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R.O.A.R.: And the faulty towers award goes to…

Wolfgang H. Thome  Dec 03, 2008

An associate of mine flew into Entebbe early in last week to participate for two days in the geothermal energy conference and attend some meetings I had arranged with two of the delegations. As the conference venue hotel was fully booked I needed to arrange a hotel for his night in Entebbe somewhere else, so out went the mails to 6 suitable hotels, guest houses and inns. Three of the email addresses bounced, undeliverable but yet correct as far as business card and index details were concerned. One smaller hotel did not bother to reply at all, maybe they are full 24/7 though I doubt it, and two responded more or less promptly. After selecting one and declining the other, a confirmation mail went out on early Sunday afternoon but as no answer had reached overnight I stopped there on the way to the conference to ascertain that the booking was indeed there, and that the airport transfer had been arranged.

To my surprise, no record was shown in the book at the reception. When mentioning that the booking has been confirmed the previous day by email, the receptionist went back and forth twice but seemingly the office was still unattended at the early hour. Eventually, some minutes into my effort to get his room confirmed – there was availability after all – a white woman whom one could have mistaken for a guest taking an early breakfast, got up and joined the staff.

When repeating the name for whom the room was booked I was curtly told that ‘the room was cancelled last night by phone’, yet neither had I done so nor was she able to tell me by whom the booking was cancelled. Luckily I got my associate on the phone while in transit in Nairobi, and he had not cancelled his booking either. So back we went to the beginning, pointing out that the booking was a confirmation of a quotation received by them on email, and no, I had not seen a response when I had left my residence at 6 am to drive to Entebbe.

Some red lights must have flashed somewhere then, as one of the receptionists and the women did go back stage, to return with a print of the email, which confirmed the offer given to me, gave flight details for the transfers and requested to grant two free airport transfers instead of only one.

Thankfully emails contain time stamps of delivery, and my mail went out at 13.15 and was received by them at 13.17 hrs. Pointing this out however only earned me an ever so audibly raised voice and increased use of ‘Sir’, blaming their ISP (Uganda Telecom which I also use) for never delivering mails on time … Oooops, I thought, what about the time stamp, or maybe they did not check mail on Sunday?

Being under time pressure to reach the conference in time for registration I abandoned my initial gut feeling of taking my business elsewhere, got the confirmation and the transfer sorted and leaving a seething women behind who got caught by her inconsistencies in front of her junior staff. How could she have canceled a booking following a phone call, to make it worse from someone who never made the booking in the first place, when she claimed to never have seen the email in the first place.

I picked my associate the following morning when he tried to have breakfast, and he had promptly noted the total absence of non-pork breakfast items. The waitress confirmed that they did not have beef or chicken sausage nor non-pork bacon or ham, not acceptable for a visitor of Islamic faith of course. Meanwhile, the women of the previous morning walked by just outside the breakfast terrace, made eye contact for a long moment and then walked off like a sulking diva. As a ‘manager’ it would have been in order to pass by, make polite enquiries how the night was for my associate but seeing me and probably recalling her twisted tail of the previous morning, probably made her just want to get away. As incidentally no response was ever sent about the cost of the second transfer, I then opted to have my colleague check out right away, at which stage we spotted another one. Accommodation charges were quoted at one exchange rate and the supper the previous night was charged at another lower exchange rate. The receptionist / cashier was of course not able to explain why that was so. Hence the bill was settled in Dollars to avoid another argument and I later in the day took my associate to the airport myself.

For this performance, witnessed in a place I not too long ago gave a better review on opening in my column, I grant them the 'Faulty Towers of the Month Award." My business in Entebbe, as will my recommendations, will in the future go elsewhere. Finally I must raise the questions, how does immigration grant work permits for such expatriate employees? I know plenty of capable Ugandans, experienced, friendly and knowledgeable, who could do ultimately better than that befitting faulty towers episode starlet.

R.O.A.R.:  And the faulty towers award goes to…
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