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Where Everybody Knows Your Name.... My Return Visit to the
Ritz Carlton Pu Dong (Shanghai)

by Terence Ronson ISHC

August 9, 2010 - Where Everybody Knows Your Name.... is the theme song from the 1980s hit television sitcom Cheers. The melody kept humming at the back of my head when I returned to the Ritz Carlton Pu Dong (Shanghai).

Without missing a beat, The Bellboy outside of the Hotel's front doors ran up to me as soon as he caught sight of me trundling up the pathway with my roller-bag, and blurted out in perfect pitch - "Welcome Back - Mr. Ronson". I should not have been surprised by this.  I am absolutely convinced that my mug shot had been pre-circulated to 'The Ladies and Gentlemen' of the Ritz Carlton Pu Dong after I documented my experience during my first visit.  But to their credit, they lost no time to make sure all memories of that stay were no more.

I was predictably invited back by the General Manager for a make-up visit. It was an invitation I was frankly reluctant to accept but out of courtesy and in fairness to to him and the rest of the Team, I agreed to return.


Welcome Back Note

Evidently, this would be no ordinary stay. I expected the hotel would go to great lengths to correct my initial impression and to show off what could be done and to burnish once and for all the Ritz Carlton's reputation for providing five-star service.  I was welcome to the idea, but IMHO would have preferred to have had this type of experience the first time round when I checked in as a nobody rather than a heavily asterisked guest on the arrival list.

I must admit, however, there is more magic in a stay when as an anonymous guest, you are accorded the courtesies and the unexpected delights of a sterling service from hotels like the Ritz Carlton.  Yes, I fully realize that it's tough to achieve this, but how successful you would be as an Hotelier if you instill this kind of culture into your operation. And that is what helps makes a guest return, and an ROI achieved by your brand.

And so the show begins. Upon entering the Hotel's doors, Jennie Toh, Executive Assistant Manager, Rooms almost immediately met me.  She was to be my escort designate to the Lobby and my waiting accommodations. She gave me a warm welcome and I was impressed by the way she interacted with a family in the elevator tempting some kids (apparently regular guests) with a special treat if they accompanied her to the front desk and assisted with an as yet unknown assignment. During the ride to the Lobby, Jennie got on her iPhone to announce she was with me. That must have been to the General Manager because he was in the Lobby to graciously welcome me back. We agreed to meet later for a chat.

I was given room 4707, the same type of suite I was first mistakenly taken to during my last visit. This time around, there was no confusion this was my room. They must have taken notes from my previous article because there before me were 12 mini bananas in the fruit basket, and a Perrier nicely chilling in an ice bucket. 
 



Iced waters

Once the formalities of checking-in were dispensed with, the mineral water on ice  was pointed out to me, and an offer to make me a Nespresso if I wanted one.

And when the welcome entourage departed, I was free to explore my surroundings. The first thought that came to mind was this quite possibly was the most thoroughly checked room on the planet. Not only that, but their obvious hard work had extended to the carpet being shampooed. I knew that since there was a familiar residual odor that indicated so. No problem. It was the thought that counts.


The fruit basket

Chrome fittings were shining, linens and towels neatly folded and pressed, and everything lined up as though a spirit level had been used to ensure this. Welcome notes were in abundance offering all manner of support and assistance - some even duplicated. The Breakfast menu, laundry list and shoeshine bag label were personalized with my name and room number - further emphasizing my elevated status. Having put so much effort in welcoming me profusely, they could have gone the extra mile and saved me from having to call the Front Desk for an access code should I have wanted to use the omnipresent Wi-Fi. It would have completed the whole process of pre-registering nicely especially as it's comp and they seemed to think of almost everything else.

There were videos to use with the Blu-Ray player, but lacking were music CD's for the Bose Wave radio located at the bedside; I counted twelve bottles of water for me to drink - eight of which were in the process of being nicely chilled by various methods.

After catching up on emails, imbibing some chilled Perrier and munching on those delicious bananas, oh yes, and having a few conference calls, the time just flew. It was now 7pm and three hours had mysteriously yet pleasurably passed since check-in. I had a niggling feeling at the back of my mind that Housekeeping were probably standing in the wings waiting for me to go out of the room so that they could perform that ever so magical turndown service. I was not wrong. As if prompted by some sixth sense, the doorbell suddenly rang with both the Assistant Housekeeper and Room Attendant on the outside asking if they could do just that. I informed them I would shortly be going out and if they didn't mind, could they come back a bit later. "Of course Mr. Ronson", they replied and offered an unnecessary but obligatory apology for the disturbance.


Turndown service

Shortly thereafter I left the room and headed to the 49th floor Club Lounge to see what delights were on offer.

Almost in sync with the elevator doors opening, two ladies greeted me by name, and ushered me to a very nice window seat with a great nighttime view of the Bund. Hoards of tourists were visible through the clear night sky and a cacophony of flashing digital cameras produced a most entertaining free show to onlookers. The ladies continued their welcome spiel by asking if I would like a Perrier. I accepted the kind offer.

The buffet had the usual items and I particularly enjoyed the spicy tuna sushi. Sadly the fried Calamari rings although tasty, were tepid. I declined the offer of some Tenderloin since I've been off meat since January.

My drink arrived, and as the Captain poured the Perrier accompanied by a lemon wedge housed inside an aluminum squeezer, he enquired whether I would like some bananas (I guess part of his mise en place should I turn up in the Lounge) - I declined the offer. However, after about 15 minutes, he nevertheless delivered 4 of the mini type to my table. I smiled in appreciation of this gesture, almost feeling they were a reward for something - not sure though if for him, or me.

By 7.50pm the Buffet Chef cleared the table, except for a few desserts and some cheeses. I was not warned it was going to close ahead of it doing so, even though there were only about 6 guests in the room, including myself.

Finishing my drink, and leaving the untouched bananas, I departed the lounge only to be greeted by The Executive Chef who was on his way to the lounge. "Surely he was there not just to meet me?" I thought as he extended a personal welcome, and proffered he placed some smoked salmon in my room - which he proudly announced he personally smoked... We shook hands; I thanked him, and headed off for the short elevator ride back to my home-away-from-home.

It was indeed elegantly serviced. An empty bottle of Perrier was replaced by a fresh one, as was the used mouthwash among the toiletries. The half full glass of water left on the desk had a paper cloche placed on it, and the welcome fruit was relocated to a side table in order to make space for the setup of salmon and condiments. These included some delicious berries, nuts and other assorted goodies. The salmon wedges were very tasty  and much appreciated. 

I did happen to check the second WC to see if hand towels had been placed there (they seem to have been overlooked), but none were made available - just a box of tissues.

This instance I made a point to use the enticing bathtub - not all are comfortably large enough to accommodate me, but this one nicely did the job. I even got to watch the BBC as I soaked away the stress of the day. Now it's time for some zzzz's

After a good night's sleep in an extremely comfortable bed, I decided to kick-start the day with a lovely Nespresso. Whilst the machine worked, it was not functioning at peak performance, since the always-flashing indicator lights show it's time for a service. This was partially reflected in the size of the dispensed coffee being less than normal. I know this as I too have the exact same machine. 

While shaving - between 08:41 and 08:47 the hotel experienced a total power failure. I did not call down believing they had enough to deal with, I had absolute confidence it would be restored quickly. And if it wasn't, I assumed a large delegation would soon arrive at my door enquiring as to my safety.

At breakfast in the Lounge, I was again offered Perrier, and a plate of 6 new mini bananas was speedily delivered to my table. The Lounge Attendant noticed I was carrying my own newspaper (this time the China Daily was sent to my room) and she proudly said they have their own and that there was no need for me to bring mine.

While checking out the buffet, the attendant offered me an omelet and I accepted one made with mushroom and tomato. This was to be garnished with black pepper at the suggestion of the server. When it was delivered to my table by the Female Chef, it was suitably accompanied by a small bowl of sea salt. 

My table, which was the same one as occupied the night before, had been adorned by a tray containing a mixture of berries, which pleasantly rounded off my breakfast. Incidentally, two different waiters offered me a second cup of coffee, and various others offered general assistance to ensure my absolute satisfaction. Jenny even stopped by to say Hello.

As planned, I met up with the GM - Rainer Burkle, who is also Area Vice President for China. We had a great chat. I gave him some background on my rationale for the Blog, and he pointed out that following its publication he received numerous calls. Of course, he was grateful for the constructive criticism. 

Shortly thereafter, I departed.

As Steve Jobs of Apple recently said - "We're not perfect" when his latest iPhone had an uncharacteristic design fault. In the case of Ritz Carlton Pu Dong they have very openly admitted that fact for which I greatly admire them. They tried their very best to put things right. And I believe in a short while, they will come very close to being just so.

Well done guys!

What had they done in response to my earlier comments:

  •  Chilled the drinking water
  •  Added some DVD's
  •  Placed Bananas in the fruit basket
  •  Added a highlighter and Post-it-notes in the Stationery Box
  •  Provided Newspapers 
  •  Placed a clock in the bathroom
  •  Addressed me by name
  •  Sent some Smoked Salmon to my room
  •  Offered to make me an Espresso upon check-in
  •  Provided sea salt with my omelet
  •  Placed a plate of berries on my breakfast table
  •  Offered banana Danish during breakfast
  •  Increased management level presence (at least in the areas I was present


What they had not done:

  •   Placed a music CD in the Bose player
  •   Fixed the mirror fogging issue in the shower
  •   Given me a Wi-Fi access code
 Visit date: August 3rd and 4th 2010

Link to new pictures:



(c) Terence Ronson ISHC

Note: No commercial arrangement has been entered into in regards the above reference links. We also offer no guarantee of correctness for information provided by 3rd party links.

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Contact: 

Terence Ronson ISHC
terence@pertlink.net

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Also See: It's a Tall Order Opening a New Hotel... The Ritz Carlton Pudong, Shanghai / Terence Ronson / July 2010
#1 Do understand that when buying technology for your hotel you start a journey that has no destination #2. Donít go to the expense of placing a plasma TV in the room, if it cannot be seen when working at the desk / and 62 More Doís and Doníts of Hotel Technology / December 2005
Imagining the Hotel of the Future / Terence Ronson / March 2010
Heís (Not) A Smooth Operator - Terence Ronson's Inside Look at a London Hotel / Terence Ronson / July 2002
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