This post is a work of fiction in which a very unique guest tests a hotel's capabilities.
Nicolas admired the poster hanging by his office wall. It read:
Wherever there is a hotel, there is an opportunity for kindness.
The original quote was attributed to Seneca. "I'm sure he wouldn't mind my alteration, as it's for a good cause obviously.", Nicolas re-assured himself.
He walked over to the main reception of the Giant Coral Resort. It was 1:00 in the afternoon, and nobody was there. The receptionist on duty had called in sick for the day, and nobody else was able, and willing, to take that shift. So as the general manager, it fell on Nicolas to handle the check-ins.
Nicolas reviewed the printed run sheet for the 4th time that morning. All seem to be in order. He double checked the property management system, in case there were any last-minute additions, or cancellations. Nope, the list remains the same.
His attention was inextricably drawn to one person on the list. She goes by the name "Ms Venera".
She had called the day before confirming her reservation. It would be the 2nd time that she would be staying. "Please make sure that the room is exactly the one in the photo this time.", she admonished the hotel. "I do not want a repeat of the last incident."
The memory caused Nicolas' heart-rate to jump. Three months ago, Ms. Venera arrived armed with a printed photo of the room she booked. Those photos were taken years ago, and though the room was very similar, the curtains were of a slightly different fabric; the chair had been replaced and there were several other small changes.
She would have none of it. So the staff spent a few hours re-creating the old photo. They came close, and Ms. Venera agreed to use the room "provisionally", and at a discount of course.
This was one of the 2 dozen paragraphs that Ms. Venera posted in her post-stay novella-of-a review. To be fair, if you carefully read that manuscript, she did mention a few good things about "the effort of a handful of staff". And for her other comments, one could argue that it can only help the hotel improve further. At least that's what Nicolas convinced himself of.
Presently, Nicolas reviewed the room and the matching photo at least thrice. "Looks even better in person, maybe I will charge her extra this time", he had joked to the exhausted housekeeper, Benny.
"We shall turn her into an avid fan." Nicolas tried to cheer his nervous teammate.
Jared had been shuttling guests from the airport to the Giant Coral Resort for over a decade. He knows the routine like the back of his small hands. He stood by the arrival area holding up a sign for Ms. Venera.
He had never been more nervous. His palms were sweating. He was sure that he was more nervous now than when his wife was delivering their first child.
He checked the time. Any minute now the guest will arrive, he will drive her to the hotel and he will have to survive the 45 minute soul-piercing interrogation along the way.
He checked the phone, no messages. When he looked up, Ms. Venera was towering over him. Jared dropped the phone in shock. He managed a whimper as the device shattered on the concrete.
Ms. Venera did not avert her gaze, nor make any sound.
Jared remembered to breathe, paused and tried to recite the line he practiced: "Hi!!.. I mean hello, Ms. Venera, it is my pleasure... I mean, it is so pleasure... to see you... to transport you... again".
Ms. Venera exhaled with displeasure and gave a curt nod and a quarter-smile.
"This way... Let me help you.. please with your luggage". Jared picked up the broken phone and deferentially made a move to take her 36" large suitcase.
For a split-second he contemplated asking for a moment to call the hotel. He was supposed to let Nicolas know that they are on their way. Well, never mind that, it's every man for himself now.
"They should be on their way by now", Nicolas muttered. "The plane arrived on time. That should help make a good first impression."
He tried calling Jared again. The subscriber cannot be reached.
Before Nicolas can start worrying, a young couple walked into the lobby. It was Mr. and Mrs. Chen from the adjacent resort who was transferring to the Giant Coral that day.
"Mr. and Mrs. Chen! How are you today?", Nicolas greeted with just a hint of unease.
"Hello Nicolas, we'd like to check-in now if it's okay.", said Mr. Chen.
Nicolas gave the briefest of pauses, there's no way that he is leaving his post when Ms. Venera might arrive any minute.
"Oh, I thought you mentioned late afternoon, so we scheduled your room for extra cleaning. Just to give that extra freshness. Would you mind coming back later?"
"Oh that's fine. We'll just hang around here, no worries." Mr. Chen replied cheerfully.
"Oh, alright. I'll call housekeeping to get your room ready as soon as possible."
Nicolas gestured cordially to the lounge overlooking the beach. He then took their luggages and deposited them at the back room of the reception. When he re-emerged, his jaw dropped in panic.
Mr. Chen was standing by the foyer entrance, chain smoking a cigarette.