Friday, October 17, 2008

On human frailty and error.
This charming little chap seems ill equipped to tackle the major road works he is advertising I thought as we went to Mopti today to stock the bar. This set me thinking about human frailty and error; in particular two recent bad mistakes at the hotel. One of these clangers was committed by myself, unfortunately without even the slightest possibility of shifting the blame on to someone else. The other was committed yesterday by Papa the Chef.
Let’s get my own blunder over and done with first. A travel agent from Burkina Faso made a reservation in August on behalf of a Spanish Tour operator for 3 rooms on the 2nd of September. The 2nd of September came and went. No Spaniards. An email correspondence ensued with the Burkina Faso agent apologizing profusely: he had meant 3 rooms on the 2nd of November. Ok, no problem, I replied. Then I proceeded to write down 2 rooms on the 3rd of November.
Two days ago the Burkina agent phoned up to reconfirm his booking of 3 rooms on the 2nd of November.
OOOOCH! As my mistake dawned on me I saw the impossibility of changing the date: The 2nd of November has been fully booked since May by one of my very best clients who has taken the whole hotel. There is of course not even the remotest chance of moving this group.
So I rang around the other Djenne hotels to find alternative accommodation. No chance. Every hotel is full. One possibility remained: a new hotel is about to open behind Djenne Djenno: the Dar es Salam, at the moment with fans only but the owner assured me that my 6 Spaniards would be well looked after. So I got back to the Burkina agent with two options: either they could stay in the Dar es Salaam on the 2nd , come to Djenne Djenno on the 2nd for complimentary sunset cocktails. I would personally write to them and explain that it was my fault and not the fault of the agent.
The second possibility was to keep the reservation I made and come on the 3rd after all.
These possibilities were sniffed at as insufficient and unacceptable. The Spanish Tour Operator now entered the fray personally. Or rather, the Spanish Armada was brought out in Full Sail.
‘The clients refuse to negotiate’ the Spanish Tour Operator informed me haughtily. They want Hotel Djenne Djenno or nothing, and what is more, they want Hotel Djenne Djenno on the date specified in their programme, otherwise they are going to cancel their whole trip, which they are entitled to do according to Spanish law. This would all be my fault, and there was an implied threat that I would be personally liable for any of the tour operator’s loss of earnings.
This all seemed a trifle exaggerated as a reaction. I blamed the Spanish Flamenco Temperament, while feeling quietly flattered that a stay in Hotel Djenne Djenno could arouse such emotion. I did nothing.

In the evening the Spanish Tour Operator called, somewhat calmer. I apologized again, of course, and reiterated the two possibilities available. They finally went for the first: they will stay at the Dar es Salaam, I will greet them personally and fuss over them, and I have decided to invite them for dinner too.


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