Are You Spending the Night?

An awkward guest experience led to some misunderstandings that easily could have been avoided.

I love staying in hotels. It’s fun, right? Someone cleans up after you, you get to have breakfast in bed, and you don’t have to make any commitments. It’s my perfect relationship! Recently, while visiting Vancouver, I decided to spend some time in a luxury hotel. I needed to treat myself and wanted to do something special. I used to live in Vancouver, and it is always nice to be a tourist in my own town.

After dinner, maybe a bit later than the average Vancouverite would be out and about, my friend and I decided to have a glass of wine in my room. I had a fabulous suite with sweeping views of the downtown core, and it would be a great place to catch up. I called the front desk and spoke with a gentleman. I told him my friend would be coming to visit me in the room, and it would be OK to let him up without calling up. I gave his first and last name and left it at that. The clerk said my friend would have to show identification upon arrival, and we agreed it was all fine.

My friend showed up and seemed a bit amused. Of course, I was curious as to what might have happened. He said to me, “Oh! I think the agent at the desk thinks something is going on.” I was confused by this and probed a little more as to what might have happened. “I think he might think I am a hooker or perhaps a one-night stand.”

I was shocked. Why on Earth would the person think that?

“He asked me if I was spending the night and how long would I be?” my friend explained.

Well, that is something I wouldn’t have expected from a luxury hotel in a first-class city in Canada. I called down and inquired as to why they would ask this question. The desk clerk explained they needed to know for security purposes and to have an accurate headcount. OK, I get this. But this awkward experience led to some misunderstandings that easily could have been avoided. And if my friend had taken things personally, or felt insulted, the situation could have been much worse. There are some things we can learn from this example:

  • Ask questions to the correct person at the correct time. When I called down, that would have been the perfect time to ask any questions about having guests spending the evening. Did I need extra supplies to make me more comfortable or should I add another person to my reservation for security purposes? Instead of making my guests feel uncomfortable, why not ask me the questions?
  • Explain why you ask questions before you ask them. Another way to avoid miscommunication is to explain the reason you are asking a question before you actually ask it—especially if it is something that may be perceived in another way, or might be of a sensitive nature. For example, “We do need to have an accurate headcount for emergency purposes. Will your guest be spending the evening with you?” It’s a simple technique, but it does get the point across that the question has no alternative meaning.

These are just some simple things you can do to avoid issues like this in the future. As for me, I am going to tell the front desk that my late-night guests are just coming to have wine, we will be chatting about Apple products, and they will not be sleeping over. We wouldn’t want them to get the wrong idea, would we?

Kevin James Saunders is a trainer at Oculus Training Group, a British Columbia-based corporate training and mystery shopping company offering sales management, reservations, sensitivity, and customer service training programs for a variety of service-based industries throughout Canada, the U.S., and the world. For more information, call 888.OCULUS4 or visit You also can connect with Oculus on Twitter @oculustraining, via e-mail at or visit it on Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube.