Friday, February 22, 2008

My beef with Holiday Inn

I freely admit that although I’m now in my late thirties, I don’t yet know everything. I am always learning new things about my chosen profession of advertising and marketing and will probably never understand much about quantum mechanics or gardening. That said, I am fairly confident that I can tell the difference between lamb and beef. Through a combination of taste bud sensors, various neural connections and numerous dining experiences over the years, I could probably tell you the difference in a couple of chews.

Well, last night at the Holiday Inn in York, I ordered lamb. When it arrived, I asked for mint sauce, but I couldn’t quite wait for my waitress to return before starting to tuck in. Within two chews, I knew I was eating beef. An internal battle then started to rage between my natural reticence to complain and my understandable disappointment at the error.

The waitress arrived with the mint sauce and I explained the sorry story. She insisted that I had lamb on my plate. The chef was supposedly consulted. He confirmed that I was dining on finest l’agneau auberge des vacances. It was one of those bizarre complaint situations where someone is telling you that black is white and white is black. Or that beef is lamb and that beef is lamb. You begin to doubt your own senses. I smothered the very average beef in mint sauce and swallowed my pride.

I then felt motivated to fill out the questionnaire at the end of my overnight stay.

Why can’t they just ask simple questions like “Was everything alright?” or “Anything we could improve?” Instead, we get stuff like this: “How did your check-in experience with us compare with your best check-in experience?”

Excuse me? How did my check-in experience yesterday compare with my best check-in experience ever ever ever? You mean that time in Cardiff back in 2003 when they brought in a colliery band to serenade me as I picked up my key? What kind of a damn fool question is this?

On reflection, there was one rather interesting check-in experience I had in the early nineties. This was before I met Mrs W, so it’s ok. I received a postcard from a lady in Rome who claimed that we’d been in contact with one another on a visit I’d made to the city. Although I had indeed been to the Italian capital, I had no recollection of the correspondent. I wrote back to her and it transpired that she’d been a hotel receptionist who had encountered me at check-in. I thought it was all a bit odd, but put it to the back of my mind. The next thing I knew, she was on the phone saying she’d just arrived at Heathrow Airport. We met at a pub on the Chalk Farm Road and, believe me, this girl talked for Italy. I couldn’t get a word in edgeways. As you’d expect, I made ‘mi scusi’ noises and decided to scapa.

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