King for a day

I love the boat show. I love it because it’s my job to go; I love it because, well, I’m a boater, and I’m always looking for my next boat.

But this year, I left the show with a bittersweet taste in my mouth. See, I fell in love with a boat at the show, and during the 15 or 20 minutes that I drooled all over this boat, not a single sales rep acknowledged my interest.

Maybe I had a sign on my back that read, “There’s no way this guy’s wife will let him buy a $41,000 Skeeter,” or maybe I just didn’t look like a serious buyer, but it made me wonder what a guy has to do to get some information on a new boat at a boat show. I stood there in disbelief, looking around the booth for someone to acknowledge my presence, and no one even looked in my direction. It’s hard to believe, considering this boat was the featured product in this dealer’s booth, and there was little traffic at the time.

The next day, I took my wife on a birthday celebration to a resort in Montana. What a difference a day makes. In stark contrast to my boat show experience, I was treated like a king at the resort, my wife, a queen. And this wasn’t just any ol’ resort either. In my honest assessment, we didn’t belong there. It’s an incredibly exclusive resort, and I was a guest of a member – a peasant among the filthy rich.

Upon arrival, we were greeted with flowers and a note. Then the caretaker, who left the flowers, checked in to introduce himself and provide any assistance we might need. He knew our names and that it was my wife’s birthday. At dinner that evening, we were greeted with free valet parking. The guys opened the door for my wife and wouldn’t accept a tip. At the restaurant, we were greeted promptly by Daryl, who made an effort to get to know us in the minute or two it took to seat us. And when his bus boy dropped a glass on an empty chair at our table, both Daryl and Sarah, the waitress, came running over to help him – and make sure we were OK.

Then there was Charlie, one of the executives of the resort, who came over to introduce himself. He remembered my wife’s sister, her occupation and her hometown despite the fact that she hadn’t been there for nearly a year.

When my wife excused herself for a minute, a different employee swooped in and refolded her napkin, placing it neatly on her seat back. And when we left for the evening, there was a card on top of the steering column that read, “We hope you enjoyed your dinner,” signed, “The Valet.”

What an experience. When someone says customer service, this is what they’re talking about. I mean, there I was, a lowly magazine editor, a guy who couldn’t get the attention of a boat dealer, being treated – and feeling – like a celebrity. Aside from showing up, I didn’t do anything to deserve the treatment. But I guess that’s what we should expect from the service industry — an eager and willing recipient of consumers’ discretionary income.

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