Lie to Your Customers

Recently my wife and I stayed at a hotel in Duluth. We had fun but one experience remains in my memory more than any other.

The staff at this hotel lied to their customers.

And it wasn’t just once or twice. It was a routine, regular thing. Here’s what happened.

This hotel has two separate buildings. The buildings have different amenities, different names, different web sites. They are branded and marketed differently. But they are part of the same complex and staffed by the same employees.

Our reservations were for the smaller of the two buildings. It’s positioned to serve business travelers more than the larger, family-focused facility. It has its own pool, fitness center, dining room, etc. And it’s away from the noise and activity common in the other, larger building.

But when we arrived, we were placed in the larger building, not the smaller one, which we had expected. The clerk never said why nor did she offer us an option. When we asked she said the other building was closed for maintenance. I asked why we were not told this before. She said they were taking reservations for that building and putting people in the other building.

My comment to that was they were two different buildings with different features and amenities. I found that to be misleading (to put it nicely).

No response. The clock began ticking louder and louder. Time seemed to stand still. (I thought I heard crickets.) Finally she apologized and gave us a gift card for a free pizza, for “our inconvenience”.

While I appreciate the apology and the free pizza (it was a good pizza), I do not appreciate being lied to. I don’t like being sold one thing and then having it switched at game time when my alternative options are limited. Had they told us the whole story when we made the reservations, maybe we would have stayed elsewhere.  Maybe not. But I’d like it to by my choice, not theirs.

This might seem like a small thing. And I know many companies do this without even thinking. Because, in their minds, the customer is still getting a hotel room. What’s the big deal, right?

But it is a big deal because they selling something they don’t have. And that’s wrong. It’s also a lousy way to build trust with your customers. And that makes it hard to develop a good relationship that involves open communication.

Honesty is not just the best policy. It’s the only one. Anything else says you’re willing to mislead people. If you do it once, you’ll do it again.

What about your business? Are you doing things that mislead customers? Maybe it’s not intentional. Maybe it’s a small thing (to you). But if you are, you need to ask, what do your customers think? And how would you feel, if you were the customer? Look at your policies and procedures. Make sure they are as honest and transparent as they can be. Make sure they help the customer get what they want, in a way that works for your business.

The article was written by Kevin Stirtz