While this story is not strictly about business travel, it’s very relevant to business travellers and I thought I would share it.

My wife and I had been undecided as whether to attend a winetasting in Santa Barbara, CA. this weekend and made a late decision to go. At the last minute,  accommodation options in Santa Barbara were very limited and we made a booking for Saturday evening through the Extended Stay America hotel website direct on Thursday.

My wife received email confirmation of the booking on her cellphone on the dates she had booked, but she did not open the email on her desktop email system that indicated that the hotel was booked for Thursday-Friday. Neither did she check to see if there was a booking confirmation number on her cellphone email

After a 4 hour drive and afternoon of wine tasting, we were looking forward to a restful stay at our hotel a few miles from the winetasting venue. The first inkling that there could be a problem was when we got to the hotel desk and heard the clerk advising a couple that there was no availability and that everything in Santa Barbara was sold out.

Our turn at the desk came and I got that sinking feeling when the clerk began questioning us to the possible names the booking was made under and asked if we had a reservation number. My wife opened her cellphone email and found the booking for Saturday evening, but there was no confirmation number. On her desktop email, the booking was confirmed for Thursday and Friday on the day she made the booking. Clearly there was a problem with the booking.

At this point we have two options, either get mad at the clerk and vent our frustration and demand that they solve the problem on the spot, or call the hotel company and get mad at them and demand that they solve the problem while we fume on the phone, threatening never to use their services again and slagging them off on social media.

The other alternative is to shrug your shoulders and say bummer, – and begin to create options for yourself to solve the problem that don’t involve you becoming enraged and upsetting others.

While my wife was on the phone with Extended Stay, I chose the latter and asked the clerk for a Wi-Fi password and began looking at alternatives. After a few minutes we found a hotel 30 minutes up the road we had already traveled and made a snap booking as there were very few available options remaining.

We spent the night in a Motel-6, not our first choice for accommodation, but it was the last room within a 30 minute drive. We had a good night’s sleep in a room that was clean, where the beds firm, but comfortable and we got a $10 discount on the room… whoopee!

This morning in one of our favorite breakfast places, Andersen’s in Santa Barbara, we had another encounter that we have all seen played-out badly in restaurants.

We arrived at the restaurant at 10AM, were served coffee and juice and our orders taken. The food was taking a long time coming and a clue that there might be a problem was when the people sitting next to us, who came 10 minutes after us, were served their breakfast. Bummer

I inquired as to the whereabouts of our breakfast and the hostess gave us a curt “this is Sunday morning” reply. Fair enough I thought, it’s a busy place and the food is worth waiting for. However it was now 10.45 and still no food. A few minutes later our curt hostess came back to our table and apologized that our order in fact had gotten lost. Bummer
Meanwhile the people next to us were paying their bill.

I was getting a little impatient and could easily have made a scene, passed a rude comment and stormed off; but that would only upset me, the staff and immediate patrons and we would still be 30 minutes away from breakfast. Finally the food arrived at 11AM and we were advised that everything would be complimentary. Whoopee.

Our curt hostess asked if we liked champagne and returned with two glasses… the Sun was over the yardarm somewhere. Whoopee.

I reflected on this experience and recall a humorous talk I had heard from Tim Gard five years earlier at the Professional Speakers Association annual conference in London.

He spoke about the highs and lows of business travel and the potential for things to go wrong – often and right occasionally. The point of his talk was that things will go wrong, it’s how we react to them that sets the tone for the remainder of the encounter or trip. His advice, when things go wrong – shrug your shoulders, say bummer and move on. When things go right, click your heels, say whoopee and be grateful for the break. Tim was no doubt influenced by Viktor Frankl.

Viktor Frankl wrote in “Man’s Search for Meaning” that human beings are the only species with the freedom to choose how they will react in any situation through the exercise of our free will. Life will present many challenges, but our power to shape our response to the challenges determines our attitude and ultimately shapes our experience. His insights came from his experience in surviving the Dachau concentration camps in WW2, when all those that he loved, save for his sister, perished.

Summary and Take-aways:

  1. Always check to ensure your booking is for the correct dates and that you have a reservation number when you receive email confirmation of an Internet travel or accommodation booking.
  2. In business travel and in life things will go wrong, it’s how we react to them that sets the tone for the rest of the event.
  3. If things go wrong – say bummer, begin to create options to solve the problem instead of getting mad.
  4. If things go right and you get that room upgrade or last seat in business-class, click your heels, do a little dance and say Whoopee!
  5. If you haven’t yet read Man’s Search for Meaning, it could be time you did.