“Paperless check in?” The guest in front of me at the reception desk asked, “How does that even work?”
“Well,” I answered, “You tell me your name, I check if it is on my list for today. If it is, I will give you a key and you’re off!”
“No need for a credit card?” he asked.
“Oh no, that would need paper and this is a paperless hotel. Environment and all that you know.”
“Sounds good to me. The name is Jameson.”
“Well Mr. Jameson, today is your lucky day, you are right here on my screen. Here is your room card, room 104. Have a great stay Sir.” I smiled a great big smile, (an ear to ear smile as a matter of fact).
He took the card and off he went. I started counting. I barely got to one hundred and he was back.
“No sheets, pillows or comforter,” he stated matter of factly.
“Correct,” I replied.
“Can I know why?” he asked.
“Sure, it’s a budget hotel. You want sheets, pillows, comforters, you pay extra.” I replied.
“That’s crazy, this is a hotel,” he exlaimed.
“Budget hotel,” I corrected him softly, “On a plane all you get is the seat. We have more legroom here, and the privacy is free. You get your own toilet too, a big plus, and you don’t have to wait in line to use it.”
He signed for the sheets, pillow and comforter.
“Please send someone to make up my bed.”
“Please sign below your signature again, on the dotted line,” I instructed.
“Another few greenbacks to make your bed, and a small processing charge to achieve your wishes Sir.”
I could see that he was on the verge of breaking down now, sweating profusely. Damn near heart attack level. Between a breakdown and attack mode actually. I backed away slightly……out of range of flying fists.
He disappeared into the elevator and I waited for his call, I knew it would come. This is a first
timer at our budget hotel, he doesn’t know how it works. He thought he was on to a real deal, cheap night for a few bucks, you know the drill.
The telephone rang.
“Front desk Mr. Jameson, how may I be of service?”
“The TV does not work.”
“Sure it does Sir. Look for the coin box behind the set. Feed it a few dollars and you’ll have a crystal clear picture.”
“ I have to pay for television also?”
“Don’t want to sound like a broken record, but budget hotel Sir.”
I heard the telephone being slammed down. We’re used to that by now, most phones have cracks in them. After all, we’ve been open for a few weeks already. I made a note to send maintenance to stick it together again the next day.
I spotted a returning customer coming through the doors. You can always tell a returning customer. They enter with a big suitcase. Sheets, pillows, pillowcases, duvet and towels crammed inside.
I had the sheet ready for him to sign.
“Hello Mr. Johnson, welcome back, please sign the ‘brought my own bed linen’ sheet for the very reasonable rate of $7.50.”
“Raised it again? It was only $4 a couple of months ago!”
“We have to eat Sir. It’s only the bread Sir, not the butter.”
The phone shrilled on the desk.
“Yes Mr. Jameson, what can I do for you Sir?”
The cold water is running well, but no hot water at all.”
“Got some coins left? The hot water coin box is to be found under the sink. I can change a twenty for you if you would like to come down Sir.”
“But I am naked.”
“For a $10 charge I can send help up to you Sir, and in no time at all you’ll be under the relaxing monsoon showerhead Sir.”
“Send him up please,” he sounded defeated.
“It’s a she actually Sir, and please be decent when she knocks, no need for a tip.”
The sound of breaking plastic reverberated around me in the reception area. I grimaced and turned to smile at Mr. Johnson.
“New customer huh?” he stated.
“I broke three phones until I got used to the standard operating procedures here you know.” He said informatively.
“Actually five Sir, it says so here on my screen.”
“Well, I’ll be on my way to the room,” he said, jingling the pocketful of coins in his pocket before I could ask, “got all I need for a good hot shower and half an hour of TV.”
A while later a refreshed looking Mr. Jameson made another appearance at the front desk.
“The dining room?” he enquired politely, but I could detect an undercurrent of animosity in his words. “Down that corridor, the second door on the right Sir.”
“Thank you,” he answered, again politely.
He disappeared but was back in a jiffy.
“There is no dining room!”
“Well, not in the exact sense of the word Sir. Budget hotel Sir. But you can choose the dish that appeals to you, feed the coins to the machine, take it out and warm it up in the microwave. The use of the microwave is free Sir.”
His face became red with rage. I retreated to the safe room behind the desk and monitored the situation through the small porthole in the door.
The designers had thought of everything. I picked up the PA system mike and tried to calm Jameson.
“I only work here Mr. Jameson, and I cannot change anything. I cannot even give you a discount Sir, only sympathy. I am programmed to do that Sir. I am a robot.”