(Special mementos that I received from some of our guests.)
Life as an Agent (Front Desk Agent that is)
If you want to see the worst and the best in people, work in Customer Service- to be more specific, work as a hotel Front Desk Agent/Officer (the front line of Customer Service in the hotel industry).
I thought I've already encountered most (if not all) types of folks from different strokes of life having worked in media for almost 12 years. Wrong! The four months I spent as a front desk agent has been eye-opening, grueling, draining but also enriching. Thanks to my former supervisor Sharonica Naidu for opening the door for me to experience the life and work of a hotel agent.
Prior to working as a FDA, I had so many thoughts and misconceptions such as...
1. Hotel front desk work is only for attractive people or as we say in the Philippines, people with pleasing personality. While I was applying from one hotel to another here in the US, I noticed that physical appearance is NOT a major factor for this job (not here at least). So far, I've seen and worked with agents from different cultures, with various accents, skin color, height, weight, age, religion, educational and work background. If you can do the job well and fast with less mistakes, then you might just have a shot in this field.
2. Hotel front desk work is for less talented and not-so-smart individuals because all they do is answer phones, greet guests, check-in and check them out. Another HUGE misconception! Yes, they do all those and more!
They also handle the register, memorize a gazillion of information like rates/codes/telephone numbers/bank info/discounts/room numbers/acronyms/packages/promos/usernames/last names/dates/events etc. They also have to drive (I don't) if the bellboy is not available, assist guests with their luggage, stock the gift shop, maintain cleanliness in the lobby, report complaints, deal with complaints, file documents, make reservations, make keys, follow-up on requests, call other hotels for their rate/occupancy, deliver mails or packages and a thousand more things.
FDA's are expected to be expert navigators, restaurant reviewers, weather forecaster, TV technicians, magicians, counselors and business people.
One of the most frequently asked questions while I was doing front desk work is direction. Man, I am the last person you want to talk to about directions. Thank God for Google map!
3. Hotel front desk is pretty laid back and uncomplicated. Far from the truth, it is one of the most exhausting (they work while standing for almost 8 hours sometimes more in a day, 5 times a week), they wear many hats while dealing with various people (from rock stars to smelly students competing in a tennis competition to bridezillas). It is a combination of physical, cerebral, emotional and technical skills.
4. Hotel front desk pay is easy money. I earned five times more than what I used to earn as a radio announcer in the Philippines, but it is hard-earned money. Front desk officers belong to the lowest wage earners in the hospitality industry (in the US) and if you are not aggressive, sensible and wise enough with your finances, everything will go to waste. Just an update: I actually earn more now as a nanny/housekeeper compared to when I was a FDA.
5. Anyone can do front desk work. After being on the job for four short months, I could say from experience this is not the case. Few, selected folks have the ability, drive and tenacity to last in this job. And those that have stayed, oftentimes expressed their choice of not doing it again or just using the experience to climb up the ranks.
I remember crying a lot because of the pressure, fear of making a mistake, being called out after making a mistake, losing the job, losing my control etc.
I don't have a lot of "great" memories while working in hotel. Two of the things that stood out though were- during my last week, there was only a few of us left for the night shift which happened to be a busy night. The hotel I worked for did not keep housekeepers for the evening shift to save some moolah, so guess who does some of the housekeeping jobs? Us- the FDA's! One guest requested for a personal fridge which happened to be kept in one of the storage rooms. Since there was no one else but the front desk agents left (me and the overnight shift), I had to carry (I couldn't find the luggage cart) the fridge from one end of the hallway to the guest's room! When one of the other guests saw me doing this, he offered help and handed me my first "I appreciate you card!"
One of my favorite guests was this older man who trains therapy dogs and take them to hospitals and schools. He travels from city to city and talk about how the dogs help children who have serious medical conditions. This was the only time I took a picture of myself at work.
After my brief stint as an FDA, I'll never see or treat this position or the person lightly nor lowly again.
Hats off to them!