I walked into a famous high street store on Oxford Street recently. As a visitor to our nation’s capital city I undertook to do all of the usual touristy things which included taking a stroll around this world-renowned shopping emporium, examining merchandise I could neither afford nor had any intention of purchasing. Truth be told, I only wanted to look at the price tags of the items for sale for my own sense of self-amusement, writes Julian Griffin.
Whilst coughing up a less than stifled choking sound when confronted with the price of a very ordinary pair of white cotton gloves, it occurred to me that my shopping experience was being closely observed by a rather anxious little man who seemed to have, if I may borrow a phrase from a recent TV commercial, ‘got my number’.
Although he didn’t actually ‘tut-tut’ out loud I could sense from his glare and arms-folded posture that he would rather I made a swift exit, never to return than continue to wretch at the expensive items on display. Fine, I thought. How was he to know that I wasn’t some eccentric Billionaire intent on relieving his shop of some £30,000 worth of daft hats and obscenely priced Bermuda shorts? I obliged and left sharply.
He knew all right. He probably had to deal with my type all the time and could spot a tyre-kicker a mile off. Later on, whilst taking more time than usual in trying to get value for money out of the most overpriced and ridiculously named cup of coffee in the world, I thought to myself; ‘fair enough’. I was never going to purchase anything, he knew it, I knew it and I was probably making the shop look untidy by having the audacity to be there in the first place. Yes, the effeminate shop assistant with the up-turned nose and rapidly receding hairline. (If you happen to be reading this, you know who you are) was quite reasonable in expecting me to vacate the store. After all, his £4.20 per hour wage should exempt him from having to stoop to the level of entertaining the likes of me, a non-paying, non-interesting, non-entity. Ahh, only in England could I make a defence for the actions of this horrid little man.
They say a smile goes a long way and costs nothing. It’s true. Try it today. Just give someone you don’t know a big ear to ear grin and see what happens.
Good customer service, like that smile, goes a long way too and costs nothing especially in the leisure, entertainment and tourism industry. Us Brits have to tolerate an awful lot of bad customer service. We are, in fact, famous for putting up with it all over the world. Fawlty Towers is funny until the day you actually have to experience that same level of customer service for real.
Hotels have a habit of seeking your custom by telling you how great they are and what extra features they offer over and above their competition in order to encourage a booking from you. Most of us have stayed in hotels good and bad but I’ll let you in on something about the industry that may surprise you. Not all hotels, no matter how smart, plush or basic they may be in terms of bricks and mortar or additional facilities do NOT always offer good customer service. Shocking I know.
As the owner of two well-behaved, non-toxic, non-plague bearing, non-rabid dogs I tend to feel a certain compulsion to take them out and about with me whenever the chance arises to do so. They enjoy it that I do this. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those infernally annoying dog owners who forces my dogs on other people or allows them to jump all over you and then give you a lecture about how they won’t hurt you or do you any (serious) harm despite your obvious state of fear and discomfort (come on people, you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about here). No, I’m just a normal bloke who likes the company of his dogs and the enjoyment of making them happy by loading them into the car to come with me whenever possible.
This applies to holidays too. I don’t use boarding kennels. Absolutely nothing against them at all, they’re just not for me. I like my dogs to experience the joys of a short break from the usual routine, see new places and dig holes in new ground where holes had previously never been dug. I like my dogs to have the same sense of relaxation as I do and to come home feeling they have had a new experience in a new place, met new people and left lots of new holes in new locations.
I’m not a ‘campsite or caravan’ person. As with boarding kennels, nothing against them I just prefer bricks and mortar surrounding me when the rain starts to lash. This means whenever I go away I have to find a pet friendly hotel, bed and breakfast or similar accommodation. Luckily for me with the Internet and all the publications filled with pet friendly accommodation I can go anywhere I like and take my dogs too.
The problem I have, and it is a BIG problem, is that far too many of the hotels and other accommodation providers that describe themselves as pet friendly are, when it really comes down to it, completely un-friendly towards pets. A contradiction in terms you might think so let me put it another way.
What some establishments mean when they describe themselves as ‘pet friendly’ I prefer to translate as ‘pet tolerant’. In other words they accept pets under duress but when you turn up in reception with your bright-eyed, ready to relax pair of Labradors, the receptionist may not throw you out but she should be perfectly entitled to serve you last, make you wait away from proper customers, scowl at you, hold her nose, make a big fuss about any extra cleaning coming off your bill, give you a list of places where you ‘may not bring those in’, warn you about bothering other guests, advise you about basic hygiene issues and pretty much make you feel like a second class citizen carrying the bubonic plague rather than a couple of genuinely well-balanced companion animals.
I have a strong message to any establishments who describe themselves as pet friendly when they actually mean pet tolerant. Don’t. I mean it. I am on a personal crusade to un-cover businesses who are infringing on the trade descriptions act by using the words friendly and pets in the same sentence in order to convince would-be customers that you are actually friendly towards people who stay with pets.
I am not a disease carrier, a second-class citizen, a menace to public order or in fact public health – I am a dog owner. My dogs live in my house with my family and they fit into society perfectly well, some would say they add to it.
Either live up to the description of pet friendly or don’t allow pets at all. I don’t have a problem with banning pets anywhere, it’s a free country and I respect that. But hotel owners, be warned, I am, for the next 12 months, going to be travelling the length and breadth of these Great British Isles and I will be bringing my dogs if your literature tells me I can do so. I am expecting a FRIENDLY welcome and so are my dogs.
Through the pages of K9 Magazine I will bring news of the good, bad and indifferent establishments who describe themselves as pet friendly in order that the millions (yes, millions) of people just like me can enjoy stays at hotels free from the stigma of feeling they’ve done something wrong by simply involving their extended family of the four legged variety to experience the delights of a genuine family holiday in an establishment described as pet friendly.
Hoteliers. You have been warned. If you call yourself pet friendly, make sure that you genuinely are.
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