Tag Archives: 5 stars

Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Right place at the right time~!!!

Welcome hoteliers!

Life’s certainly interesting how things work out and this job was definitely one of those situations.


Grand Hyatt Shanghai was a place with a lot of issues, every hotel has issues but we certainly had a ton, but that was the beauty of it. The hotel had been operating for 17 years, which is very old; although it had completed a nice renovation two years before I joined.

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Deluxe King size room with a view! Grand Hyatt Shanghai

The problem with old hotels isn’t the product, it’s the owners.

The hotel lifespan in China is very short. In the beginning they invest like crazy to have the best of the best product wise, with foreign workers, top chefs etc. then 3 years down the line, they roll out their staff reduction plans, cut high level positions in favor of cheaper local alternatives which makes sense, I mean it’s China, but you do have to cater to your international guests too.

Then the owning company starts to only care about profit and forget the true sense of hospitality. And that’s when the major issues start to surface. The leadership down to management down to the front line staff, feel the need to cut costs. For example, in order to cut costs, we resorted to giving the guests only 1 room key so we don’t need to order as many room keys; many people, and understandably so, like to take hotel keys as souvenirs. I like that, I mean, isn’t our job to leave lasting experiences anyway?

We also had to limit compensation regardless of the nightmare stay for the guest. Using out of order rooms with messed up facilities as last sell on sold out nights but putting them back in service to put a body in the room; once the guest is seen as walking money, service falls.


I’ve seen this trap many times, but Grand Hyatt was special. Most hotels don’t escape this trap, rather, they encourage it. If they cut costs one year, cut more the next. Makes sense right? But it’s horrible for hotels! Don’t compromise guest experience!

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Sorry about that, but I’m passionate about guest experiences.

Grand Hyatt though was trying it’s best to reverse that, our GM who was from the UK, had put such an emphasis on guest experience that it was shocking. I never worked with a more hands on GM who was always present in the lobby, asked questions to staff to make sure we were prepared, had weekly meetings, watched scores and demanded answers for every bad survey. You name it he was on it, and I respected him for it. He was in between serving the owners who wanted to make huge ROI (return on investment) and ensuring staff is happy, so we treat the guest right.

The way I see it, the job of the agents is to make guests happy, the supervisors protect the agents from the managers who want efficiency in business hotels such as Grand Hyatt, the managers protect the staff from the directors who want to cut costs and force us to give guests one key, and reuse items if not visibly damaged. The directors protect the department from the GM and owners who want to cut positions to save money and make one man work as three. Efficiency is good, but the staff aren’t robots… at least for now.

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This is really a thing… at Hyatt Regency Tokyo

And finally, the GM protects the hotel from the owners who 95% of the time, never worked in the industry, don’t know anything about hotels and only see it as piece of real estate and see people as walking money. The GM also has to tell the owners what’s best for them, I mean, why hire an experienced expert and not listen to his/her advice?


The hotel was in a state of change and I felt that not only could I achieve great things there, but I could learn so much more; and that I did. It was my 2nd week and I created the “guest interaction workshop” with HR for all front of house employees. The way Grand Hyatt was trying to redefine itself, I definitely knew I was at the right place at the right time.

My advice being to recognize each job for the opportunities that may emerge. Sometimes in the most chaotic of situations, lie an opportunity to change, own, or redefine something that changes everything! In hotels, look for something that you can own and take care of; not only is it a great resume builder, but leave your mark in the hotel’s future process and watch your legacy grow!


Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next article!

globalization

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

My first day at Grand Hyatt Shanghai! I realized why I was hired!

Welcome hoteliers.

The last article was about my first night back in Shanghai, and how I went to club Modu, which was probably not the smartest idea. However Modu would become a hangout spot that became a theme in my time in Shanghai.


I was told by FYU (Guest Service Manager) that I would start work at 10am, so obviously I figured I would have some time to rest, however my room was called at 7am and asked if I was coming to morning briefing. Obviously confused I asked who I was speaking with and of course it was the Front Office Manager.

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They texted me on my US number which didn’t work because I was now in China. I also arrived at the hotel a little past 11pm which means I did not have a phone number yet; but I told them I’d be ready by 8 and ready I was.


When I got to the desk it was quite exciting, we had some international interns, two interns from Indonesia and one from Hong Kong but was originally from India! I got introduced to the team, surprised everyone with my Chinese, got all the materials I needed and just a brief department rundown and I was done for the day.

I figured I’d relax and get some sleep, I was obviously exhausted, but not even an hour later my room got called. The front office manager was a gentleman from Germany, but he had stepped away and there was an international guest who demanded to speak to an international manager.

The problem? The agent didn’t understand his English accent, when she said “let me get my manager,” he began attacking her English, poor girl. So I was called to rescue the damsel in distress. Guest wanted a room with a tub and extra coffee in room.

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So after putting out that fire, I decided to just stay at the front desk and observe; that first day showed me 90% of the issues the front desk suffered from, and I had realized why I was hired.

1.) I’m from the United States and I can speak Chinese. I can bridge the gaps at the front desk since the Front Office Manager didn’t speak Chinese. (In China usually at the Front office manager position and above, you don’t need to necessarily need to speak the local language because you don’t have too much guest engagement, you’re more administrative, but, I suggest learning)!

2.) I’m from NY, so I know how to handle crazy situations. I know how to tell the guest no if they’re being overly inconsiderate of our efforts to work together, but I don’t physically say no! (In Chinese culture, their version of polite is to agree then find a reason to decline after the other party leave, so as to not cause a loss of face; face being an article for later)!

3.) Grand Hyatt Shanghai had a large foreign clientele base and many contracts with multi-national companies; much more than I expected, even for Shanghai! The western traveler likes to small talk, laugh, meet new people, and have a warm check in experience. The Asian traveler wants to be checked in ASAP. Does not really want to engage strangers, does not want to be kept waiting and it’s a little awkward to make useless small talk. (Of course generalizations, and doesn’t entirely apply to all business guests either. But most western guests are more casual, most Asian guests we had, just want their room and does not like being asked questions).

4.) The staff was a bit robotic. Staring at the computers like robots and not engaging the guests. In NY we have a 5-10 rule; 5 feet engage guest (good morning, evening, etc.) 10 feel acknowledge guest (nod, give Guest a smile, look inviting, but don’t shout hello from the across the lobby). So they needed me to teach the staff how to give good customer service and to be more approachable; I could tell that the guests felt awkward passing the desk.

5.) Teach them English… The English level in hotels in China is decreasing. This is because there’s so much supply of positions, and not enough qualified personnel to choose from. The hotels hire anyone with decent English scores but conduct the interview in Chinese so they don’t actually know how the speaking capacity of many new hires. Also in Asia schooling is based on memorization not application. For example many agents could write English beautifully, but, could not pronounce what they wrote. Hence, when a western guest walked past, I actually saw a agent put their head down hoping the guest wouldn’t see them…?

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On my first day I noticed easily what the department struggled with. I realized what they needed from me and I felt that I could easily provide.

Win-win situation since I had the skills to provide, minus the English teaching. I don’t have anything against it, but I don’t have the patience to be a teacher and have never done it. I’ve spent years convincing people in China just because a western person speaks English doesn’t qualify them to teach it and that was definitely my case. But I was certainly going to try my best.

My advice is that although I ended up in a pretty good situation, however, if you’re going to China, find out your job description first! What they need from you, and what they expect from you before you arrive. Again, contracts and negotiated terms are stretched and there are many gray areas; It’s not unheard of for expatriate workers to be given extra responsibilities outside of their normal duties while in China, and you will be persuaded quite convincingly to agreeing to help; then it becomes your responsibilities forever! Just make sure you’re aware what you’re getting into, I was not fully aware, but again, it worked out for me.


All in all I quite enjoyed my first day, it was spontaneous, interesting, I love to fix things, and I was back in China baby!

Thanks for stopping by, and see you in the next article.

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Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

International Hotel Salary Packages Part II~~~!!

Welcome hoteliers!

Thank you for stopping by for another article!

you rock

The last article was a bit long, kudos if you read the whole thing, if you’re thinking of working in a hotel in China, I sure hope you read the whole thing, it has a lot of insight I think and overall, if I knew then what I know now, I would have fought to get a better deal, at least on the plane ticket. 😉

So in this article, I’m going to jump straight into the different salaries that front office staff would receive and of course there’s a disclaimer.

These salaries are the “average” for Shanghai only and for international luxury hotels. If you want to scale it, without major research, it’s about the same as Beijing, and if you are looking at other cities subtract around 1-1,500RMB off the top for level 4-7; again, these are just premature estimations not random salary pulls a lot can vary. Also I did get permission from former staff & friends regarding sharing this information so what’s below are their numbers which do not reflect everyone’s earning potential; it only serves as a potential threshold. Also note that the F&B Benefit refers to eating inside the hotel, ordering from room service etc., relocation refers to just getting your plane ticket purchased on your behalf, transportation etc.

(RMB – USD figures always change daily, so check the numbers daily if need be, as of the posting of this article, this is where the exchange rate has my numbers listed as!)

lets get started

Lets go!

Position Salary (Local) Salary (Expat) F&B Benefit   Housing Relocation
General Manager 42,500rmb($6443) 85,000rmb ($12887) 30,000rmb($4548) 15,000rmb($2274) O
Director of Rooms 29,000rmb($4396) 37,500rmb ($5685) 25,000rmb($3970) 11,000rmb($1667) O
Front Office Manager 15,000rmb($2274) 25,000rmb ($3790) 10,000rmb($1516) 8,000rmb ($1212) O
Assistant Front Office Manager 11,000rmb($1667) 18,000rmb ($2729) 8,500rmb ($1288) 7,000rmb ($1061) O
Duty Manager (me at the time) 8,000rmb ($1212)

(me)

14,000rmb ($2122) 4,000rmb ($606 (me) 4,000rmb ($606 (me) X
Team Leader/Supervisor 6,000rmb ($909) X X Staff housing X
Front Desk Agent/Guest Service 4,000rmb ($606) X X Staff housing X
Intern/Mgmt. Trainee 2,500rmb ($379) (interns) 5,000rmb ($758)

(Mgmt. trainee)

3,000rmb ($484)

(both)

Hotel or staff housing X

I hope this list is interesting, let me say it again, the salaries are based off my friends and former staff including GM acquaintances that were comfortable sharing their package details to help me make this list and comfortable with me listing it here; as you can see it also includes my own package details at the time. J

Final notes to list the difference in my package between my local Duty Manager colleagues & some general information:

  • The salary that other Duty Managers inside my hotel were receiving was around 1,000rmb ($151 approx.) less than mine, did not receive any meal or housing benefits either.
  • Aside from what was listed, I pushed and got laundry allowance as well but few people cared about it, I just wanted to make sure I could get whatever benefits they were willing to give me.
  • The information listed for expat Duty Manager Salary, was from one of my friends it’s very rare to receive an expat package for that position.
  • Guest Service/Relations Managers are at the same level as a Duty manager.
  • Speaking some level of Chinese helps your bargaining power for grabbing a better package.
  • *Can of worms* the reason even if most expats are given a local package, it’s still higher than a true local is because of lifestyle. For a Chinese landlord to rent to an expat, they have to pay a tax so you won’t find housing as cheap as most locals, for example my 1-bed apartment was 4,500rmb/$682 a month, decent location and the best value. My friend who was Chinese had multiple options for 1-bedroom places in similarly good locations for 2,800rmb/$424 a month! A lot of places will say they are unable to rent to expats meaning they didn’t register for it, don’t have the tax system in place, and don’t have the “fapiao (official receipt, later articles just on this)” capabilities either.

My advice, again, reflect on what kind of lifestyle you want and see if the package details if offered a position is acceptable to you. Whilst making this list I had asked a substantial amount of friends to get a salary basis, so that anyone down the line can compare their offer to some average numbers above and see how their package standards. Happy hunting, good luck, and always feel free to ask any questions

Thank you so much for stopping by and see you next time!

Bet Regards,

Daniel Cooper

What is wuxingjiexperience??

Welcome hoteliers!

My name is Daniel and let me guess your first question. What is the “wuxingji” in wuxingjiexperience?

Wuxingji (五星级) means 5 stars, so, 5 star experience… catchy huh?

And yeah as you can guess, I speak Chinese, and yeah I’m African American.

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Macau, China

Now that we got that out of the way, what is this blog all about? Well… and bear with me here, I work in hotels + I love the industry and a lot of people ask me what it was like working in hotels in China. Also, there’s the “what’s it like being black in China?” What’s it like being black working in hotels? What’s it like being a black foreigner working in hotels in China and so much more. So I want to share some awesome, crazy, adventurous, insider, borderline whistle-blowing stories of my experiences over there.

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Whistle-blowing yo!

It’s also my hope that this blog can also give some insight to people wanting to get some information about how to work in hotels in Asia since there’s a lack of information online. Lets get started!

I’m going to make this fast and brief~

I started working in hotels when I was finishing high school and on my way to college. I applied to every job listed online since I was 17 and had such a hard time getting in.

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I’m from New York by the way, however the competition is vicious, but I was eventually able to get a job at the front desk at a Holiday Inn in New Jersey. Afterwards I worked at a Days Inn & Suites hotel in Delaware while going to college full time and studied in China each fall semester; I built the Chinese program at my university but that’s an article for another time. After college I worked for a Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square NYC (finally got into NYC hotels despite being from there sheesh!) But it didn’t last long;

I secured myself a position as a Duty Manager in Shanghai, China at the Grand Hyatt hotel. From there I went to work for a pre-opening Fairmont hotel in Chengdu, China (panda city) had a brief stint in South Korea, and now I’m back in NY again. Brief right? I tried to make it quick. 🙂

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai!

I’ve been fortunate to get many interesting opportunities within the hotel industry and in China; the best thing is, my journey is just beginning, but I wanted to share just the incredible experiences I’ve had working, partying & dating overseas and why I’m intending on going back. So grab a beer, make a sandwich and make sure to binge read because I’m sure my stories with entertain and thank you for stopping by!

P.S. my articles will always end with “best regards” and a little advice from me to you~ #hotelier4life.

Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

Continue reading What is wuxingjiexperience??