Douglas Fernandez, hotel manager of Amoy, a boutique outfit that beat behemoth hotel chains to snag TripAdvisor’s user-voted Best Service Hotel award for three years in a row, gives us the lowdown.
Q1: What secrets are there to getting an early check-in at a hotel?
None, unfortunately. If the hotel’s full, not even David Blaine can magically conjure a room for you. But if there are rooms available for guests who arrive before the stipulated check-in time, Amoy hotel manager Douglas Fernandez, 40, lets us in on a little “song-and-dance” ritual that his staff have, something to do with a little bit of “flair and finesse”.
He reveals: “They don’t just tell [early guests], ‘Your room is ready.’ Yes, the room may be ready, but the staff will say that they will run up to check if there’s a room ready. So they’ll take the lift or the stairs up, then come right back down and tell the guest, ‘Sir, the room is ready. I just checked!’ (Laughs) [This extra step leaves a greater impression] on the guest.
"But of course, sometimes the room really isn’t ready and the guest may need a place to shower after a long flight. If we don’t have a room available and we don’t want to send guests to the public area to freshen up, we’ll let guests use the facilities in the staff locker area, which is comparable to locker areas in some gyms. We don’t compromise on cleanliness, even in the staff area. It’s about finding alternatives rather than just saying no. It’s not the most ideal solution, but it’s a solution, nonetheless.”
Q2: I’d like some free wine so I’ve specified that it’s my birthday, even though it’s not. Will the hotel blow my cover?
Luckily, they won’t. But you may not get the free wine or cake either.
“Some people have told us beforehand that they’re celebrating their birthday, but when we see their passport [upon check-in], we realise it’s not their birthday. That’s when we don’t go ahead with [special arrangements like decorating the room]. It could’ve been a mistake, so we don’t want to [proceed] and make ourselves look silly.
"However, if guests indicate that it’s their anniversary, we take it at face value and do something special, like decorate the room with rose petals. Sometimes we don’t tell them about these special arrangements when they check in, and they may wonder if we did take note of it at all. But when we take them to the room and they see it for themselves, it’s a pleasant surprise and you get the full impact and reactions from the guest. Only then will they realise that we pre-planned everything and they’ll remember it. You remember a rollercoaster ride that’s full of emotions, rather than just a mundane bus ride, right? It’s the same thing.”
Q3: Some hotel staff greet guests by name. How on earth do they remember so many names?
“Even if our staff don’t remember the guests’ names, they remember the rooms by heart. So if they see a guest coming, they might greet them and then subtly check the name against the room number.
"For myself, I use word association to remember names. For example, if the guest’s name is Smith, I’ll associate it with an object like a lock. Like, locksmith. One time, one of the security staff greeted a guest by name, and the guest was so surprised he asked how he knew his name. Turns out he’d actually just saw his name on the luggage tag. Sometimes, it’s about being observant,” he opines.
Q4: There’s too much moisture in the air in my room. Can I request for a dehumidifier?
This is an actual request that Douglas received from a long-staying guest, who had multiple grouses about her room — everything from humidity levels in the room to drinks in the mini bar (which is complimentary at Amoy) Every. Other. Day.
“She came with a new set of challenges almost every day. From the get-go, she felt that the room had too much moisture in the air. So we went out to buy a dehumidifier for the room. It wasn’t cheap but she was staying with us for three weeks.
"Then, she wanted to bring her boyfriend to stay, even though she was in a single room. We made an exception for one night and shifted her to a double room. She also didn’t like the mineral water we supplied in the room and only wanted Evian, so we went out to get some and made sure it was replenished daily. But over time, she had less complaints and finally, she gave the team a big box of donuts before she left.”
AMOY is at 76 Telok Ayer St. For more info, go to http://www.theamoy.com.sg.