A few days ago I managed to make a woman angry. No, it was not a guest and yes, perhaps I could have handled the situation a little better, but perhaps she also over-reacted a bit.
Here's how it happened:
There's a knock at the door and I go to answer it. Two women are standing in the vestibule. I said "I see you missed the doorbell" and proceeded to point it out to them. A lot of people miss it, which is why we installed a knocker. With guests it's actually important that they know where it is, it's one of the ways to get a hold of us if they need us. We can't hear the knocker from the third floor where we live but there is a chime for the doorbell up there. Since I had never seen these ladies before I guess I could have skipped the doorbell lecture, but I actually thought at the time one of them might be checking in that day.
Anyway, one of the two ladies informs me that friends of hers will be staying with us beginning in two days and she has something she wants to drop off for us to put in the room for them. She then pulls a wrapped package out of her bag. I told her that I really didn't have any place to store it and could she please come back on the morning of the friends' arrival to drop it off. I thought I was fairly polite, but it's possible I was a bit short with her. She was clearly not happy at my lack of cooperation. She grumbled something about being on her way to the market to buy lettuce and not wanting to put wet lettuce in a bag with the wrapped gift. I got her a plastic bag in which to place the gift so it would stay dry and sent her on her way. I could see she wasn't happy when she left.
When she returned on the appointed day my husband answered the bell. I happened to walk by as she told him she was quite angry at the way she'd been treated by me and I did apologize to her, although I was in a hurry at that moment so I really don't know how well my apology was received.
After she left it was clear that my husband was furious with me. He saw no reason why I couldn't have taken the package and since we're in the "hospitality" business it is our job to go out of our way to be nice to people. He's not entirely wrong, but to what extent do we have to accommodate requests from non-guests? We really do bend over backwards to honor special requests from our guests; reheating leftovers for them, loaning a jacket for a whale-watch, providing a cutting board & knife to dress a fish they caught - all sorts of things that are unusual and out of our routine. But this woman was not our guest, nor were her friends currently staying with us.
My husband's point was that this lady is a local and she will probably not refer her friends to us in the future because I had refused her request and she had thought me rude.
Unfortunately, this lady was largely a victim of circumstance:
- I had no help on the day she dropped by, so I was busy;
- I was/am hot and overtired;
- I really did not want the responsibility for this package;
- I was concerned that I'd forget to put it in the room;
- the previous week we had received three fairly large boxes in advance of a guest's arrival and had stored those. In that case, the guest had contacted me in advance to ask if it was okay to have something shipped to her at our address and I had told her it was but please try to have the delivery timed for as close to her arrival as possible. The box arrived two days before she did, which isn't bad. I was, however, somewhat irked when the second two boxes showed up - from another store and via a different delivery method - later that day. I felt somewhat taken advantage of and clearly that was part of my reaction to this new request.
In my own defense, I typically do not allow the drop-off of items days before a guest arrives. We frequently have guests who are coming for weddings and often the bride drops by with bags of goodies for them; a few times they've tried to do so a day or two before arrival. I have always requested that they return on the day of arrival. We really do have very limited storage space. I made the exception for the above guest because she was arriving from Canada and wanted to have a birthday gift for her niece, who is living in town, delivered.
I could and should have handled this differently, but in what other business do people just assume you'll do this sort of thing? For example, if her friends had made a restaurant reservation for one night of their stay, do you suppose she would have thought it was okay to bring a package to the restaurant two days before the reservation and ask them to present it to the couple when they arrived for dinner? I doubt it.