Everything seems to be socially stratified these days, and people are often judged by what they wear,the kinds of cars they drive, where they live and funny enough, where they buy their groceries- yeah some people believe you’re only worthy of their attention if you buy your groceries at Woolworths. I’ve never really been one to put people in factions based on society’s disturbingly shallow class system, but my recent experience at the Intercontinental Hotel O.R Tambo Johannesburg showed me how shallow the world is becoming.
So this year, I’ve decided to put my creativity to good use, and acquire some well-needed life experience in any field I can squeeze myself into. I am not doing it because I lack skills or education; I completed my masters in Environmental Engineering and Technology with distinction. I decided to go this route because I’m keen to learn, live to the fullest and not put myself in an academic box. I agreed to help a friend market his tourism and corporate training firm,Interlink Voyagers. the company specializes in corporate training for medical, labor and education unions across Africa, leadership training for top executives, study arrangements for students looking to pursue their postgraduate degrees in South Africa, school tours for high school students, as well as local tourism within South Africa. I digress…back to the main gist.
I came up with the idea of distributing flyers to hotels, so their clients can call the company for sightseeing tours amongst many other things. So yesterday, I drove to Birchwood hotel in Boksburg. Why? I’ve been there, I’ve stayed there with my mum. It is a beautiful hotel, with friendly staff and an amazing conference centre. After discussing with one of the front desk receptionists, I dropped some flyers, said goodbye, no problems encountered there. I then decided to try the hotels by the airport which is just about 11 minutes away from Birchwood. I checked my GPS, located the Intercontinental hotel at O.R Tambo and decided to drive down there.
I parked my car in one of the open parking spaces, next to a Mercedes 2014 c-class. I had barely walked three steps from my car when the hotel concierge, a bulky white man dressed in a costume I can only assume was borrowed from Hakeem’s father in ‘Coming to America’ approached me. His approach was probably intended to be intimidating but what I immediately detected was hostility. He asked if he could help me with anything, I explained my mission to him, and he immediately told me the front office manager and every other person who works at reception was in a meeting. I thought that was highly unlikely but chose to believe him. He told me the meeting would take an hour, to which I responded that I was willing to wait. I walked back to my car, turned on the radio and waited patiently. At this point, many thoughts were crossing my mind but I chose to push them aside and see how things would play out.
I had only waited for twenty minutes when the concierge again appeared from nowhere and said he had a message from the front desk manager. Apparently, she had asked me to drop some flyers and my business card… Hmmm. So she could actually see me but didn’t think I was worthy enough to enter the hotel to speak to her? I masked my disgust well enough, gave him the flyers and drove away wondering “what the hell was that?!”
The Intercontinental hotel at O.R. Tambo is just that- a hotel, not a safe or a nuclear power station- a hotel, built for hospitality to make guests feel welcome. I wondered why I had received such a ‘blocked reception’. Was it because I went with my trusted, fuel efficient, not so intimidating VW Polo Vivo, and not my Mercedes C Class? How can a hotel possibly send out the concierge to meet people down the driveway before they even have a chance to reach the hotel’s doorsteps? Would the reception have been the same if I’d gone in a different car, or worn different clothes? (I wore pants, a shirt and heels by the way). That morning before I headed out to Birchwood, I’d mentioned booking rooms at one of the airport hotels for 30 guests I’m organizing a conference for in a couple of months. Now, I’d rather book them into the Michelangelo at Sandton. Why? It’s one of the top range hotels in the city, I’ve wined and dined there, attended meetings there, and I had an amazing experience each time! The concierge did not meet me before I had a chance to reach the doorsteps, nor did the office manager watch me through the hotel doors hoping I’ll give up and just leave.
It is absolutely disgusting to know that even those in the so-called ‘hospitality industry’ are propagating class stratification behaviour based on what they see. I am absolutely convinced the front desk manager or at least someone at reception could see me through the hotel’s tinted glass doors. It is highly unlikely that a five star hotel (I think that’s what it is) would have an empty reception area at about 10:00am. I’ve stayed at five star hotels in Greece, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, England, Nigeria, and yes South Africa, and it’s the first time I ever received such a disgusting reception! Asked to wait outside in the sun while someone inside thinks I’m not worthy to approach the hotel’s doorsteps. This pretentious world we live in is just downright sad!
P.S: I’m not holding my breath regarding the flyers. They were probably thrown in the bin the moment I drove my little Polo out of their precious parking space. Point taken; next time, I’ll go in my Louboutins and C Class.