The Practice of Hospitality

Like any job, there are moments of real joy & satisfaction and… then…

Anthony Bourdain had the best job in the world. He got paid handsomely to travel around the world and eat the best food with some of most passionate people in the restaurant business. Yet he committed a very tragic suicide. The point is that with any job or practice, one’s state of mind is critical to one’s success.

In the hospitality business one is bound to come across, every now and then, what is known in the industry as a high-maintenance customer. It is during these encounters that people in the hospitality business are tested. It doesn’t matter if you already helped the customer five times more than your average customer. There is no math here. There’s only the new request coming in and how you deal with it.

Blogger and entrepreneur David Cain has come up with a pretty nifty trick that I am going to adopt, from his post “The Only Dependable Source of Happiness”. When David encounters a stranger doing something particularly annoying he becomes their secret ally.

Unbeknownst to the other person, I’ve gone from silently resenting them to silently watching out for them. For the short time we’re in the same vicinity, I’m prepared to leap into action should they need any sort of help. If they appeared to need directions, I’d offer. If their grocery bags were to tear, I’d help collect the rolling fruit.


I’ve almost never had to actually spring into action, aside from helping people reach things in grocery stores, but that’s not the main purpose. Essentially I’m training myself to view others with goodwill, rather than judgment. 


And it works. My helping reflex is stronger and my judging reflex is weaker. Becoming a secret ally also makes me feel happier right in that moment.

For me, my new course of action will be to try and anticipate the needs of my high-maintenance customers and spring into action when they find themselves helpless. Or even if they’re pretending.

By having a strategy when times get tough I hope to be a certain way: calm, collected, intent on helping, with a hope to really satisfy my customer’s needs. And why not? After all hospitality means:

the quality or disposition of receiving and treating guests and strangers in a warm, friendly, generous way.

Really, there’s no other choice.

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