I don’t know how to handle this Management question and need guidance.
THE WOODWARD HOTEL
After walking the 16 blocks across town from the Woodward Hotel to the Port Authority bus station, Doug Devoto always looked forward to the half hour’s bus ride to Montclair, New Jersey. The ride home was a time to unwind and reflect upon his day. As his bus entered the Lincoln tunnel, Doug’s mind returned to Louisa’s comment to him on leaving work, “I wonder what Dan will do after all of us GSMs talk to him about Shoshana?”
The Woodward was a 115-room, European boutique style hotel located in Manhattan (New York City) on West 55th Street between the Avenue of the Americas (6th) and 7th Avenues. The Woodward was centrally located—quite close to the theater district, Radio City Music Hall, Central Park, and much of New York’s fine shopping and restaurants. There were three types of rooms. Most were bed-sitting rooms with marble baths. Standard amenities included a color TV, refrigerator, microwave, dinnerware, hairdryer, and a safe. Suites had in addition a separate dressing room and a comfortably furnished living room. On the top two floors of the hotel were spacious, multiroom penthouses each with a Jacuzzi, fax machine, and two or three TVs in addition to the hotel’s usual amenities. A continental breakfast room, a small business center, and a few conference rooms shared the hotel’s second floor with the hotel management offices. On the street floor a small lounge flanked the lobby on one side, with the front desk, concierge, bell stand, and luggage room on the other side with reservations, PBX, and auditing behind the front desk.
The Woodward was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Sabo. Mr. Sabo had also acted as the hotel’s general manager until 10 years ago when he hired Dan Kerwin as the GM. The Sabos lived in one of the penthouses. Both were 79 years old and increasingly infirm. Mr. Sabo had a hunched back and walked very slowly with the aid of a cane. Mrs. Sabo always walked with her arm linked through her husband’s. Mr. Sabo continued to take an active interest in the hotel. He reviewed occupancy and reservations data sheets daily, met with Kerwin daily, and often walked around and chatted with hotel staff. Mr. Sabo repeatedly stated in conversations with guests, staff, and friends that staff “conviviality” was the most important thing about his hotel. He stressed the importance of friendly relationships between guests and employees but especially between employees. One of Mr. Sabo’s standard comments to new employees was, “You have a lot of very nice people here to learn from and enjoy yourself with. Everybody gets along with everybody else. You never have to worry about anyone being nasty here.”
DOUG JOINS THE WOODWARD
Doug remembered exactly how his employment had happened. It was on June 20, a Wednesday, when he had decided to seek a summer job in the hospitality industry. While he had had opportunities to return to prior summer jobs, life guarding and pizza delivery, since he was going out of state to enter a college hospitality program it just made sense to work in the industry. Sharing this decision with his parents at dinner, Doug’s mother had said, “I have a connection with a hotel in the city. Should I give him a call?” That very evening Mrs. Devoto had called Mr. Sabo and asked if Doug could work at the Woodward that summer. In a minute Mr. Sabo had said yes, and that Doug was to call him in two days. That Friday Doug had called Mr. Sabo and thanked him for the opportunity to work at the Woodward at which point the Woodward’s president told him, “You are very welcome. Just come to the Woodward on July 4th in proper attire—dark blue slacks, a white dress shirt, and brown dress shoes. You will be given the hotel’s tie on arrival. Ask for Mr. Kerwin, my general manager.”
At seven o’clock in the morning on July 4, Doug entered the two heavy bronze-edged front doors, crossed to the front desk, gave his name, and asked to see the manager. One minute after being informed of Doug’s arrival by telephone, Mr. Kerwin showed up at the front desk. “Welcome to the Woodward,” he said to Doug, “I’m glad to have you with us.” To Doug’s surprise he was neither interviewed nor asked to fill out a job application. Instead Mr. Kerwin took Doug on a 30-minute tour of the hotel, mostly of the guest rooms, where he explained that Doug should be familiar with the room types and their amenities in order to accurately describe them to guests over the phone. Next, Mr. Kerwin introduced Doug to most of the office employees and all of the front desk staff on duty. Doug noticed that Mr. Kerwin knew everyone’s name.
After touring the hotel and meeting employees, Doug was eager to start working. His first job was to be in reservations after which he would go to the front desk. Betty Cruz, the head reservationist, was to train him until he was ready for the front desk, where he would have direct contact with guests and have many tasks to accomplish in a short period of time. Before starting his training that morning, Betty had Doug complete a few administrative tasks that included filling out an application and requesting a copy of his birth certificate and passport. Doug’s starting wage was $10 per hour, the most he had ever been paid.
To get acquainted with Doug, Betty conversed with him for 20 minutes. She insisted that he call her Betty. Doug learned that this Dominican woman with a Spanish accent had two children and a husband. Betty also revealed that she was trying to lose weight and had starting eating a healthier diet.
During the three days that he trained with Betty, Doug learned the reservation computer system in order to understand how to make, modify, and cancel the various types of reservations. He also learned the proper protocol for answering the telephone and communicating with guests making reservations. There was an order to asking for certain pieces of information from a caller that allowed for a more timely and efficient method of typing the reservation into the computer. The reservationist asked the caller what dates he or she was interested in and then how he or she had heard about the hotel. This allowed the reservationist to first check the computerized date book to see if rooms were available and then to fill in a survey question dealing with referral sources. After these two steps were completed, the main reservation screen on the computer showed up automatically and the remainder of the reservation information could be typed in. Lastly, he was taught the functions of the internal phone system, which included transfers, holds, and wakeup calls.
THE FRONT DESK
For each of the next two mornings Betty would send Doug up for a free breakfast in the continental breakfast room when he arrived. In the afternoon, she asked repeatedly if he was hungry, and made jokes about his voracious appetite. At the end of the three-day training session, Doug had felt pretty competent as a reservationist. He really liked Betty and was reluctant to leave her department.
On his fourth day at work, Betty took Doug to the front desk manager’s office to begin his training as a “GSM,” or Guest Service Manager, a title that, as Doug would soon learn, meant he had to do many things beyond the usual front desk clerk. Doug’s new manager was Louisa Legaspi, a five-foot tall Thai woman in her thirties. From the beginning Louisa always made sure Doug had a good grasp on what he was learning. When it took him longer than she expected to learn a task, she would say, “Come on, you should know this by now.” She frequently talked about her husband and reminisced about past group social events of the hotel employees. She also joked a lot, for example, about how Doug stepped on her shoes and crushed her toes, which he did more than once by accident.
Even though Mr. Kerwin had stated that Doug was Louisa’s trainee, the other GSMs helped him almost as much as she did. Anthony Guerro, Larami Lapitan, and David Hurt were the other GSMs on the day shift who helped Doug learn the GSM position.
At the front desk, Doug learned a variety of operations. He learned how to check guests in and out; handle complaints; take calls from rooms; sign temporary visitors in and out; and coordinate with maintenance, housekeeping, and the bell stand. He also learned the surrounding area well because many calls required directions and questions about location. One common phrase he was taught was, “We are very centrally located five minutes from the theater district, Radio City Music Hall, and Central Park.” At the end of each shift, GSMs also checked housekeeping reports and balanced out credit card charges.
During Doug’s second day at the front desk, he met the concierge, Shoshana, who had been with the hotel for over 10 years. Her desk was at the end of the front desk. She was an Israeli woman of about 45 years of age, overweight, and who breathed heavily while she spoke. Most guests liked her because she got requested tour and theater tickets and restaurant reservations on time and better than average seats for most events. Many guests even asked for her by name over the telephone. She received numerous gift baskets from guests as tokens of appreciation for meeting and exceeding their requests. Doug overheard guests describe Shoshana as a “life saver” or a “miracle worker.”
One morning, during his second week at the front desk, Mr. Sabo took Doug to the continental breakfast room. Over a long breakfast Mr. Sabo showed Doug the data sheets he reviewed daily and explained what he was looking for, “because you’ll be doing this someday after you graduate.” As they parted, Mr. Sabo gave Doug his staff conviviality speech, ending with, “If ever anyone isn’t helpful, just tell me.”
THINGS ARE NOT QUITE WHAT THEY SEEM
During his first three weeks at the Woodward, Doug knew that he had learned a lot! Betty and Louisa had set a fast pace to be sure but also gave him a lot of attention. The GSMs Doug worked with had been extremely helpful too, and he noticed, always helped each other and were always friendly too. Doug told his parents one evening that Mr. Sabo’s climate of conviviality was “the real thing.”
Two days later Doug was left alone at the front desk. Only the bell captain and the concierge were in the lobby. A guest approached Doug and requested him to change a hundred dollar bill. As he had yet to earn a key to the bank drawer, Doug explained to the guest that he needed a moment to find someone with a key. Doug walked over to Shoshana and asked her if she would make change for him. Shoshana looked at Doug, sighed loudly, and said nothing. Doug repeated his request. Shoshana shouted, “I can’t help you. I don’t do bank stuff for GSMs.” Doug was taken aback. Overhearing Shoshana, Samra, a reservationist who had just come out to the front desk to look for something, quickly said to Shoshana, “He is new here and you must help him. Don’t just tell him you won’t do anything for him!” The guest stared with her mouth open. Samra, who had a key to a bank drawer in the back room, then assisted the guest. As Samra left the public area, Shoshana said, loud enough for Doug to overhear, “That little skirt. I can’t stand her. I’ve hated her since day one.”
In the days following, Doug listened more carefully to how his front desk colleagues talked about the concierge. Mostly they complained to one another about how Shoshana would take a smoke break outside the hotel every 45 or 50 minutes, during which her phone lines sometimes backed up with four or five callers either on hold at the same time or forced to leave messages. Doug heard other things, too. Tony Guerro often spoke negatively about Shoshana, for example, once saying, “That greedy bitch.” David Hurt said to Doug one day, “She can be a very nasty lady so I just do my best to stay clear of her.” Even Louisa told of the day that Shoshana had made her cry.
As the concierge, Shoshana was entitled to a commission on the tickets she sold. On her days off the GSM who substituted for her received the commission for any tickets sold. On one of her days off, she gave Anthony Guerro a list of bus tour prices to use to sell tickets. He misplaced it and had to search Shoshana’s desk for another price list, which he found. The same day around three o’clock in the afternoon, he also found the original list that she had given him. He noticed that the prices on the list found in her desk were much higher. He examined this list and, with the help of other GSMs, determined that it had been altered by computer from the original list sent out by the bus tour company. The altered list overstated prices by about 25 percent. All of the GSMs on duty at the time unanimously concluded that Shoshana was ripping off customers in order to gain a higher commission.
Over the next couple of days, most of the conversations among the day shift GSMs were about Shoshana, her fraudulent tour list and mostly their negative feelings about her. While Doug did not actually hear who first suggested it, the GSMs had finally talked about informing Mr. Kerwin as a group.
WHAT TO DO
The more Doug thought about the Shoshana situation and what the GSMs seemed to be planning, the more his stomach tightened. What if the GSMs expected him to join them? What could happen? What might it mean for him? As his bus came into Montclair, Doug was only sure of one thing—he’d have to decide what to do very carefully.
Read the following: The Woodward Hotel. (pgs. 270-273)
2. Read the case carefully. In an essay, answer the following:
3. Make recommendations to Doug. Be sure to support your recommendations with specifics and plausible outcomes.
4. Submissions will be graded against the “Writing Expectations” rubric posted in our online classroom as well as the strength of strategic recommendations.
5. Apply APA formatting (title page, introduction, in-text citations, concluding paragraph, headings, and reference page).