for several hotels, and she understands it’s a business, not a charity, and that the policies are there for a reason. All of which makes America’s Best’s actions even more meaningful to her and her family.

The Staleys repaid that kindness by becoming repeat customers. “We made a point of staying with them and thanking them the next time we passed through,” she says.

What impressed me the most about her story — and the reason they’re this week’s recipient of the Elliott Award for Excellent Customer Service — is that the hotel didn’t have to do anything for the Staleys, but it did anyway. The folks at America’s Best didn’t have any Ritz-Carlton customer service training, they don’t have a stuffy employee manual that says they’re “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” — and yet they did the decent and right thing.

Next time I’m in Elko, I know where I’m staying.

Note: This feature is going on hiatus, but will return in a few weeks in a new format and in a new home. Please continue sending me your stories of excellent customer service. Here’s my email address.

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