Curious about service issues

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Jun 1st, 2006, 10:13 AM
  #1
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Curious about service issues

I do alot of reading on internet, daily, reviews, forum, etc.
It seems like there are alot of complaints all over Caribbean on service. From Caneel Bay to Four Seasons Nevis to Four Seasons Exuma to Cap Juluca to The Palms T&C.
While certainly not 100% on all these it just seems to be an overriding issue at higher end resorts.
Do you think it's a culture/training issue or is everyone just too picky?
I'm reading about all these high end hotels/resorts and residences being built across Caribbean and just wondering how they will continue to fill them when there seems to be alot of negative opinions on service. Just curious on others thoughts
nanorran is offline  
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Jun 1st, 2006, 12:01 PM
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Interesting question...

I can't help but notice that most of the truly vociferous complainers seem to be from the same handful of general geographical locations. Maybe just my impression.

It is my opinion that the really vocal complainers are relatively new to Caribbean travel.

The truth of the matter is that the Caribbean is a region that is both very relaxed and relaxing.

People make the mistake of traveling there and thinking that just because they are paying $500 to $1,000 per night for a room, things can't and won't go wrong. That's a REALLY bad attitude to go to the Caribbean with.

Some of the worst food and service we have had has been at some of the most expensive places we've stayed. (Some of the BEST food and service have been at the $$$ places too.)

We used to think we had to go only to THE best and most expensive resorts in order to have a great time in the Caribbean. Au contraire! After having traveled extensively in the region, it is my honest belief that's not the case at all.

Some resorts really pride themselves on their service - like Jamaica Inn in Ocho Rios. Some could care less. Some rest on their laurels, some are hit or miss.

Some islands - like TCI - have grown much faster than the population of well-trained service industry personnel, and it shows.

An open mind, a smile and a relaxed and friendly mindset will get you a long way. A superior, "I'm-paying-through-the-nose-and-you-need-to-SERVICE-me!" demeanor will get you - welll, you've read the reviews...

I'm not saying you can't get a rude person here or there (it has never happened to us), but people need to chill out. If they can't they DON'T need to be traveling to the Caribbean.

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Jun 1st, 2006, 12:15 PM
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I do think it's a cultural difference. Just read "A Trip To The Beach" and you will see just how different the (lovely!) Caribbeaners are. This is the story of an American couple who chucked it all to open a restaurant on Anguilla. Their tale includes many enlightening anecdotes of just how unhurried islanders can be. Put that up against hurried cityfolk on fast-forward vactions, and you can see why unhurried quickly translates to "bad service".

I imagine the nice raise in wages will convince the islanders to abandon their laidback attitude...and thus, after "growing pains", they will fill those luxury hotels after all. But that erosion of culture is a sad thing, isn't it.




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Jun 1st, 2006, 12:43 PM
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I won't pretend that service can't be an issue in the Caribbean. I'm pretty easy-going and well-experienced in Caribbean travel, and will tolerate -- even enjoy -- that spirit of Island Time. But even with that tolerance, I have experienced exceedingly slow, incompetent or out-and-out surly service on occasion. Thankfully, it's the exception and not the rule.

What I have observed in my travels is that many visitors don't know how to behave in a manner which will ensure good service. Often, it's a matter of inexperience on the part of the visitor; other times, it's just an expectation on the part of the visitor that the islanders do things THEIR way. But it comes down to the fact that commerce down island is simply not conducted in the same manner as it is at home (in my case, the U.S.). While it may be OK to not meet your server's eye and simply state your order at home, it is most definitely not the way it's done in the islands. A greeting is expected (and not just "Hey," but a full-blown "Good Morning"), and some small talk ideally follows, before getting down to business. Anything less will be greeted with a decided chill.

In my case, this approach has led to many pleasant encounters and generally satisfactory (if leisurely) service. I've watched others in my vicinity skip the niceties and be treated coldly by the same server who is knocking himself out for me. Not hard to see how the other person might not be impressed with the service, even though it is partly their fault for not learning a little about the customs of the place they are visiting.

(Interestingly, this practice has become so ingrained in me that I now unthinkingly use it at home. It rarely fails to disarm even the coldest clerk or cashier. I guess we can learn something from the way things are done in the islands.)

On a related track, I have noticed over the years that the welcoming and open nature of islanders changes with the influx of mass tourism, particularly of the cruise ship and mega-hotel variety. Large crowds of visitors who don't care all that much about the particular place they are visiting (and, indeed, often insulate themselves from the nitty gritty) seem to bring out the worst in residents. Moreover, the subject islands may lack both the infrastructure and the human resources to deal with the influx, creating stresses on the natural and human environments which, in turn, may be reflected in service.

Ultimately, I think it comes down to managing expectations and recognizing that cultural differences may exist (and accomodating them). Nevertheless, there is no excuse for truly poor service.
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Jun 1st, 2006, 01:41 PM
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iw
 
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Callaloo..I totally agree with your assessment of the service question. I, too, have found that greeting the person that is helping/serving you in a polite and chatty manner will go very far in receiving good service. (Good tips also work well) As for the original topic, I do think that the first time traveler to the Caribbean is in for a real culture shock. I know that we were taken aback by the laid back attitude on our first visit and quickly had to adjust our expectations. Once you get used to island time, it's quite pleasant and that is coming from a Type A personality all the way!! I know that I got a kick out of our cab driver in Nevis stopping to pick up a waitress on the side of the road so that she didn't have to walk all the way home, which delayed our next stop some, but I thought it was very considerate. How often would that happen here????
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Jun 1st, 2006, 01:41 PM
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I think it's a number of things. People who haven't traveled to the Caribbean before and don't get "island time", people who think that money always talks, and some people are just whiners and feel that they are "above" the staff and don't have to say "Good Morning" or "How are you?" and if you knew them in real life, you would probably discover that they are rather negative people. Sometimes it really is the hotel. Some staff have never been taught to say, "I'm sorry you were inconvenienced" which can go a long ways. Having a concierge telling you they will get back to you, and doing so is meeting your needs. Having a concierge tell you that your reservations have been confirmed, you go to the resturant and there's no reservation for you is not meeting your needs! Most hotels I have been to have done a really good job. You mentioned Four Seasons Nevis. They are one that exceeded our expectations in every way. At the end of vacation in February, we confirmed our satisfaction with the manager and thanked many of the employees for doing such a wonderful job. They deserved it!
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 07:15 AM
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I want to follow up on Diana's insight. Without singling out any one country, many people go to the islands with their expectations out of whack. They also have absolutely no concept of what is involved in running a hotel or restaurant business in a place where you have to import nearly everything.

I also think that Westerners have become very spoiled and selfish. They expect the world to revolved around them and rules and policies to be waived, meals and rooms to be comped if something is not to their liking. Those reviews on Trip Advisor make me absolutely crazy sometimes. I have also seen the ridiculous requests people make in restaurants -- I literally want to crawl under the table when that happens.
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 11:03 AM
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I have learned to take these reviews with a grain of (sea) salt. Beware when you see reviews that read:

"The food was inedible" Translation: Could not accommodate my fussy palate

"We spoke to the manager but he/she refused to do anything" Translation: The management would not deduct hotel or food costs from my bill.

"We had a terrible time at the resort. It rained while we were there." (Figure that one out)

"We tipped generously before and during our stay but the service didn't change." Translation: Staff wouldn't bow and scrape.

And finally MY favourite:
"We booked a last minute package at the cheapest price. The hotel was substandard." Translation: I paid for a three star and I got a three star.

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Jun 2nd, 2006, 11:27 AM
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sandyjoy,

How true!! I often wonder why it is that people go on vacation to somewhere and then expect that the "somewhere" ought to be exactly like the place from which they just paid good money to vacate!
Isn't that what "vacation" is all about? Getting away from what you experience everyday and experiencing something ...different?
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Jun 2nd, 2006, 12:44 PM
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This post reminds me of a certain gentleman I encountered while vacationing in Nevis some time back. I happened to dine at the same places for lunch and dinner that he did, and in both instances I was seated near enough to him to overhear much of his conversation. At lunch he ordered a fruit plate, and when it arrived, full of melon, berries, and pineapple, he complained that he could get the same thing at home--where was the mango, the guava the papaya? He didn't travel to the Caribbean to eat the same fruits he could get at home, etc. This incident was at the Nisbet Beach Bar.

That night at dinner (we were at a more local restaurant, as I recall), he complained that there was nothing on the menu like he could get at home.

Clearly this guy just wanted to find things to complain about, but my husband and I had a chuckle over it. Complain if it's too much like home. COmplain if it's not enough like home.
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