arrival in Savannah

Today’s journey to Savannah for SEPG was rainy, but otherwise pleasant and uneventful. Things got a bit confused, though, on arrival at the hotel.

After circling the block twice, I couldn’t identify where to park for check-in, and no open public parking was available on the street. I saw two people standing around at an opening on the side of the block, and drove up to ask them if they knew. They turned out to be the parking valets (the only hotel parking option, but with no signs) and that WAS the place to go for check-in parking.

So I pulled my car to the side, got out to check in (which went smoothly), and came back to my car. The valet asked me, are you staying? to which I said yes (and began to wonder how often people pulled in there and then decided not to stay). He then handed me a claim check stub and walked back to his station.

I hadn’t yet finished unloading my luggage onto a cart when a different valet walked up and asked me if I had a claim check, to which I said yes; and asked if the key was in the car. I said no, and handed it to him.

Then I asked him, how will you know that this key and car go with this claim check? and he looked at me in puzzlement and said, well, because you just gave it to me. I said no, how will you keep track of it, how will you know that this is MY car? and he just didn’t seem to understand, shook his head as if I was an idiot for asking.

After a few more minutes, I finished unloading my car, then turned to talk to the valet again. But before I said anything further, I could almost see the light bulb go off above his head – he said, “wait a minute”, went back to the valet station, came back with a rearview mirror hang tag that matched up to my claim check, and put it inside my car.

Only then did I feel confident that I’d actually be able to get my car back from them when the time came.

On the surface, this little incident has nothing to do with software. But it has a lot to do with processes, customer service, and managing data.

Their claim check tag system for valet parking data management is simple and low-tech, but when well executed, should be highly effective (and in the spirit of doing the simplest thing that could possibly work). However, two problems happened here:
(1) it wasn’t well executed, when the first valet dropped the tagging job mid-stream, and
(2) the second valet dropped the ball in two ways: by assuming that my having a claim check in hand meant that the tagging process was completed properly, and by treating his customer like an idiot for asking what was actually a reasonable and important question about their process and how it was being executed for my car.

After all, the purpose of the system and how well they use it is to support them in serving my needs as a customer. Those needs include not just parking my vehicle safely, but reassuring me that it’s being well managed, and that they are keeping good track of which one is mine.

I’ll post a followup comment by the end of the week on whether I run into any difficulties in getting my car back!