It takes two days — scratch that — two LONG days in the car to drive from Columbus, OH, to Dallas, TX. It wouldn’t take near as long if I was driving alone. Give me a 2-liter of Coke Zero, a big bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, and an adult diaper and I bet you a hundred dollars I could make it in one day. For some reason I couldn’t get my wife and kids to go for the adult diaper idea no matter how fun I made it sound.
So after two LONG days in the car, stopping at about a dozen of the most God-forsaken truck stops on the planet, and sleeping in what is hands-down the nastiest motel in Tennessee, we finally dragged ourselves into our very nice, newly renovated 3.5 star hotel in the big D.
I’m sure we looked and smelled like a bunch of street orphans. Maybe that’s why the girl behind the reception desk didn’t look up as we approached. I cleared my throat to get her attention. She did look up, but only briefly, then dropped her eyes right back to her computer.
I gave her my name and politely told her we had a reservation. Without looking up, she simply stated:
“I’ll need a credit card and your driver’s license.”
Maybe I was just tired, or maybe I had inhaled too many diesel fumes at all those truck stops, because at that point in the process I did something a bit uncharacteristic for me. I got a little snippy. I took a step back, and exclaimed (maybe a little too loudly):
“What???? Where’s the ‘Welcome to the Doubletree Hotel, Henson family! We’re so glad you’re here! Thank you for driving 1000 miles just to stay with us!'”
I still feel bad (only a little) for the look on her face. It told me that she knew. She knew she missed that low-hanging opportunity to make a big impression and create a warm welcome for me and my ragamuffin family.
She paused for a moment, then did her best to recover:
“I do have something SPECIAL for you,” she said with as much cheerfulness as she could muster given her recent spanking.
She reached under the desk, grabbed four small bags and handed them to me. Inside each bag was a warm Doubletree signature chocolate chip cookie. Now, I won’t go so far as to say I choose to stay at Doubletree hotels just for those cookies, but man, those are crazy good cookies.
And even those mouth-watering bits of deliciousness didn’t offset the lack of true welcome we were really craving.
Make no mistake, we scarfed those cookies like cavemen, leaving chocolate and crumbs all over our faces and not caring one little bit.
But the lesson here (and I hope we all learn it) is that connection is more important than cookies.
Don’t ever let your gimmicks, prizes, or processes (no matter how yummy they are) replace what your customers, teammates, and family truly desire — the simple act of you looking them in the eye and saying “Welcome! I’m glad you’re here.”