Why Do Hotels Not Eat Their Own Dog Food?

I travel a lot so I stay in many hotels. When I make a reservation, I ask for either a stall shower or a shower with a grab bar, or a roll-in shower. Since I’m not disabled, I like to leave the roll-in shower for the guests who actually are disabled. But I do need the extra assistance for getting in an out of the shower.

I’m at another conference this week. I did what I always do: I explained what I needed in a room, and the reservation person said, as they always do, “No problem.”

Well, I arrived at the hotel, and there was a problem. There was no disabled room available, with a roll-in shower. At first, the front desk gentleman offered me one normal room on the 12th floor for sleeping and one room with a disabled shower on the 14th floor for showering. Yes, go ahead and wrap your head around that one.

“How am I supposed to get to the 14th floor in my nightshirt? I’m supposed to bring my toiletries with me? In my bare feet? And when I’m done showering, I’m supposed to come back down the elevator two floors naked and wet?”

I looked at the front desk guy as if he was crazy. He said, “I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do. I can put a roll-a-bed in the parlor room with the roll-in shower. But we’re full. We have no disabled rooms.”

I was ready to cry. I had reconfirmed my room. I had explained my preferences. I had done what I was supposed to do. Here I was, at the hotel, after a flight with a very large person taking over most of a row (yes, that’s another story), and now I think I have to choose between sleeping and showering?

Luckily, this is a Westin, where they have people. The bellman had my suitcase and took me up to the 12th floor, where, surprise, they have a grab-bar in the shower. No problem. I can sleep there and shower there. All is well.

But the real question is this: Why does the front desk person not know what is in the shower? When was the last time the front desk person was even in a room? Why is the front desk person not eating the hotel’s “dog food?” (This is a software industry term,  meaning use your own product.)

When you use your own product, you see, feel, taste, experience what it is like for someone else. You know the good, the bad, the ugly. You see the reality of it.

If you don’t use your own product, you have no idea. You are caught up in the fantasy of “we are wonderful.” Unless you use your own product, how can you tell?

If you are a chef, you need to have other people taste. If you are a hotel, your front desk people need to stay at your hotel, overnight. If you sell products, you need to experience what it is like to buy something from you. Try the whole darn thing. That’s eating your own dog food.

If you don’t know how other people experience your products, how can you know the reality of them?

I did not have to choose between sleeping well and being clean this week. I’m very happy about that. So is everyone else, I suspect.

2 thoughts on “Why Do Hotels Not Eat Their Own Dog Food?”

  1. I believe that most hotels don’t “eat their own dog food” because they treat their employees as being “in a different class” than their patrons. They either think their patrons are too upscale to have the same needs or too downmarket to care about normal issues.

    Hotels which cater to the business and upscale vacationers employ people who look like their clients, but have less money. Here I think that they misjudge the wishes of their clientele, including a bias towards solving all problems with discounts or comps.

    For example, I was in a Hilton where someone tried to enter my room. When I complained, they sent someone else to come into my room to deliver a compensatory bottle of wine. I didn’t want the wine. I just wanted to be left alone…by patrons and staff alike. I wanted someone to say, “We’ll talk to security and send someone to ensure that nobody enters.” Or something like that, anyway.

    Of course this theory belies the question of why they don’t see that a room on one floor and a shower on a different floor would be a problem. After all, they wouldn’t walk around their own hotel in bathrobe or undies.

    Hotels which are less upscale tend to employ even less well-off employees. Here I think that they view their guests are being strange and exotic, with bizarre demands….and “Who could have known they would want that?”

    I suspect that hotels don’t want to “rent a room” to someone who can’t afford their room rates. Most hotel clerks can’t afford the facility they inhabit. We need to bridge this gap.

  2. If you look at the fine print when you reserve a hotel room, the hotels generally say that don’t actually guarantee to honor preferences like room accessibility, non-smoking, etc., perhaps even including the number of beds. I wonder how often they have four people who up and they’re offered a room with one bed? Not often, I imagine, but when a hotel is full, I imagine they do have things like this happen.

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