A Pig in a Dress… is Still a Pig!

Leadership is authentic. You can’t fake it, folks.

So, I recently attended my niece’s wedding in San Antonio. Since we frequently travel there to spend time on the Riverwalk, I thought this a wonderful opportunity to evaluate a new hotel for future stays.

Enter The Hotel Contessa.

Lots of staff, all looking like they were in the right places. Classy decor, reasonably upscale. All-suites, and the one we had — a “King” suite — was quite nice.

For all appearances, this was the real deal.

The Hotel Contessa, however, suffered from a problem. In Texas, we have this phrase (ok, in Texas we have a lot of ‘phrases,’ but I’m just using one):

All hat and no cattle.

Looked good, had all the appearances of the “real deal;” I’ll even go as far as to say that, for the price, it wasn’t a complete disaster. They simply failed to execute. In every way, when given the opportunity to have delivery (service) match their appearance, they failed miserably. Time and time again.

Realize that there were many, many instances over the 2+ days we were there. I’m only sharing a few here for examples.

They promised my sister that the wedding party could check in PRIOR to their absurdly late 4:PM check-in time. When pressed, they stated that “someone made a mistake — we cannot promise anyone an early check-in.” This ridiculous travesty went on for 30 minutes, until finally they just gave in and gave them the rooms. That’s right… they had the rooms available for early check-in; they simply wanted my sister to know that they couldn’t promise anything!

No less than a half-dozen staffers opening the doors and welcoming people; my sister, hands full with wedding “stuff,” slips and falls on the steps. They watch, but do not move a muscle. My sister collects herself, and moves toward the door. Courteously opening the door, the nearest bellman says, “be careful, the steps can be slippery.”

Ya think??

When I checked in, I needed the front desk to break a $20 bill. The guy (Tommy) says, “I’m sorry, I can’t make change.” WHAT? “Yes,” he says, “I don’t have access to cash. Perhaps you can go over there and ask a bellman.” I needed the change FOR the bellman, and had no intention of walking anywhere to get it. I exclaimed how surely some people still actually use cash, and perhaps he should find a manager.

Manager comes over, takes my $20 bill, opens a cash drawer and makes change. Complete with “have a nice day!”

Sunday morning, we’re running late (I have a wife, remember?), so I call the operator to get a late check out. I say, “I’ll need a late check-out, say, until 12:30.” Guy says, sorry, 12:00 is best he can do. I respond, “whatever, but I’ll be here until 12:30.” He asks me to hold… a manager comes on the line, repeats my request to me, taps a few computer keys, and says, “There you are, sir. All set!”

No execution. No one, save a few poorly positioned managers, seemed capable of making even rudimentary customer service decisions.

Did I even mention the part about the newlyweds reaching their room around midnight, to discover they had twin double beds?? Don’t get me started again…

Great looking hotel, lots of dinero spent on staff, money leaking out like a drain because of the real, obvious, lack of leadership authenticity.

All hat and no cattle.

Now, no, this isn’t turning into a travel review site (I give the Contessa one of four stars); I merely wanted to demonstrate how leadership must be applied — it must be authentic — to make a difference. Otherwise, it’s just an act.

And not a very good one.



Kevin Berchelmann

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