How do you treat your Captive?

Tent - Electric Picnic

We were going to Electric Picnic the following day and as we are a little older and used to our few comforts we opted for the hotel in Portlaoise instead of a tent!

The hotel that is normally “from €59” per night was now €200 but the snag was if you wanted to book for Saturday night then you had to book Friday night at well – fair enough we reckoned.  We have come to accept that when you are a “captive” they can pretty much charge what they want – its like the last minute Ryanair flights.

Maldron Hotel PortlaoiseThe first thing that got me was the “from €59” banners on the way into the hotel – at least have the decency of taking those down when you are charging people €200 x 2!

We weren’t expecting The Ritz but we were hoping for this hotel alongside the motorway to be good at least and maybe there might be a buzz and a few things going on for the “Picnic”.

We booked in to be told that the rate was room only and breakfast, which was extra would be served from 8am …hmm

The room was a little bit tired but functional, the second bed had been removed, the light kept switching off in the loo and there was virtually no mobile phone reception (not their problem I guess) – my kids would be ringing as we were meeting up at the festival the next day.

We had done enough driving for one day so we decided to grab a bite to eat in the restaurant – it was surprisingly quiet as we were pretty much the only diners except for a bunch of young women. We managed to get the worst chicken wings of all time and the 100% beef burgers (festival fever was kicking in already!) were tasteless and overcooked.

We watched as a man sat alone in the corner waiting for his meal – from where we sat we could see that it was ready and sitting under the heated lamps. The waitress was chatting to the manager but didn’t seem to spot that his meal was ready – she came over to us, cleared our plates and then collected his meal and brought it to him. I’m guessing it was sitting there for about 5 minutes.

It was at that point that a young and older woman arrived – they were obviously here hoping for a nice meal and I felt a sense of responsibly towards them. I felt like telling them to go somewhere else!

Are you sure I shouldn’t say something to them?” I asked Dee.  “You can’t do that and besides, they will think you are mad” A good point I reckoned!

The manager marched around the restaurant with a sense of authority – I watched him wondering – does he realise how bad the place is?  The two chefs were staring out from the open kitchen waiting for another customer order – come on guys, surely you want to produce better meals?  Do better even for your own satisfaction?

Our plates were cleared – the waitress had a sixth sense that “how was your meal?” was a question she shouldn’t bother with.

Young Wonder at Electric Picnic 2013

Young Wonder from Cork

The following day we had a great time at Electric Picnic, the highlights being Young Wonder, Daithi and the rock god Robert Plant (ex Led Zeppelin). At the festival you could see that some of the vendors were taking advantage with expensive food and beer but some were charging normal prices.

We were back at the hotel for about 2 am to find none of the glasses had been cleared from the room from the night before – I was looking forward to checking out the next morning.

This place has settled for a certain standard, a level of service that delivers you rooms at €59 and one that leaves you unsatisfied and sealing the argument that you get what you pay for. They could do better, an awful lot better if they just tried and had some pride in their product and service but In some ways it didn’t matter because we were captives for both nights.

Instead of giving us a “good” experience for our overpriced stay and possibly making us consider it again (at €59) we will now pass the hotel every time we take the trip back and forth to Dublin and say “that’s that poor place that totally ripped us off during Electric Picnic …do you remember?

There are times when our customers are captives:

  • They need something urgently
  • They are stuck with a problem
  • You are the only one open
  • They have a crisis
  • They have no other option at the time but deal with you
  • You have a monopoly in that area
  • You are the only one with their files

When your customer is a captive how do you treat them?

Greg Canty is a partner of Fuzion

Fuzion are a Marketing, PR and Design firm in Irealnd with offices in Cork and Dublin

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9 Responses to “How do you treat your Captive?”

  1. Rudy de Groot Says:

    Hi Greg, that was indeed a lousy experience you had there. I stayed there for a Bon Jovi concert in 2008. We didn’t have a meal there, so weren’t too exposed. Also, I don’t think we paid anything near the € 400 euro you paid – we only stayed one night and paid for one night and we didn’t “sample” the food, other than breakfast …..

    Based on what you wrote I certainly would be slow to repeat the experience. It’s amazing that in this social media age people are still prepared to rip customers off and not offer value for money. I shudder to think how many people you have reached with this blog post. I am sure any search on Google will bring that up untill the end of time. Also – as you have done many, many times, if your experience had been a good one, you would have shared that and created a positive story with all the ensuing benefits for that “establishment”

    I would be very reluctant to take advantage of any client, good, bad or indifferent, if they needed anything in my remit to provide, even if it had to go beyond the norm. Every time the phone rings, a tweet, or a message on LinkedIn, or Facebook comes in, is an opportunity to create a relationship and leave a good impression. Treating customers like captives is wholly counter productive. People and companies who don’t “get” that will continue to have to work twice as hard to develop, never mind maintain customers.

    Call me lazy, but it costs the same amount of effort or maybe just only a tiny little bit more to provide a good service and value for money. But the return on good value / service is incalculable, never mind the satisfaction of a job well done.

    • Greg Canty Says:

      Thanks Rudy – with a budget of €140 extra per room per night a few simple touches would have made the world of a difference.

      We were a captive and we could have been “forced” to have a great experience!

  2. paulmcmenamy Says:

    Again, this is too uncommon in this land of ours. So many people in the hospitality industry – hotels/pubs/restaurants – that seem incapable and/or unwilling to make you feel like you matter to them. They may have their personal reasons – but these should never impinge on you, the customer. Come on, have some common decency and respect for us – or were you not brought up to do that?

  3. Greg Canty Says:

    Posted on behalf of Mairead Kelly:

    I would have thought that any business worth it’s salt would treat it’s captives just like any other clients. Unfortunately this establishment does just that and is known for it’s treatment of its’ guests. It seems to be standard in most of their premises and is not isolated to this particular one.

    I know of other hotel chains funnily enough starting with the same letter (and also international) who treat their staff with such bad conditions that for them to raise a smile at you IS going above and beyond normal service.

    Yet these same staff are threatened with dismissal if they consider joining a union or can’t keep up with their (overloaded and understaffed) workload. They are also told that they should be grateful that they have a job.

    The reason places like this can get away with this type of treatment of it’s clients AND staff is people still use them. A B&B would probably have been cheaper and better service.

  4. Greg Canty Says:

    Thanks Mairead – You seem to have a few more experiences than I have. Surely it must be case of delivering the best possible service under the circumstances.

  5. Chris Says:


    I dont know what was funnier, your surprise at price gouging or the explanation to the jounger readers that Robert Plant was Ex Led Zepplin :).

    Stayed in that hotel when i was in the conference organising/ training game 10 yrs ago. Can only surmise it’s a victim of NAMAtization ( no longer my hotel why should I care- run by accounants not hoteliers. I agree for the €140 gouging they could have a laeast put a mint on the pillow, even if it wasnt an Elisabeth Shaw. Hopefully you at least enjoyed the picnic!

    • Greg Canty Says:

      cheers Chris … even in NAMA land we have chefs and managers and staff being paid. NAMA might mean we give up but it didn’t mean someone gave up on the opportunity to charge more than three times the normal rate.

      Thanks for reading

  6. Leo O'Callaghan Says:

    Hi Greg,
    Glad to hear that you enjoyed the Picnic. Your treatment at the hotel was indeed terrible and unfortunately is the norm in lots of businesses. As far as I am concerned all customers should be treated with respect and given the best possible service at all times. Nor should a customer be ripped off just because they need the item in a hurry or,as in your case, need a room close to a venue. The service you give a customer should always be 100% no matter how much the customer is paying or the value of the order. The hotel banner “from €59.00” is a lot like the shops with a sign in the window “up to 75% off” but when you go in you are lucky to find 1 item which has 75% off.Leo

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