How do you treat your “Captive”?

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Tent - Electric Picnic

We were going to Electric Picnic the following day and as we are a little older and used to our few comforts we opted for the hotel in Portlaoise instead of a tent!

The hotel that is normally “from €59” per night was now €200 but the snag was if you wanted to book for Saturday night then you had to book Friday night at well – fair enough we reckoned.  We have come to accept that when you are a “captive” they can pretty much charge what they want – its like the last minute Ryanair flights.

Maldron Hotel PortlaoiseThe first thing that got me was the “from €59” banners on the way into the hotel – at least have the decency of taking those down when you are charging people €200 x 2!

We weren’t expecting The Ritz but we were hoping for this hotel alongside the motorway to be good at least and maybe there might be a buzz and a few things going on for the “Picnic”.

We booked in to be told that the rate was room only and breakfast, which was extra would be served from 8am …hmm

The room was a little bit tired but functional, the second bed had been removed, the light kept switching off in the loo and there was virtually no mobile phone reception (not their problem I guess) – my kids would be ringing as we were meeting up at the festival the next day.

We had done enough driving for one day so we decided to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant – it was surprisingly quiet as we were pretty much the only diners except for a bunch of young women. We managed to get the worst chicken wings of all time and the 100% beef burgers (festival fever was kicking in already!) were tasteless and overcooked.

We watched as a man sat alone in the corner waiting for his meal – from where we sat we could see that it was ready and sitting under the heated lamps. The waitress was chatting to the manager but didn’t seem to spot that his meal was ready – she came over to us, cleared our plates and then collected his meal and brought it to him. I’m guessing it was sitting there for about 5 minutes.

It was at that point that a young and older woman arrived – they were obviously here hoping for a nice meal and I felt a sense of responsibly towards them. I felt like telling them to go somewhere else!

Are you sure I shouldn’t say something to them?” I asked Dee.  “You can’t do that and besides, they will think you are mad” A good point I reckoned!

The manager marched around the restaurant with a sense of authority – I watched him wondering – does he realise how bad the place is?  The two chefs were staring out from the open kitchen waiting for another customer order – come on guys, surely you want to produce better meals?  Do better even for your own satisfaction?

Our plates were cleared – the waitress had a sixth sense that “how was your meal?” was a question she shouldn’t bother with.

Young Wonder at Electric Picnic 2013

Young Wonder from Cork

The following day we had a great time at Electric Picnic, the highlights being Young Wonder, Daithi and the rock god Robert Plant (ex Led Zeppelin). At the festival you could see that some of the vendors were taking advantage with expensive food and beer but some were charging normal prices.

We were back at the hotel for about 2 am to find none of the glasses had been cleared from the room from the night before – I was looking forward to checking out the next morning.

This place has settled for a certain standard, a level of service that delivers you rooms at €59 and one that leaves you unsatisfied and sealing the argument that you get what you pay for. They could do better, an awful lot better if they just tried and had some pride in their product and service but In some ways it didn’t matter because we were captives for both nights.

Instead of giving us a “good” experience for our overpriced stay and possibly making us consider it again (at €59) we will now pass the hotel every time we take the trip back and forth to Dublin and say “that’s that poor place that totally ripped us off during Electric Picnic …do you remember?

There are times when our customers are captives:

  • They need something urgently
  • They are stuck with a problem
  • You are the only one open
  • They have a crisis
  • They have no other option at the time but deal with you
  • You have a monopoly in that area
  • You are the only one with their files

When your customer is a captive how do you treat them?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Design firm in Irealnd with offices in Cork and Dublin

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