On arrival at the hotel after an early morning drive from Kampala, we parked in the courtyard and headed straight for the reception area.
We were anxious to settle in so we could go about our tasks that had brought us to Mbale in the first place, but to our shock our upbeat manner was met with the receptionist’s laxity and look warm behaviour.
My sister: “Hello, how are you?
Receptionist: “Fine!” she responded in a manner that made us feel like she was doing us a favor.
My sister: “I was here about 3 weeks ago and I stayed with you for a few days. Do you remember me?”
Receptionist: “Yes I do but not the other visitor.”
Me: “Yes, this is my first time staying with you.”
My sister: “We would like to check in, do you have a room for double occupancy?”
Receptionist: “……. Ahhh let me see,” she said after a long pause.
My sister: “So is there a room? Can we look at it?”
Receptionist: “Ahhh Yes!” she responded but I picked up a note of hesitation from her tone but at that exact moment I could not understand why.
My sister: “How much does it cost, can you show us a room?”
Receptionist: “120,000 ….. No 100,000.”
My sister: “100,000 that cannot be right because rooms at Mbale Nile Resort go for that same rate. Your rooms should be between 70 - 80,000. You do remember that I was here 3 weeks ago so I remember the rate.”
Receptionist: “Okay it is 80,000.”
My sister: “Eh I was wondering how it was 100,000.”
I smiled at how quickly the rate dropped after my sister’s statement but nothing prepared us for the statement that followed from the receptionist.
Receptionist: “Nanti I have to make up for some money.”
My sister: “What money?”
Receptionist: “200,000 which I lost when a customer checked out without paying. So my boss is deducting it from my salary,” she said this as she walked us to the room.
Me: “How does a guest just walk out without clearing their bill?”
Receptionist: “Munange, some people are funny.”
My sister: “I see, so you wanted to make us pay for that mistake.”
The receptionist only responded coyly with a smile and I decided not to rub it in any further but at the back of my mind I thought to myself, “How did she honestly think she would get away with it when she was dealing with an auditor.”
We settled in quickly and the day went by with almost no incident until later on in the evening when there was increased traffic from late check in customers and soccer mayhem from the locals around the hotel - who came to watch at the bar of the hotel dining area. I expected no other interruption of my sleep that night after the end of the world cup match only for the bar to begin playing an entire Abba album at their highest volume. I watched a movie on the laptop with the aid of my head phones and eventually nodded off in the wee hours of the night when the music finally died down.
It was only the following day after our check out that we encountered the receptionist who attempted to hike the room rate. After packing our luggage in the car and clearing the accommodation bill, I decided to have lunch as I waited for my sister who was running some errands in town. As is the norm I prefer to pay for my meal before I begin to eat so that any change issues are dully sorted out by the time I want to leave.
Me: “Here is the money for my meal, I will be finished shortly. Could you get me my change quickly since I am in a hurry?”
I completed my meal and headed to the bar area of the dinning to pick up my change and there was no one there so I proceeded to the receptionist thinking that would have been a quicker option. Much to my surprise, she was also not at her desk which was stationed right by the entrance of the hotel with the gate flung wide open. Amidst this hunt for the hotel staff, my sister got back from town and we both began searching for the waiter for about 10 minutes. We ended up at the back of the hotel only to see the receptionist appear right around the corner from the kitchen with a heaped plate of rice and peas with a soft drink. I could only smile and she looked at us wondering what we were doing there.
My sister: “We would like our change.”
Me: “I just had lunch and I gave the waitress my money and we cannot leave until we have received our change.”
Receptionist: “Eh, she is not there?” She dialed the bar area I guess to make sure that we were indeed telling the truth and it is then that the waitress run through the gate and to her station to answer the phone.
My sister: “No she is not that is why we came looking for you.”
Waitress: “Sorry, I had to go outside to get your change.”
Me: “Thank you!” was all I could say but now I understood how the guest from the previous day had checked out without paying his bill.
It must have been pretty easy to pull off after all the staff was pretty absentminded.