(STAR) BUSINESS MATTERS (BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE) By Francis J. Kong - Let me tell you a horror story. It’s not about ghosts, gremlins or witches or politicians it is about the way a Malaysian businessman was treated in a “Five Star” hotel.

Let’s just call him Reggie. Reggie is a multi-millionaire in terms of Malaysian Ringgit I met many years ago and occasionally would visit the country for rest and recreation. Some months ago Reggie came and fell down the hotel’s slippery driveway. He broke his leg. Reggie says this is not the first time the accident happened for many people have “fallen down the similar path” before him yet you do not see safety warning signs or a re-design of this dangerous driveway.

The Ilocana and I visited Reggie to say hello. Reggie brought us to their executive lounge. The time was 5:45 p.m. Reggie motioned to the lady in charge of the place and ordered a whiskey soda. The lady said, “Sorry but we do not serve alcohol until it’s 6 p.m.” The entire place was empty except for the three of us. Reggie says, “That’s all right. Since it is just a few more minutes to go, please get me a whiskey soda.”

The lady never returned. Sent a junior male server over.

Reggie asked again, “I want to order a whiskey soda.”

The time was 5:50 p.m. The young man said, “I am sorry but we are not allowed to serve whiskey before 6 p.m.”

Visibly upset Reggie said, “Please give me my order, it’s just 10 minutes before 6 p.m.” This time the server frowned and said, “Sir, as much as I want to serve you, we are not allowed to do so until 6 p.m.”

I could feel tension. Reggie felt he was humiliated right in front of us because he could not get what he wanted. Reggie says, “It doesn’t make sense, I want a whiskey soda, it’s only a few minutes before 6 p.m., there is nobody here in this place but you do not want to serve me. I’ll make you a deal. You bring me my whiskey soda and I will drink after 6 p.m. how does that sound?”

At this point I whispered in the local dialect. Translated it would be “I would suggest you do something about this. He is a big customer of yours.”

I kid you not because I see the resentment filling up the face of this young man. Maybe he resented my advice. Maybe he was not feeling good that day. Maybe he has hemorrhoids but this young man frowned and said, “Sir, as I said, I would love to serve you but we are not allowed. And if other customers see what we do then they may want the same thing and we will all be in trouble.”

I looked around quickly. But we were the only people in the place.

Reggie looked at me and told me a principle I learned that day that was worth the money and the whiskey soda he wanted that never came. He said, “Some people just do not know how to use their common sense. Here I am, one of their most important customers and I happen to know the CEO of this hotel... I could easily tell him the way these people are treating me and they will get fired. “And then looking at me seriously he said, “Francis, you need to know one thing. THE REASON WHY I MAKE A LOT OF MONEY IS BECAUSE MANY PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE COMMON SENSE!”

When the staff overheard our conversation; because Reggie purposely talked in a loud voice so they could hear. The server reluctantly brought a glass of whiskey and soda and placed it on top of the table. No apologies, no smiles and that was it.

I thought it was the end of the drama but apparently it was not...

Reggie said, “See Francis? It’s not yet 6 p.m. Now that they heard my threats they serve me. But I am not even going to touch this drink. I will show these people that I was never interested in the whiskey soda as much as I was more interested in finding out whether they value me as their customer or not. And they failed the test. As long as I live, I will never give this hotel any of my business and I will tell all of my friends to do the same.”

I shook my head but I understood. The staff was never empowered to decide in situations like these. The staff was more afraid of violating company policies than having their valued customers leaving. I was glad because I learned a lesson from Reggie that day. “The reason why he makes a lot of money is because many people do not have common sense.” This Malaysian millionaire will never do business with this hotel and he will persuade all of his business friends to do the same. Isn’t this sad? Isn’t this horrible for business? Yet incidents like these happen all the time.

Here’s the lesson. Your fear of losing your job should not be bigger than your fear of losing your customers. They are the reason why you had a job in the first place. Now isn’t this common sense? 

(Francis Kong will do a repeat of his highly successful “Culture of Personal Excellence on Nov. 26, 2009 at the Garden Ballroom of EDSA Shangrila-Hotel. For further inquiries contact Inspire Leadership Consultancy Inc. 632-6872614 or 09178511115) 

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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