Most hotel staff could write books about the strange side of human nature they see at work, but since discretion is the watchword none of those experiences are ever likely to see the light of day - except on the Protea Hospitality Group's annual list of weird and wonderful guest requests submitted anonymously by staff from their 125 properties all over Africa!
Lovely room, but that colour is so… I cannot stay here a moment longer! (Image: JIP, via Wikimedia Commons)*
The list of things guests ask for is topped by a handful of pretty standard requests, like cellphone chargers, toothbrushes, razors, extra blankets or more pillows.
But bedding is also where the walk on the wild side begins, with one executive travelling alone asking for the white cotton duvet cover on his king size bed to be replaced with a Ben Ten duvet cover. Short tempered... sorry, vertically challenged tempered
Sticking to the decor theme, a hotel GM in KwaZulu-Natal tells of a guest who insisted on being moved to another room because she didn't like the colour of the walls, while a hotel in Gauteng had the sticky task of dealing with a severely vertically challenged guest throwing an almighty tantrum in reception because the king-size bed in his room wasn't extra-length.
We all know that it's not the easiest thing to fall asleep in strange surroundings, but few adults are in need of a lullaby unless they're Sheldon Cooper in the Big Bang Theory
. That's exactly what a rooms division manager in Gauteng had to do, though, when a burly guest insisted being sung to was the only sure cure for his insomnia. And strangely, he was right!
Singing a lullaby is small fry compared to the Cape Town GM who had to go out to a mall at 8pm searching for a goldfish for another guest who insisted she'd never get to sleep unless she could watch swimming fish. This could get a chef's goat
What the hell are you looking at… D’you think I’m your dinner or something? Oh… Ah… Perhaps we can discuss this…? Please...? (Image: George Chernilevsky, via Wikimedia Commons)
Food is another area where things can move into the twilight zone. Hotels are used to dealing with guest allergies and intolerances, but few are equipped for odd requests like the Eastern Cape chef who had to magic up goat meat for the guest who wouldn't eat anything else or another guest in the Western Cape who sent back his room service soft-boiled eggs five times, until the chef finally figured out that the man would only eat eggs with speckled shells.
And while it's not uncommon for airlines to misplace luggage, the fallout can sometimes give hotels big headaches. One guest relations manager in Cape Town had the unenviable task of finding a ball gown for a guest at 9pm one Sunday night, when her luggage went AWOL somewhere between the States and SA. So there I was, hanging out in reception...when this goat walked in... It was so weird, dude!
That's nothing, though, compared to the poor receptionist - also in Cape Town - who had to go hunting for pair of size 12 stilettos for a Priscilla Queen of the Desert guest who was due on stage in two hours and the airline had lost his shoe bag!
The requests that probably take the cake, though, are the executive who called down to the reception of his Bloemfontein hotel one night demanding a fortune teller be sent to his room to help him make a decision about a multi-million rand deal, and the guest in Joburg who wandered down to reception in his birthday suit asking for someone to go out and buy him tighty-whities.
What the hell do you mean… Right of Admission Reserved… At least I’m dressed, unlike that guy over there! (Image: Ligoken, via Wikimedia Commons)
Protea Hospitality Group Marketing and Advertising Manager Nicholas Barenblatt says what may be outrageous behaviour to most people, hotel staff will generally take in their stride.
"After you've been asked by a businessman to check his cupboard for monsters, not much is going to surprise you.
"Nine times out of 10 we'll be able to fulfil the requests, because it's that level of extraordinary service that makes our hotels unique. Sometimes we can be defeated by acts of God or airlines, but if you ask a GM to find a tiara chances are you'll get one," Barenblatt says.
"We do draw the line at animals, though. No good is ever going to come of a request for a monkey or a rooster, and donkeys are most definitely a no-no!"About Protea Hotels
Protea Hotels has a footprint of more than 120 properties throughout South Africa and seven other African countries, including Zambia, Nigeria, Namibia, and Kenya amongst others. Each hotel is uniquely different in character and the collection ranges from urban accommodation to country retreats, all in the 3 and 4-star markets. Protea Hotels is the winner of two World Travel Awards for Best Hotel Group in Africa, winner of three Sunday Times
Markinor Top Hotel Brand Awards and the winner of two Coolest Hotel Group awards in the Sunday Times
Generation Next surveys.
The hotel group became a wholly owned South African company again in April 2009 after a consortium comprising Protea Hotels management, its BEE shareholders and Investec Private Equity bought back the 74% stake the hotel group sold to Australia-based Stella Hospitality Group three years ago.
Follow us on twitter @ProteaHotels
For more information, please visit www.proteahotels.com
*The weird requests recounted in this article are the guests', but you can blame Bizcommunity.com's Rod Baker for the weird picture selection and equally weird captions.