The Hotel That Humility Built

It was a dark and stormy night. An older couple came into a small hotel in Philadelphia. The older gentleman said, “Would you have a room for the night?”

The young friendly and smiling clerk looked at the couple and explained, “There are three conventions in town. I’m sorry, but all of our rooms are taken. It’s 1am, and the weather is terrible outside. I can’t send a nice couple like you out in these elements. Would you be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night.”

First the couple declined replying, “Where are you going to sleep, young man, if you give your room to us?”

“Oh, I am young and healthy and can sleep at the reception area. I will be just fine,”

The older couple accepted the young clerk’s offer and stayed “the night in his personal room.”

The older (and well rested) gentleman offered the young clerk a reward before leaving the hotel as an expression of his gratitude.

“Please don’t embarrass me with an offer of money for my room. I didn’t give you my room expecting any monetary compensation. I just wanted to help you.”

The older gentleman was really touched by the young man’s compassion and said, “Finding people who are both friendly and helpful is rare these days. You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”

The young clerk looked at the couple and smiled. As the older couple drove away they agreed that the helpful clerk was exceptional.

The young man had been promoted to manager of his hotel, yet still remained in contact with this couple, and after two years had passed he opened his mail to find a train ticket to New York, and an invitation for himself and a guest to attend a grand inaugural function.

The young hotel manager traveled to New York and was welcomed by his host, the older gentleman he had helped two years before. His host took him to the corner of fifth avenue and 34th street and pointed to a beautiful new palace like structure built of reddish stone, 16 stories high.

“That,”said the older gentleman, William Waldorf Astor, “is the hotel I built for you to manage.”

“You must be joking.” replied the shocked innkeeper.

“I assure you I am not.”

George C. Boldt, the former young clerk, accepted the offer and became the Manager of the Waldorf-Astoria.

The Waldorf Astoria Hotelwas the first luxury hotel complete with electricity, private bathrooms amenities and service. If you’ve ever been fortunate enough to stay at a Waldorf, you realize that the Waldorf Astoria symbolizes elegance and grace. It is much more than a room. It is an experience.

George Boldt was compassionate, kind, and selfless to others. He played at a higher level than was required, and the payoff was making a difference in the world to the person he had the opportunity to help.

The Gold Standard of Customer Experience at Hotels:

George Boldt was committed to setting the gold standard of hospitality at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. He imparted legendary levels of humility and grace to his staff of nearly 1000 people, which motivated them to follow his example. Boldt built the blueprints of today’s growing luxury hotel industry.

The Impact

1) By his leadership example he modeled and trained his staff to be helpful, kind, compassionate, to create an extraordinary customer experience. “The customer was always right!”)

2) He introduced room service

3) His senior staff inspected the lobby around-the-clock to keep the area tidy and inviting for his guests.

4) He insisted that all guests must have fresh flowers and a copy of the day’s newspaper in their rooms.

5) At the Waldorf Astoria Hotel restaurant, the food was delicious and impeccably served.

George C. Boldt was committed to making the Waldorf so comfortable that guests will never go to another place.

For over 100 years the Waldorf Astoria symbolized elegance and grace. He was the manager for 23 years until his death in 1916.

He also made sure that his legacy extended well beyond the time he was at the Waldorf. George C Boldt sympathized with an eager students whose only impediment to higher education was a lack of funds. During his life George C. Boldt helped put at least 75 young men through college, doing this anonymously.

George C Boldt “also assisted those in business who were having financial difficulties and told employees at his hotels if they were having monetary problems, his door was always open to them.”

He also donated to “Cornell University, the American Red Cross”, many local hospitals and built a library at Alexandria Bay, New York.”

Anne Frank said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.”

Zig Ziglar, “When you encourage others, you in the process are encouraged because you’re making a commitment and difference in that person’s life. Encouragement really does make a difference.”

What can you do to improve customer loyalty at your business?

What will your legacy be and who will you help?

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