It’s Always the Little Things

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It’s always the little things, that make experiences unforgettable.

We’ve been to a wedding one weekend. After the ceremony, everyone were invited for dinner in a very nice place with amazing view – Hotel Koldingfjord. The new-weds have rented a spacious building for the get-together which was on top of the hill and only accessible by stairs. Most of the guests were young and strong and could climb them themselves, but not the 90-year-old grandpa. Here came a waitress and offered a ride up in a golf cart. The cart was then left parked near the house. And later, when our two year old son had climbed in to check the amazing car, the waitress came again and offered a ride. Our son’s face was simply shining with happiness.

The first incident shows how the hotel takes care of all their market segments. The elderly probably don’t stand on most luxury places’ important client list. But if you rent venues for such events like weddings, you need to take into consideration that the groom or the bride will want to see their beloved grandparents as guests. And have to foresee what kind of needs this segment might have, and how to address them. It’s kind of ‘extended circles’ of your market segment – your market’s market, your delivery chain. The waitress was prepared – she was waiting for us, she approached us, she was in control of the situation. It’s the pre-care of the customer, to be ready to meet their needs. Did they know about the elderly guest who would be needing assistance and were prepared accordingly, or did they draw upon their past experiences with family get-togethers and were prepared accordingly? It does not matter as long as customers are satisfied. If we would have had to go and find a solution ourselves, it would not have been such a pleasant experience. The lesson: be careful when you define your markets.

The second incident falls into category ‘more than you expect’. Nothing would have happened if the child wouldn’t have gotten a ride – but it was definitely a very nice experience to him. It was not caring for the customer’s needs like in the first example, it was caring for the customer’s dreams. It’s quite easy to see what a little child dreams of. With grown-ups it’s much more complicated. But you can draw on common sense: offer to call a taxi for people leaving a party, a small gift for romantic couple, a book and a toy for a child on a plane (SAS), a free bun for a child in a supermarket (nearly every bigger supermarket in Denmark is doing this)… I like how quickly I went from grown ups to children. Serving children is easy, and by serving them, you will also be serving their parents. The lesson: if you can make someone’s dream come true, do it.

Remember: it’s always the little things.

A Quick Note About Human Resource Management

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Employee training should be seen as any project: with clear deadlines, responsibilities, and goals.

One of the HR functions is employment and training. Let’s take it step by step.

1. Employer has an open vacancy. In most cases,  they will put up a job ad where requirements for applicants and job responsibilities will be listed and wait for applications.

2. a. They choose a person, perfectly fitting the job description and work together happily ever after. But that is almost never the case.

2. b. They choose a person, who needs training to be able to perform well on the job. This is where the fun begins.

So there is a problem a company (and the employee, actually) faces: how do we train this new employee?

There are a few approaches.

a. To put a training course which will give the ‘perfect’ employee who will perform their duties many years to come. Companies may also put a few candidates through training and employ the one who showed best results. This was the tactic of the coffee shop I was working in; they even had exams for waitresses with every seasonal menu change. And it’s an understandable requirement if a restaurant wants to be known for a service quality.

b. In times of financial difficulties, and/or if the business is small, throwing time and resources to such professional training might be difficult or even impossible. Still, the training still has to take place. In such cases it is important to keep in mind that employee training should be seen as any project: with clear deadlines, responsibilities, and goals. Communication is very important – the employee has to know what is expected from her/him, what resources are available, and when the deadline for learning is. If the company is generous, they can give a certain time off – again, making it clear for the employee – to devote it for self-learning, or resources like entries to conferences etc. Such model allows the employee to know what is expected of her/him and prepare accordingly, and the company can expect a trained employee on the evaluation day.

c. The employer expects the problem to solve itself in some magical way. No goals and deadlines are set. The possible outcome? ‘What you measure is what you get’, and if you measure nothing, you get nothing in return. A self-aware employee will try to learn things on their own, but without a deadline it will be hard to stay focused, without a goal he or she might prioritize other things than employer would, and without knowledge of available resources the learning will not be as effective.

The main difference between b and c is communication. “You lack knowledge about product range B, something needs to be done about that” – “Yes” is very different from “You lack knowledge about product range B, therefore we are giving you this catalogue to read at home and we will have a little exam in a fortnight where you will try to sell me one of the products. Is this OK with you?” – “Yes. I will read it and convince you to buy something. Two weeks should be enough for me to learn it”. Can you see the difference? In the first example, only a problem is defined but no ways of tackling it were agreed upon. In the second example, there is agreed upon resources, responsibilities, goals, and deadline. Such conversation will lead to results.

To sum up:

In order to avoid c type of situation, if you are the employer/ leader:

  1. define what needs to be learned;
  2. set a goal with a deadline;
  3. define available resources;
  4. communicate it to the employee;
  5. make sure that employee understands and is willing to take up on learning.

If you are the employee:

  1. define your weak sides;
  2. ask your employer/ leader for resources/ guidance;
  3. ask your employer/ leader for a deadline (a project without a deadline will never be finished);
  4. push yourself to the limits;
  5. communicate your progress to the employer.

Do you have anything to add? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Thank you!

A Trip That Turned into Hell

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This has definitely been the worst travel experience I have ever had. The trip started a bit past 04.00 in the morning in Klaipėda and ended at about 13.00 the next day. The route was Klaipėda-Riga-Paris-Nantes-Clisson.

In this post I will describe how it happened, give some critique about European passenger rights law, and what I’ve learnt from this hell-trip.


Plane Tickets: Change of Surname

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A post about a VERY positive experience🙂

Yesterday I bought tickets to my hometown, Vilnius, via the website which is operated by a big travel agency West Express. This was the first time I was using this website. My fellow Lithuanian friends recommended it because of low prices.

When buying the ticket I managed to misspell my surname. This was a silly typo, but it could have cost me 250Lt (~73€) fee of surname change, which is equal to almost half of what I paid for the tickets alone. And I noticed this typo only when my payment was already accepted. No turning back.

I quickly wrote to their office explaining the situation and asking about surname change. This morning I got a reply from them, saying, “You don’t need to pay a fee. We have fixed your surname already. Thank you for choosing West Express”. Wooooooooooooeeeeeeeeeeeee!😀

This is what I call a GOOD customer service.

I don’t know if it’s a common practice to fix the typos for free, but it certainly leaves one feeling all calm, happy, and relaxed.

Some News

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Just a little update on what is different in this blog.

1) I changed the name of the blog from “hospitality Industry Insights” to “Notes on Hospitality Industry”. I think the current one represents the contents of this blog much better. The old name was way too pretentious.

2) I changed the theme into one that goes very well with the new name🙂 also, when reading my older posts I noticed that I was constantly complaining about the bullet points; in the currents theme I see nothing to complain about.

These changes happened quite a long time ago, but I thought I should write this little update anyway.

P.S. Happy New Year!

One Day in Paris

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For the first time in my life I was in Paris. It was only one day, but it was enough to feel the spirit of Paris, and to want to visit it again.
Before the journey I made a little plan of what to do, but it had to be changed in place due to certain circumstances. But we still managed to fulfill some points of it.

We started the day by a visit to Centre Georges Pompidou. It was wonderful, especially the exhibition ‘Dreamlands’. What I remember most from it is an art installation ‘No one can stop a New Yorker’ – but there were many other wonderful art projects in there, too. No wonder we spent several hours in this centre of modern art – but it is possible to spend a whole day in there.

Centre Georges Pompidou

In every big city I go to I try to pay a visit to a local centre of modern art (CMA), as they reflect a part of local culture. Here, one whole floor is devoted to female artists and other minorities, and school visits are a very common thing. Also, a book shop in CMAs is a must to visit, as often they serve as an additional exhibition.

Next stop was Notre Dame. Even though we saw it only from the outside, it looks so majestic. Here I noted to myself: next time, go inside.

The facade of Notre Dame

Gargoyles of Notre Dame

Shakespeare & Company is an English book shop recommended by Lonely Planet. It is nice, but I wouldn’t include it into a must-see-in-Paris list. However, if we came there on the time when the events take place, I would probably think differently. We spent there maybe half an hour, at the same time waiting for the rain to end. (Update November 2010: the Scanorama magazine (the one you find in SAS flights) was writing about this bookshop as well. Apparently it has a very long history and traditions, and there’s also a second level with a reading room and a piano. We missed it! Now we definitely have to return there some time.)

Water fountain and Shakespeare & Co in the background

The Eiffel Tower. Probably the biggest tourist hot-spot, and I think it’s worth it. Wonderful view from the top. Here I made another note to self: next time, go here in the dark hours (as Lonely Planet recommends), as a view of lit-up Paris must be breathtaking.

Eiffel Tower

View from top

At this point we couldn’t do anything from the plan, so we decided just to wander a bit. We chose to go see the Louvre at least from the outside, and this decision brought us into the middle of a massive flash-mob, called ‘Dîner en Blanc’ – ‘The White Dinner’. I can definitely say that this was the best part of the day. We weren’t dressed white and didn’t have treats with us, so we couldn’t join, but nevertheless watching all those white-dressed people was a remarkable experience. I would totally love to see such event take place in my hometown, Vilnius.

Dîner en Blanc

Dîner en Blanc

Dîner en Blanc

And this is all I’ve seen of Paris in one day.

Next time I’d like to go to Eiffel Tower during night, take a cruise down the Seine (also preferably during the night), go to the tower of Montparnasse (so that the Eiffel Tower would be visible in the photos:), visit the Notre Dame, go to other museums and galleries, and just explore the town.

Accommodation. We were living in a suite hotel near the Gare d’Austerlitz. While making your own breakfast is a nice thing on long vacations, a ‘normal’ hotel with breakfast is a more convenient choice when on short trips, in my opinion.

The original purpose of us flying to France was a metal festival near Clisson – Hellfest. You can read my report about it (in Lithuanian) here.

Other things about Paris:

  1. An incredible amount of homeless people on the streets
  2. A labyrinthine and old Metro without excalators and gates munching your luggage
  3. French hamburgers/cheezburgers are totally NOT like you would expect them to be.

Thanks for reading!

Four Days of London

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At the beginning of October 2009, I was in London for the first time. The vacation took four days. Originally we went there to see Porcupine Tree, Opeth and Dream Theatre live, but once we were in London we wanted to take as much as possible from it.

The Hotel

We stayed at “The International Hotel Britannia” all the nights. It was very cool that it offered 20% off for staying for four days (that was basically the reason why we were there for four days, not for three). It was also cool that girl at the reception was Lithuanian, so we got a better room😀 Other advantages: good connection with the city using DLR (Docklands Light Railway) and London Underground services, many international people in the hotel, what gave a very cozy and friendly atmosphere. Pizzeria and room service 24/7 (haven’t used, though), pool, spa, gym (haven’t used these as well, but we just were in town all the time) and whatever a four star hotel should have. All that left me imagining what a dull life those serious businessmen have, if they don’t have anyone to go out to town with and pour some culture into themselves in the countless museums, theatres, exhibitions or pour some English ale into their stomachs in the countless English pubs. Instead of that, they stay at the hotel. Creepy.

Also, we were offered to upgrade to a room with a Jacuzzi and free access to all of hotel’s facilities. We refused, because that would have cost 120£. Well, if we would have agreed to have breakfast at the hotel (which would have cost 27£ each day), then the upgrade would be only 12£, but we thought that’s not a good deal for us, especially that we were planning on seeing London, not the hotel.

Ok, now it’s time for hotel curiosities. I was wondering, how a not so good room would be like, because from our room’s window we could see the DLR (what was cool) – and also hear it (which wasn’t that cool). And DLR goes about every three minutes, also at nights. Good that we were all tired after days full of impressions.

Other curiosities were about water. When we came back to our room after Dream Theatre and Opeth, we heard water running in the bathroom. And yes, in the bathroom there was cold water left running all the day while we were out – the bathtub was half full already, and it even wasn’t plugged up. We for sure didn’t leave the bath like that – but could have chambermaids done that? Weird, weird, weird. Furthermore, the next (and the last) morning it got a bit annoying – no hot water. Sunday morning everybody’s checking out and taking a bath before leaving, I guess – but no hot water in a 4* hotel is a bit of no excuse.

Porcupine Tree at Hammersmith Apollo

Sold out! It was a bit weird at first to listen to the concert while sitting, but later we got used to that. Porcupine Tree is not really that kind of music you could headbang to and jump around and scream and so on during the entire concert. Sitting actually fits, and quite well. Sound was a bit too loud during the warm-up band’s performance and at the beginning of Porcupine Tree there was a bit too much bass, but later it got just perfect. Lot too loud, not too silent. At the end of the concert people were applauding standing – it was really such a good concert.

There was one very nice moment in the concert, when the lead singer asked if there’s anybody in the hall who were seeing Opeth the next day. Several people raised their hands shouting (including us), and then he asked to give best wishes for Mikael Åkerfeldt, the singer of Opeth.

After the concert we went to a nearby snack bar to get something to eat before going back to hotel. I got cod and chips and it took a while for me to finish eating (I eat slowly), but during that time we could hear a fan of Porcupine Tree speaking stuff about them to his friends. He was so passionate.

Opeth and Dream Theatre at Wembley Arena

What can I say – it was a very, very good concert. Sadly we were a bit late, so we didn’t see the first band and half of Big Elf performance. They were ok. “She got me blindfolded” haha😀.

Opeth – goooood. They were playing the more brutal songs of theirs to differ themselves from the rest of the bands. Yeah \m/

Dream Theatre – also good. They were headliners of the concert, so they got a bigger stage with three screens and all the fancy stuff. The cool moments: at the beginning of the first song Mikael Åkerfeldt ran on the stage and growled several lines. Later there was a drum solo, first only by Dream Theatre’s drummer, but then he exclaimed that the drum kit was too big for him alone and started calling out drummers from other three bands. So at the end they were four playing one drum kit. Pure awesomeness, I must say.

After this concert we were discussing with Anders, that we see no reason for Opeth not to be headliners, as both of us find this band better than all-praised Dream Theatre. We’re not saying that DT is not worth their name – we’re just saying, that Opeth is better🙂

The recent Dream Theatre video contains some behind the scenes shots of this concert, watch it!


Firstly – it starts to annoy me, that airport officers get confused about my old green passport, back from those times when Lithuania hasn’t been part of EU yet. The date is written there in format “dd mm yyyy”. And everybody looks at the first number, 06, and says that my passport is no longer valid, although if they looked just two more symbols to the right, they would find 2012.

Second – *censored* terrorists. I’m not afraid of flying at all, but I’m afraid to get stuck in the security gates because of some minor issue. For example, that rule for liquids not to exceed 100ml. So you can’t even bring water to the plane – you have to buy that behind the security gates, where it costs at least twice as much. And I usually carry more than one lip balm with me – so, if I forget to take one out/don’t find it in my bag, I might be interrogated and what not. This is something that really gives me nerves in airports. Not to mention being touched everywhere if the metal detector detects something. And that super fancy new X-Ray machine – wonderful, anyone can see me naked. This gives me creeps.

London in general

–          I really enjoyed, that one can buy a snack-pack of fresh fruit almost anywhere. I wonder if this is part of some governmental “Eat more healthy food” campaign, or is there demand for healthy snacks? This saved me from eating junk food, which is usually unavoidable when travelling.

–          During our stay probably all the museums and galleries were free to enter. We took an opportunity to visit Tate Modern.

–          Camden Town is surely one of the reasons to go to London. It’s like an alternative universe, where it is always 70s – 80s.

–          Greenwich – this town (?) reminded me of Vilnius very much. Architecture, university, nature and modern buildings on the other side. Greenwich market is also remarkably good – one can find almost anything there.

–          “Look right” written on the roads. Yes, left side traffic is very confusing.

–          Metal pub “The Intrepid Fox” – took a while to find it, even longer to leave it. A super cool metal pub. Just why is the music so damn loud in all the English pubs? When you need to shout to your partner and your ears start hurting – it’s too loud. Don’t they know it?

–          The banks of Thames are ad-free. That’s wonderful, I must say.

–          Madame Tussaud’s museum. Quite fun, but we didn’t know half of celebrities. Maybe we need to buy a TV.

–          I heard a terrible advertisement on the subway. Something like: “Feel ugly? Have a plastic surgery at our hospital. Call now to book your appointment!” CREEPY!

–          We are weird tourists that didn’t go to see Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Windsor Castle and went to Trafalgar Square only by accident.

–          English food. Not the best kitchen in the world, really…

–          Mind the gap!


I’ll be visiting London again in April. Again, for Opeth🙂


Li’l update: photos from this weekend getaway are to be found here.

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