Recently I went out of town overnight, and I chose a hotel that isn’t part of a chain. I hesitated for a while before I chose it. It was a little less expensive than a chain, but not so much as to be worrying. It was close to where I needed to be. The photos of the rooms showed a unique aesthetic—one that hadn’t been chosen by a global marketing department. Still, I knew what I’d be getting with a Westin or a Hilton. What if this choice was a bad one?
When the Uber pulled up in front of the door on Saturday, I saw that there was a tasteful brass nameplate. The door, which was like the door of a brownstone, was locked. I pressed the bell, and the door was opened by a small man with a big smile. His name was Vincent. He ushered me into the front room—this had been converted from a brownstone, indeed. He showed me to the available rooms, explaining that, while I could have the one I had chosen online, it was right next to their laundry room, and maybe I would prefer one on the top floor at the back of the building. We walked up, and he showed me into a room that was clean and well-decorated. It felt like being in the thoughtfully-appointed guest room at a good friend’s house.
Vincent showed me the quirks of the room, then left me to get settled. I had explained to him that I was in town just for a few hours, to see some old friends I hadn’t seen in 26 years. He could see that I was nervous, and he let me talk. When I came downstairs later to go out, he made sure that I knew where I was headed, told me I looked great, and said he’d see me when I got back.
I had a wonderful time with my friends, and Vincent did indeed pop out of the back when I came in later to ask how my evening had been. I said it was great, and that I would be leaving early the next morning. When I came quietly down at 6:45am, Vincent was there, bidding me safe travels.
My short conversations with Vincent colored and enhanced my whole weekend. He was a person with me, not a cog in the wheel of the hospitality machine. He let me be a little vulnerable, he made my visit feel personal and deep. There are so many opportunities for this kind of connection in our lives, and it seems like we are automating ourselves away from them.
How can you show up in someone else’s life as a person, not a brand?