GHG Postbag – September 2021

‘We like the place very much. Tea in the courtyard with a pianist playing songs from the 1930s has been a delight. It has always seemed expensive, but of late prices seem to us to be well over the top. Recently two fish cakes plus veg cost £26 and yesterday a pot of tea for two cost £10.50. A howl of protest was met with the riposte that a refill was complimentary. I know that hotels have had a hard time, and I sympathize with their owners, but to my mind this is too much.’

‘The owner welcomed us and showed us the room. All good so far. In the morning I tried to have a shower but when I turned the knob nothing happened, I turned it this way and that using no more force than was necessary to turn a tap but it did nothing. I told the owner when we went down to breakfast and he came to look, ‘It’s been broken’ he said. It’s been forced the wrong way’. I was silent as I couldn’t quite believe he was blaming me. When we checked out I asked if he would consider giving a slight reduction in the bill as we had been unable to shower in the morning. He then became angry and said I was lucky he was not going to charge me for the cost of replacing the tap. I insisted I had done nothing wrong, merely tried to turn the shower on in the normal way. He wouldn’t have it and said I had obviously broken it. At this point he was getting very cross and had raised his voice and was standing quite close to me in a threatening manner. I have never experienced this sort of behaviour from anyone in a hotel before, it is really reminiscent of Basil Faulty, but without the laughs. I sincerely hope I never have to speak to this ghastly man again.’

‘I’m sure you know that credit card companies make their money in one of two ways, by charging the customer interest when the whole bill is not settled and by charging the merchant commission. Therefore if a tip or service charge is levied on a bill paid by credit card, a percentage of this is going to the credit card company and not to the staff who have given the service. We have taken to tipping either by using debit cards or leaving the cash on the table. We are not always able to offer a tip when staying in a hotel.’ Catherine Held

‘100% of service charge revenue goes to staff to increase their wages. Some may say why not pay them more in the first place? The answer from me would be that I would love to but sadly the margins in running a business such as ours have got so tight in recent years due to growing and additional operating costs that the bottom line will not stand it. The next question might be why don’t we just put up prices to cover staff pay rises? We all know that this is a competitive industry and that there are accepted rates that vary depending where in the country you are based. The rates we charge customers are also fixed whereas a service charge can be removed by the customer if they do not feel it has been earnt. Surely a fairer way to ask customers for more money. I also agree how a service charge removes the sometimes tricky decision making process on how much to tip at the end of a meal. We go out to relax and enjoy ourselves, not to analyse staff performance and calculate due reward. We are still undecided on the topic but when a fellow hotelier tells me that his pot-washed gets an extra three grand a year from his share of the service charge and few customers ask for it to be removed from their bill then it is hard to argue against. It also makes recruiting of staff difficult if you can’t match the earnings of hotels and restaurants that run a service charge scheme in this way. Thomas Robinson, Headlam Hall.