ROI on Kindness

Things did not slow down over the holidays (e.g. working on Sundays, Christmas Eve). January continued the craziness and February is already off to a running start. This week, I spent three days in San Diego attending a media research conference. My co-worker (who’s also a female 20-something—the relevance of which will become clear) and I booked our hotel over two months ago and managed to get some of the last rooms in the city due to multiple conferences in town.

The Westgate lobby

The Westgate lobby (pardon my phone pictures)

We took the train down from LA early Tuesday morning, rushed to drop our luggage off at our hotel, and proceeded to the conference. After a day of presentations, we returned to our hotel to freshen up before dinner. Admittedly, we were a little perturbed that we’d requested rooms next to each other, or at least on the same floor, but she was on the 14th and I was on the fifth. As we got on the elevator we overheard a man at the front desk explaining he’d gone up to his room to find the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. He came downstairs and the receptionist assured him it was a mistake. He went back up and entered only to find there was someone in the room. Although equally amusing and alarming, my co-worker and I immediately agreed to offer our other room, since we knew the hotel was fully booked as was the rest of San Diego. It was only a two night stay and we would be at the conference most of the time, so it wasn’t a huge sacrifice. The hotel staff and man without a room were very appreciative and as we continued on to our shared room, we were glad we had done a good deed for the day.

When we left for dinner, one of the employees at the front desk told us a bottle of wine was on its way to our room as a thank you. We assured him it was no big deal, but would happily accept the wine when we returned. As we walked, we commented on how appreciative everyone was and that the complimentary wine was a nice gesture. “If you can do something nice for someone and it costs you next to nothing, why wouldn’t you?” I asked, and my co-worker agreed. It was comforting that we reacted to the situation the same way and neither of us felt shortchanged. Moments later, my heel went through a grate and ruined my new shoes, and I laughingly lamented my unjust karma.

Nearly two and a half hours later, we were wrapping up dinner when my co-worker and I received voice mails from the hotel employee saying he had to tell us something of “vital importance.” We wondered if our room had also been double-booked, another room had opened up, or if we had missed our window for the free wine. We returned his call en route to the hotel, but he remained vague and said he had a surprise.

The top

The top

David, the man with “vital” information, welcomed us back with a smile and led us to the elevators. Instead of taking us to the fifth floor, he selected 19. Internally, I wondered if they had arranged for us to enjoy our wine with a view from the top. I noticed my ears had plugged from the height as David led us around the corner. He began to open the door to the Presidential Suite as a man rolled a service cart around the corner carrying a bottle of wine with a fruit and cheese platter.

The greatest surprise

The greatest surprise

The Westgate Hotel is ornately decorated in a way that I love and makes me oddly nostalgic. It’s like entering the dream home of your grandmother’s wildest fantasies; loaded with brocade upholstery, golden fixtures, sparkling chandeliers, marble tile, and intricate wainscoting and crown molding. I commented to David that it was like a mini-Versailles and he confirmed that was the inspiration. The Presidential Suite includes a large living room, two bedrooms and full baths, and a full kitchen. It occupies the entire west side of the floor while the rest is the owners’ suite. As David gave us the tour we were smiling ear to ear and awed at every detail and fun fact. Once we completed our tour he told us it was ours, if we wanted it.

Our suite living room

Our suite living room

Shocked and flattered, we insisted it was way too much. David told us he was touched by our kindness and wanted to show his appreciation. It was the nicest hotel room either of us had been in. We accepted his stunning offer and giddily retrieved our belongings from the fifth floor.

My suite room

My suite room

I share this to show the potential of a completely painless gesture. I’m no saint, this is not a brag. It was a minimal inconvenience to share a room with a co-worker, but a huge help to another guest. The thank you we received wasn’t expected, but goes to show that something that costs you a little, can result in a lot. I ask that you try to do an act of kindness each day in February. It’s the shortest month of the year and we’re already a week in, so it shouldn’t be hard to find a family member, friend, co-worker or stranger for whom a simple gesture would mean a lot.


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