I have been to Australia’s capital city twice in the last month to run training courses.
I stayed in different hotels each trip and noticed that they had slightly different approaches to making me feel welcome.
Both offered breakfast, though neither did it very well. Both had friendly staff and both had the same overall processes in place to take payment, give me my key and so forth. But the first hotel differentiated themselves with an unexpected welcoming sign in the bathroom once I settled into my room.
Naturally I had already taken all the linen off the bed and put it in my suitcase so it was lucky I saw the sign. It would have been quite disappointing to be billed for the linen I stole if I hadn’t expectedto pay for it.
As I put the sheets back on the bed, I thought about the further implications of the sign. The sign didn’t just clarify their attitude to linen theft, it also told me something about their culture.
Most importantly, I concluded that they appeared to have a law-abiding culture, which was a comforting thought. No doubt, for example, they would call the police in to punish any guests who murdered me in my sleep.
But there was no sign specifically warning guests not to murder me, so I used the in-room feedback form to suggest that it would also be good to remind guests not to commit murder during their stay.
I also left a reminder note for the cleaners just to let them know that if they waited in ambush and murdered me on my return to the room, the police would be called to arrest them. I signed it General Guest because I thought that sounded official enough to get their attention.
Anyway, after seeing that unexpected sign I started paying attention to some other well meaning signs during my stay.
This sign was used at one venue to help me and my students know which milk was full cream and which was reduced fat.
It seemed like a good idea when I saw it, but what if someone put the milk down next to the wrong sign?
So then I came across this sign on the hot water at another venue.
I like this one better because they thought things through and put the labels on the items themselves to avoid any confusion. It seems like a small touch but it is actually very helpful.
I think this was the best use of signs I saw, but someone did actually go a step further.
Rather than just putting the use-by date on this bottle of wine, they added the use-time.
So if I pick this bottle up on 17 January 2012, I know I can drink it safely at 4pm, but better drink quickly if I pick if I open it up at 4:35pm and better not drink it at all if it the time is already 4:39pm or later. Not every company would go to that level of customer service.