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!
Protea Hotels is one of Africa’s largest hotel groups and has a footprint of more than 120 properties throughout South Africa and seven other African countries, including Zambia, Nigeria, Namibia and Kenya amongst others.
The list of things guests ask for is topped by a handful of pretty standard requests, like mobile phone 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.
Sticking to the decor theme, a hotel general manager in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province 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 general manager 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.
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 chef who had to magic up goat meat for the guest who wouldn’t eat anything else or another guest 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 South Africa.
That’s nothing, though, compared to the poor receptionist – also in Cape Town – who had to go hunting for a 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 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 Johannesburg who wandered down to reception in his birthday suit asking for someone to go out and buy him tighty-whities.
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.
“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!”