Going Beyond the Call of Duty

Park Avenue foyer of the Waldorf-Astoria
Park Avenue foyer of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York City, on Christmas Day, 1987. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One rainy night many years ago, a gentleman and his wife entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. The man asked the clerk if he had any rooms available.

The clerk, who was actually the hotel manager, was a friendly man who prided himself on superior customer service. He said that unfortunately the hotel was completely booked. “However,” he said, “rather than send you out in the rain at 1 a.m. I would be happy to offer you my room. It’s not a suite, but it will be comfortable for the night.”

The man tried to object, but the clerk insisted. The next morning, as he paid his bill, the gentleman said to the clerk: “You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States.”

Two years passed, but the two men stayed in touch. One day the clerk/manager received a letter from the guest, inviting him to New York for a visit including a round-trip airline ticket. When the clerk/manager arrived in New York, the man met him and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. He pointed to a brand-new building. “There is the hotel I want you to manage,” said the man.

“You must be joking,” said the astonished clerk/manager.

“I can assure you that I am not,” said the man, William Waldorf Astor, and the palace that he had built was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.

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