The Hotel in Rotterdam and what it has to do with the Expat Experience

Last week I told you the story of my car sale and how it challenged one of my principles of intercultural effectiveness. This was a story with a happy ending and thanks for your reactions and Sam-stories.

I have two more stories on digital client experiences. The hotel in Rotterdam is not a story like the last one. This is a story of my inner secretary’s failure. Some of you met my inner secretary already. She is not a perfectionist unfortunately and when I ask her to work for me (instead of a real assistant) she usually messes up something.

I had been to the Brainpark Hotel in Rotterdam several times already because it is convenient when I hold lectures at the Erasmus University. I was very happy the first and the second time. Service is good and food as well.

The third time was last March and there I wanted to cancel the room for one night and it required the intervention of a Dutch colleague cancel the booking without extra charge. I am not sure why I don’t seem to have authority in the Dutch context but maybe it is because I don’t function in that culture yet or maybe the clerks working at the reception are quite inexperienced. So let’s say there was a pre-history already and I had been a little put off by the March experience.

In November, when I booked a room through their website again, my inner secretary was happy that it all worked fine until I contacted the Expatise Academy again to discuss a few more small topics. I found out that we are actually in Amsterdam for this particular event. (“Never assume anything!” is a new principle of intercultural effectiveness),

The event was happening in Amsterdam, not Rotterdam and I had taken a late flight already. There was no point in going to Rotterdam first.

Normally, this should not be a big deal. Most hotels have a normal cancellation period of one or two days before the actual reservation. It was 10 days before the actual event.

I was not concerned at all until I contacted the hotel to cancel the room. They told me that they still needed to fully charge the room to my credit card as this was in their terms and conditions and I had agreed to them. If you are like me you probably don’t read terms and conditions for these kind of transactions either.

It took me now at least a minute to even find the T&C.

They look a lot worse than an expat tax policy or expat contract.

While I find this a strange business practice here is what the T&C say about cancellations:

“3. Reservations with prepayment cannot be changed and/or canceled in any way, and sums paid in advance as a deposit cannot be refunded. This is indicated in the conditions of sale for the rate.”

I asked them again, explaining the circumstances. I also asked if the manager could call me to discuss. Same response, no calls from anyone. I tried not to get angry. Remember, I am self-employed and for me 130 EUR is a lot of money.

Then, I also received about five automated notifications talking to me about my upcoming trip to Rotterdam. Responding to them did not work because they were sent from noreply email ID’s. Tripadvisor asked me for a review of the hotel I had just “spent a night in” and for the first time ever I gave a 1-star review called “No one cares.”

Now, I still don’t get my money back because it also seems that they do not care about their reviews but now my credibility on Tripadvisor has risen. Seems when you write good reviews you look like you are paid to that. When you write bad reviews you become an authority in the hotel business. I will continue to write bad reviews going forward and call a spade a spade.

My insurance company does not cover “miscommunication” as a reason to pay back the lost amount and even interventions by Expatise Academy did not make a difference.

Why am I telling you this?

  1. If you are in Rotterdam and you stay at this hotel tell them that they should be more careful about how they treat their returning customers. 
  2. On a more serious note: Our expats and their spouses and children often feel like I felt in this case. They feel like a number, a case and not like a human being that has issues and circumstances.

Please do not assume that expats have read their contracts, the policy and other documentation you have sent to them. Try to put yourself into their shoes. They are your client and they have a lot of other topics to worry about during that time. I would appreciate if we can all add the human touch back into the Global Mobility Agenda 2018.

Bring back the human touch into your Global Mobility population

Put that on your agenda for 2018. Collect ideas with your team about where your processes are disintegrated for the expat and their spouse. Check in with your population and improve your expat experience. You can email them one by one or through a mailing program such as Mailchimp or Yet Another Mail Merge (YAMM). In the Global Mobility Workbook I give a lot of advice on how you can check in with your expats and spouses regularly.

Let me know what you decided to do.

Angie Weinberger

PS: Mark your calendar and sign up now for 23 JAN 2018: “Building the Global Mobility Business Case”, a workshop by Expatise Academy in Amsterdam on 23 JAN 2018

I will meet you there and the Expatise Academy is now ordering my hotels :-).



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