It’s country #23 – Canada. By the rules of the country game, describing Montreal as part of Canada may be challenged. Many would vigorously defend the right of Quebec to be distinct from Canada. This includes many Quebecois who will be shuddering at my lack of accents (it’s just too hard to find them on an English keyboard).
I spent this week at a putative 5-star hotel that shall be nameless to protect the staff. Now I’m sure on a good week this well-known and respected Montreal landmark would live up to expectations and deliver a fine and satisfying service. Unfortunately they seem somehow to have misstepped in the Canadian industrial relations system.
When I arrived, all seemed calm except for a polite notice that suggested some union action might occur. Certainly things seemed normal enough that evening – the bar and restaurants were open, all the staff seemed to be there. Over the next 3 days things grew steadily odder. Staff disappeared, my room was no longer cleaned, the health club closed, the remaining staff turned up in shorts and T-shirts, all pretence of service was abandoned.
Sunday morning a fire alarm at 7:30 brought the few remaining hotel guests out into the street in their dressing gowns and jarmies to stand around outside the lobby and watch the fun. The fire engines arrived in less than 5 minutes, and there was much busy to-ing and fro-ing before the all-clear was sounded. Thank goodness it wasn’t a real fire. The lack of visible fire wardens, defined muster point or crowd control would have meant victims for sure. Canadian safety procedures? Unionised malice? I’ll never know.
Just half an hour ago, two housekeeping staff appeared at my door. A more trusting person might have been overjoyed that they had finally come to make up the room – it had been 2 days out of 4. Unfortunately they seemed only to want to take away all the minibar biscuits, chocolates and other over-priced goodies you are only ever tempted to eat after room service closes for the night. I would have just assumed they were bringing fresher versions, or that the guests’ pilfering had reached unacceptable levels, if they had not invited me to help myself from the collection on the way out. Canadian hospitality? Unionised malice? I’ll never know.
On my last morning, after a week of bemusedly watching a 5-star hotel implode on itself, I decided it was time to be assertive. I marched up to the front desk:
“I would like a 6:00pm checkout please”
“That will cost you an extra day”
Using my best Jedi hand-wave – “It will not cost me anything more”.
The receptionist looked at me blankly for a moment, disappeared into a back room and returned a minute later.
“No problem, 6:00 it is”.
Bouyed with confidence in my mind-control technique, when I came back at 6:00, I managed to get another night free for the inconvenience.
At least the weather was warm and sunny, there were lots of cheap and cheerful restaurants to choose from, and I had fun shopping.
Back in London now. The fire engines were piling up outside my favourite market yesterday, and I’m off to see if it burnt down while I was sleeping.