Pushing My Buttons

I’m the unpaid executive director of a small professional association. About my only duty is to plan the every-other-year conference. I’ve been in the role for nearly ten years and consider it a labor of love.

Our little association has no officers, membership dues, newsletter, or paid staff. Just me and whoever I can con into helping persuade to help me. On the plus side, I can do pretty much whatever I want without worrying about losing my job.

The next conference is coming up at the end of this month. We selected Charlotte for the 2012 conference. Okay–it was really my decision. I worked through the local convention bureau to line up our hotel.

Chattanooga was the site of our last conference. The folks at both the convention bureau and the conference hotel bent over backwards to make us feel welcome. Because they were so helpful, my job was easy.

Working with the Charlotte convention bureau was a pain in the ass. Everything was done online. It was a confusing and very impersonal experience. We received very few bids, and of them, only one came even close to meeting our needs. So I signed the contract and sent in a $1000 deposit.

I didn’t hear from the hotel for more than a year. This wasn’t a problem considering our conference takes place every other year. Four or five months ago, I started calling them to work on all the arrangements.

The first sign of trouble was finding out that they had given away half our room block. Turns out, there’s a big basketball tournament in Charlotte the same time as our conference. Rather than the $119 per night rate we’re paying, they’re able to get $300 or more per night from folks wanting to come to the tournament.

Considering I had a contract that guaranteed our block would be available until two weeks ago, this was a huge problem. I went from zero to bitch in about thirty seconds and reamed out my contact in the sales office. She apologized, and even though the hotel was sold out, somehow managed to restore the rest of our block.

Only the rooms she could find came with one king-sized bed. We provide scholarships for up to eight students that cover the cost of lodging (two to a room) and the conference registration. I had no choice but to let them know they’d be sharing a room…and a bed.  Awkward.

Meanwhile, I had to arrange for another block of rooms at a hotel fifteen minutes away from the conference hotel. My contact there was extremely helpful. I found myself wishing our conference would be at their hotel instead of the downtown hotel that held our contract.

Over the last few weeks, the conference hotel staff have been quite a bit less than responsive. With the conference just three weeks away, I still hadn’t heard from the catering staff to order food for our meals (a nice reception, two breakfasts, a lunch, and three breaks) or to arrange for audio-visual and other needs. The frustration kept me awake all last night.

This morning I called the hotel and asked to speak to the manager. As you can imagine, I wasn’t in a very good mood. After I “explained” my problem and how sorry I was for having selected their establishment, she transferred my call…to the very woman who hasn’t responded for the last month.  I couldn’t believe it.

The call did get results. Miraculously, they found rooms with two double beds for all my students. Menus and price-lists appeared in my email inbox within the hour. The catering manager called me thirty minutes later.

Needless to say, I’m expecting a steady stream of headaches once I get to the hotel. But I’ve learned what to do when they push my buttons. There’s a bitch I can turn loose and I’m not afraid to let her out. And I’m not talking about the little chihuahua who lives with me here in…

My Glass House

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