It isn’t easy being an Israeli. One minute you are winning the Eurovision song festival, and the next minute you are fighting off Palestinians at the Gaza fence. I try so hard to avoid politics, but at times, you just can’t sit on the fence – especially the fence near Gaza – so here goes my take on Gaza, Jerusalem and the right to a peaceful existence.
Why did I study in Jerusalem?
Today I was asked, “Why did you actually go to study in Jerusalem?” Well, yes, I did study at the Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus, in Jerusalem, and I lived peacefully in the student dorms together with Arab students where we shared cake recipes but not much else.
My boyfriend at the time was arrested after throwing a yogurt at Meir Kahane, an extreme right wing politician, when he came to talk at our campus. I made friends with a Palestinian who lived in East Jerusalem, when he used to come to visit my sister’s flat mate. I made friends with people from all over Israel, who had all come to study in Jerusalem, for a variety of reasons.
So, I took a few days break from blogging and felt rather guilty about it, but as guilt is my middle name, I have taken some deep breaths and ‘dealt with it’ since the May vacation is over and work awaits, and there’s only so much procrastination one can do and get away with it. So, work has done in the past couple of days and I left my writing on the shelf. Actually, to be 100% honest, I did write something (else) for the letter F – in handwriting, in the notebook next to my bed – a piece of fiction! An excerpt from my upcoming book (yes, the one that’s still in the works), but instead, as it’s already a quarter past midnight and work awaits tomorrow yet again, I decided on a shorter blog for tonight.
When the penny drops
Today at school – where I coach students – I encountered a wonderful example of how self development workshops and communication skills can come together and become a thing of beauty. And I say this, because often, when teaching these topics, to 1st year students, it seems as if they really aren’t interested and that they know best, and ‘please don’t try to change or improve me.’
So, here I am, on a Saturday afternoon, towards the end of my May vacation, with Magic Charts stuck up on my kitchen windows and sitting behind my laptop, working on the planning for next year.
Education is such a broad term. I studied to become a teacher many years ago, at the Hebrew University, in Jerusalem (close to where Giro d’Italia 2018 started off yesterday!), and here I am, over 30 years later, having worked in both business (doing marketing) and counseling (helping people) and now I find myself planning the new course for Personal Development for next year.
In a way, I don’t want to ruin the really fun time we had with our friends yesterday, at ‘bathing suit day’ at the Spa. But it all started with the email they got in Dutch. In fact, when I asked them about the email, my friend told me, “It was actually more like 6 emails, but I used Google translate, and it looked like a nice place, so, we still booked it.”
By the way, do you see the picture above? House rules? This page is empty! Check it out for yourself, if you don’t believe me!
Well, here’s a list of things that went wrong on our visit to the Spa, with our friends who stayed at the hotel there and booked a spa day with massages for us all.
No food after 9 pm.
The night they arrived, at 20:30 (8 pm), tired and hungry, from a long flight, they asked about the restaurants in the hotel. “Yes,” they were told, “There are two. One in the Spa, where you have to go in your robes, without your bathing suit, and one next to the reception.” So, they hurried upstairs, changed out of their clothes and came downstairs half an hour later, only to hear –
“Oh, the kitchen is closed from 9 pm.”
Luckily, they had rented a car, so they went to the de Veranda, nearby, where the kitchen was happy to feed them big juicy steaks.
No food before 12 noon – or Breakfast is served in one place only.
Next morning, we joined our friends at 9:15, as they had booked the massages at 10 a.m. But they hadn’t had their breakfast yet. Again, they asked at the reception, can we eat breakfast at the restaurant in the spa? Yes, was the response. We hurried into the spa, up the stairs to the changing rooms, deposited our stuff in the lockers, down the stairs to the spa, where the restaurant is, and went in. It was cold and empty.
“Oh, you’re guests at the hotel?” asked the man who greeted us. “Then your breakfast is up in the hotel, next to the reception. We only open up at noon.”
Massages cannot be moved.
As it was 9:42 by this time, (don’t forget, our massages were booked for 10:00), we stopped by the Beauty section on our run up to the hotel. My friend asked if she could move the massages to a later hour. “No,” was the reply. Eventually, they were able to move one of the massages to 10:30, after much persuasion. Thank you! By the way, I had a massage from a very nice guy, who did a superb job and we also had a really interesting talk about life and living in the Netherlands. (See, I do know how to give credit where credit is due!)
Once in the Spa, you can’t get out.
To get to the restaurant area, next to the reception, (remember, we had only a few minutes to eat!), we had to leave the spa area. But our automatic black bands that record our food purchases etc, and open most doors, did not open that door. There was a really long line at the reception, and you know the RULE: First person in line gets served first, no matter what. We waited impatiently for a couple of seconds, then had to rudely ask them to please open the gate, so we could get our breakfast.
Towels are obligatory – also on bathing suit day – except where they aren’t.
Some of the saunas are wet, the steambath, the hamam, etc. In those, you don’t need a towel, naturally, as that would get soaked. And we went from one sauna to the next, some wet, some not, wearing our bathing suits. However, we were relaxing in one of the dryer saunas when an employee, fully dressed, equipped with walkie talkie, came in and told us loudly, “You MUST use a towel here, in ALL of the saunas.” Feeling like very naughty kids, we ran off to get our towels.
Phones are absolutely not allowed.
Now, you saw the rules webpage, just as I did. It’s empty. But there is a long list – in beautiful Dutch, that I happened to see as we left, with at least 12 rules on it. And apparently, and this does make sense, use of mobile phones is not allowed. So, we were sitting outside, having a coffee, in the sunshine, near the pool, when my friend, who is a businessman, took his phone out of his pocket, holding it under the table and very discreetly sent a quick message to his business partner who needed an urgent answer. He didn’t make a phone call. He didn’t have his phone on the table. No one but the “big brother” waiter saw him. The waiter zoomed in and hunching over him, said, in a scolding schoolteacher tone, “Phones are absolutely not allowed here. I have to ask you to take it right now to your locker.”
Lost is not found.
I’m sure you know how it is when you lose something you love or need in a hotel. It’s so frustrating, and so easy to do. You have to pack up quickly, (Yes, they also weren’t told when making the booking for the spa that they would have to pack up their stuff first and store it before going in the spa…). Anyway, they managed to forget something in the room as they rushed up at 11:00 to pack up their stuff just after their massage. And when I called the hotel for them, today, to ask if it had been found by housekeeping – nope. No apology. It’s just not there.
Customer is not king.
By the way, my friends are not kids. He’s a 56 year old man who runs several businesses and is a world champion sailor as well, traveling with his wife, who is also partner in their hospitality business. A respected person, a person who travels all over the world, and who, if he had liked his experience at Spa Zuiver, might have come here again.
How to make it better?
One of my jobs is teaching business students how to give good customer service. I teach them these three simple rules:
Customer is king.
But, they often say, what if he’s wrong? Yes, but what if he is wrong, I answer. Don’t you still want him to return? Have you heard of lifetime equity?
An apology is worth gold.
But I didn’t do anything wrong, it’s just ‘our policy’ or ‘we ran out of that particular item,’ they tell me. Yes, well, you can still be sorry about it. That will go a LONG way towards trying to make the customer feel valued. And if they are valued, they will probably forgive your mistake.
Make it up to them. Offer compensation.
In addition to an apology, a little package of the Rituals items used at the spa or even ‘Here let me give you these bottles of free water for your trip’ would have been nice, after all the many things that went wrong. After all, they did leave a few hundred Euro at this Hotel and Spa. They should be considered valued customers.
“Voulez vous des bananes?” asked a wiry built darkly tanned man with very little clothes on, as he jumped out of the bush in front of us, on the dirt path. We stopped, and he stepped forward, offering his hand to my parents. “Je suis Etienne,” he said.
I didn’t know much French at the time, but after 30 days at sea, with no fresh fruit, a banana sounded wonderful. My parents nodded in consent, and within a few minutes, Etienne had returned, not with a banana, nor one for each of us, but with a whole bunch of bananas. We’d never seen so many in our lives, having lived the comfortable life of supermarkets in Los Angeles, where each banana was perfectly formed, and came with a Chiquita sticker on it.
This bunch, with stubby yellowing and green bananas, some ripe, some still hard, was hard to carry back to the boat, but my dad did so, inviting Etienne back to join us for a drink and snacks. My dad strung the bananas up on one of the spreaders, and as we sunk our teeth into the soft, sweet fruit, I swore to learn some French so I could thank Etienne (and get more of these fresh bananas). My parents gave him some goodies in return for the bananas, and he became our fast friend, on that first island, Nuka Hiva, that we visited in the Marquesas.
Do you have a banana story to share? Feel free to share below!