The Return of Basil Fawlty.
(the picture has nothing to do with the text, by the way, it is a view over the new land, seen from the roof of my new house).
I have just thrown out some tourists. They didn’t even get the chance to move in to their room. This is of course unusual behaviour on behalf of an hotelier, especially since it is low season and there is not a soul at the hotel.
The tourists were booked in by a Malian travel agency –let’s call it TB- with which I have had recurring trouble. They take months to pay their bills; they book the whole hotel then they don’t turn up and they don’t reply to emails or return phone calls. In other words they are impossible to deal with. I finally cancelled all their bookings. They also have another annoying characteristic: they don’t listen to anything they are told. Therefore they took no heed of my ban and the other week they emailed me again quite cheerfully as if nothing had ever happened and wanted to reserve two rooms for two nights (today and tomorrow). I made the mistake of saying OK, fine, as long as the rooms were paid by a bank transfer before the arrival of the guests, that would be the only way I was prepared to do business with them in the future.
Two days later they emailed me to inform
me (!) that one of the rooms would be what the French call a gratuité
, which means a free-bee for the tour leader. I wrote back and said (forgetting that irony is lost on Africans): ‘ just let me get this absolutely straight, you are telling me that you want to book two rooms only, and that one of these rooms is supposed to be given for free???’
They wrote back and said that yes, I had understood perfectly.
I told them to get lost.
I said I had informed them on several occasions that I don’t even want to work with them anymore! If they want the rooms they will pay for them. No money=no rooms.
Last night there was a phone call from the European tour leader booked in by TB. She also had the nerve to inform me that one of the two rooms would be a free-bee! My mind boggled. ‘Madame’, I said firmly but still quite calmly, I made it quite clear to the agency TB that there were not to be any free-bees! Just tell me one reason why I am supposed to give you a room for free? You bring me exactly two people, and you think that warrants a free room??’
‘But perhaps next year I will bring you lots of people!’ said the tour leader.
‘Yes, that is a possibility', I replied. 'And when that day comes and we know each other a little better, perhaps I will indeed give you a free room. For now however, our relationship has not developed to that level yet and tomorrow if you want to stay at the Djenne Djenno you will pay for your room!'
Just to let you know, I am not always so hard- nosed. There are stray teen agers arriving sometimes with rucksacks who cannot afford to stay here. They are tired and hungry and cute and young and I have been known to put them up for days for a pittance in the best room we have. But I thoroughly object to people arriving and believing the have some sort of Divine right to stay here for free!!
Well, this afternoon they arrived. I greeted them myself and told the two hotel guests to have a seat, then I motioned to the tour leader to follow me behind the reception area for a private talk. ‘You do understand that you will be paying for the two rooms?’ I enquired. And to my utter amazement the woman said, ‘no I want my room to be for free, as we discussed over the phone’! I made a last effort to calm down and said: ‘Madame, if you are going to a market and you see two apples that you want you say Yes please I will have those apples. You ask how much they cost and then you pay, don’ you? You won’t say I will take two apples but I will only pay for one, now WILL YOU??? ‘ This reasoning made no impression and she continued insisting that she had the right to have a free room!
Ladies and gentlemen, I lost it. I screamed: ‘No XXXXing way, are you retarded or something???!!’ She started screaming at me and I continued screamed back. I told her I had never in my four and a half year as a hotelier come across anything like it. I called the clients and told them that I was very sorry that they had to suffer for this, but I had no choice but to ask them all to leave. I wished them a pleasant stay in Djenne and said good day.
They left, either for the Maafir or the Campement, who knows? and indeed who cares.
Then, about an hour later, there was an SMS message on the hotel phone from the Tour Leader asking my forgiveness!!! I sent her a message saying OK fine, I accept her apologies. Then later, as I was riding Maobi towards the sunset, there was another message: could they come and eat here tonight? I said, OK fine, no problem! So as I am writing this they are actually having dinner in the garden! I ate early, then escaped to chez moi,
not feeling in the mood for polite chit-chat. I left instructions with Maman to greet them and to offer the three of them a drink on the house to show there are no hard feelings….