It was the best of times, and yet the worst of times so far on my European trip. I faced the simple spring of hospitality from a hotel and the winter coldness of another. My intuition tends to cry out to me especially when I doubt an upcoming hotel choice. Yesterday morning, I woke up and began re-researching where again I had booked my next night in Croatia. The complicated driving directions had me worried, along with the fact that the accommodation website had completely different pictures than the booking agent I used. Again, my intuition was in alert mood and I suppressed it.
I arrived to freezing Rovinj, Croatia, what is said to be the most photographed city in the country. Its beauty was clear upon arrival. I made my way through the pedestrian-only zone for my allotted 30 minutes to have a car, just to drop off baggage. I found my accommodations, but they had not found me. Several buzzes at the door went unanswered, a traveler’s worst nightmare when you are ready to check in and relax. Aimless waiting outside in the biting cold produced a few stares from locals. Finally I dug through my purse to find the phone number of the owner, only to get no answer. I was beginning to think I would have to find other accommodations in a mostly boarded up city for the winter. This should be interesting.
I went back down to the car to get warm and give my accommodations until 4PM to call. At 4PM on the button I received harsh phone call. The owner didn’t apologize and merely said she missed a call from this number. Who was it? (Obviously one of only two guests probably staying the night.) I explained how I had rang the bell and had been waiting for 45 minutes. She told me she had been there and to come to the house. Put off from her rude response and lack of apology for not being present, I pressed for an apology.
Lugging my luggage back up the stairs, I met the ill-present owner and still no apology. So I said, “I was beginning to think I would have to find other accommodations since you didn’t answer.” Her response, “Oh! It wasn’t that bad. You didn’t wait that long in the cold. I was helping another guest with their satellite TV.” As I stood probably with a gaping mouth, shocked by her response, she quickly hurried me up the death defying stairs, no wider than a pre-teen.
By the time I was in the room, I think she could sense my dismay. She said, “Ma’am don’t be mad. I apologize”. I explained how off-putting it was to have someone in the hospitality industry not apologize to a guest for literally leaving them out in the cold. I had arranged my arrival time beforehand so she knew when to expect me. Suddenly she seemed to turn the tables, making me feel as though I was wrong in speaking up. She basically told me I could leave and she wouldn’t charge for the night. I said I would think about it, now visibly upset. As I sat in the room for a few minutes, the cold set in. Even with full hat, scarf, coat and gloves, the temperature matched those outside. I was faced with sleeping miserably physically and mentally in a place I did not feel welcome.
An hour later, I left for a hotel down the road, one I booked just minutes prior. Before I could even reach for the door handle, a woman was opening it for me with a giant smile on her face. I had clearly interrupted her dinner, but she didn’t bat an eye. She was ready for me, even though I had just given them a surprise 6PM booking. Checking in was efficient and I made my way to my heat radiating room.
While dated and lacking the bells and whistles of the first accommodation, I realized what truly matters in accommodations for me: clean sheets, good WiFi, heat, and most importantly hospitality. It was truly the day of two types of accommodations, one with all of the stainless steel appliances, grand art illuminated on the walls and owner who had never heard of apologizing to guests, and the other, simple, dated and yet covered in kindness from every staff member I met.
What I discovered from this unsettling exchange is that travelers should speak up when they are wrongly treated. Inspiring Travelers have also stressed the need for travelers to speak up if there is a problem. If we sit back and let hoteliers treat us poorly, shell out our money for rudeness, we are only contributing to the problem.
And so my night in Rovinj, I went to bed hungry. Unsettled, I just wanted to get some sleep at 8PM. It was the best of times and the worst of times. I woke up to a new day, a day I was proud of standing up for myself and travelers across the globe.
Have you ever encountered such bad hospitality? Is it worth it to stand up for yourself or just avoid the confrontation when you travel?