Tag Archives: African American

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!

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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

 

Club Modu Shanghai!!!

Welcome hoteliers!

When I left the hotel and hopped in the taxi, I told the driver the address and the driver looked at me puzzled and asked me am I sure of the address.

eh..


It was my first real job in China but I have been in Shanghai for 2 years as a student so if he thought he was gonna rip me off and take a side road…. not gonna happen bro!

Now my friend was a fellow classmate from home, we were in the same classes for about 2 years and he loved Europe, I convinced him to go study in China and I’d meet him there, I didn’t think it’d actually come true.


So my friend was sitting in a VIP sofa with bottles on deck, a security guard, and a server. My friend knew how to party, was African American, tall, slim, light skinned, and knew how to get the ladies, not that I had any problems, but, my friend had mastered the game.

“Uh bro, where’d this table come from? You ballin’ out of control?”

“Nah, the owner gave it to me. We met before and he thinks we could do business together.”

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My friend knew how to network, he always knew everyone anyway. He had worked in clubs before so he knew how to get drinks. It’s because of him that Modu became my main club, and I always received a VIP table, free drinks, knew the management, and got a black card that I never used.

So we partied hard, the GM of the club was too busy to meet me but his assistant came to take a shot on his behalf. And we exchanged contacts as well.


The club was so elaborate, again, I lived in Shanghai so I know how the clubs are, but this one was very well put together. Not too glitzy like M2 or too local like Maya, it had a good feel and mix of local and international.

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Modu Shanghai

 


What was incredible was the security escort we received whenever we went anywhere. I intend to be rich, I intend to party hard, and I’m only 25, I intend to do a lot of things in my life, but security like I’m a celebrity?

That’s a bit much, they even went into the bathroom with me to make sure no “adoring fans” disturbed me while handling business, and, pre-heated the hand dryer so it was hot after I washed my hands…


After my friend and I finished 2 bottles of Jack Daniels, and turned away some girls and other dudes (my friend doesn’t share with people who we didn’t meet before,) we headed out. I was super jet lagged, just wanted to chill, not dance much, and not meet anyone. So I just went home but not before being surprised that the club told me the 2 bottles of Vodka AK47 and the champagne we didn’t drink would be available for me next time I came. All I need to do is tell the boss what time I’m coming, how many people, and what I was bringing, and what I wanted to drink. (I knew this wasn’t going to come for free but that’s a story for later.)

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Vodka AK47! :O

I had to get some rest because according to FYU, I was working tomorrow at 7am and it was already 3am… Yolo!

I definitely enjoy to party hard, since I work just as hard, but don’t be that westerner that goes crazy in Asian clubs, not a good look. And don’t be stupid like me and get tipsy the night before you start working, come correct lol, although I made it work, definitely not recommended!


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

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

HYATT means Hurry Your A%% There Tomorrow!! 

Welcome hoteliers!

Grand Hyatt Shanghai… ah… I remember my first day as clear as it was 3 year’s ago.

oh boy


I remember when the HR at my current Hyatt told me a joke, and this was as recent as 2 months ago but now it makes so much sense. Hyatt, in a joking fashion means Hurry Your A%% There Tomorrow! I mean, isn’t that incredible?

What does Marriott stand for I wonder…


When my papers and visas were all processed, Grand Hyatt Shanghai asked me twice how soon could I arrive.

Well, 4 days after I get my visa I said my goodbyes to friends and family, and I was on my flight back to the Middle Kingdom.


My excitement was real. I figured since one of my college best friends was still in Shanghai, I’d check-in, get a bite to eat, then hit the club. To celebrate being a manager in such a luxury hotel at 22 years old! Get wasted, relax, repeat, and start working in a few days.

Then reality set in, although I did party, my arrival was like this:

“Im here to check in, I’m one of the new big bad assistant front office managers (I didn’t actually say big bad, but my chest was flexed) oh, and I spoke all in Chinese cause ya know, why not right? The Guest Service Manager came to greet me:

“Mr. Cooper, welcome, we’ve all been waiting for you, let the bellman send your bags to the room and I’ll do your tour of the hotel!”

whoa


Tour?? I thought with a puzzled look. “What tour? My schedule said that was on Monday” (I arrived on a Thursday night.)

“Oh I see, well I’ll do a tour right now for you. Besides the Front Office Manager wants you to start tomorrow”

GRAND HYATT SHANGHAI…

“Well sure I guess, I just got off of a 14-hour flight but yeah I’d love a quick tour.” I said with a unconvinced look he definitely picked up on my sarcasm and said… “Great!! We’ll start from the back of house service area then walk through housekeeping, front office, and guest rooms. It should only take an hour!”

I’m pretty sure it was 11pm when I got to the hotel. I didn’t know it then, but the GSM (Guest Service Manager) would actually be my mentor despite being of the same employment level. He had worked for Grand Hyatt Shanghai for 17 Year’s since its opening and was quite content. Although he’s okay with me using his name, I’m gonna use his initials because it’s just too funny… FYU (I’m dead serious).

After the tour ended and I was in my room I showered, refreshed, and rushed out, my friend was already in the club! On my way out, I noticed something absolutely important and this is very profound. I’m a foreigner, a black guy at that, anywhere I go, I’m going to be seen. The fact that I can’t leave the hotel without passing the front desk means… if I’m clubbing, drunk, or bring back company, I’ll be seen… and judged… and how fast did I realize this?


FYU (Guest Service Manager) was waiting in the lobby, doing lobby management, we all had to do minimum 2 hours a day of lobby management.

“Hey DC, (my nickname but I certainly didn’t tell him that, we weren’t cool like that yet) on your way to club? Gonna meet some pretty girls and get drunk yeah ?”

eh..


“Nah…. I’m just going to get a quick drink at my friends house.” (I can’t have them thinking I’m a party animal alcoholic foreigner, not that I was, most of the time, I actually carry myself quite well.)

And with that, I was in the elevator from the lobby on the 54th floor back to the ground level. (Grand Hyatt Shanghai is on the 53rd floor to the 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower)

So, yeah, HYATT lives up to it’s name, hurry your a## there tomorrow. They intended me to start ASAP, and who can blame them for that. I did end up clubbing hard, but my advice is, to double check and then, to check again your starting schedules. Often in China, the expectation and excitement to have an international manager is to the point that they want you to work immediately as was in my case. Stress the adjustment period since you’ll be jet-lagged and it’ll be miserable for a few days. Don’t burn yourself out at the most critical time, and definitely don’t club and work the next day!


Next I’ll tell you about the club experience in the next article! Thanks for stopping by hoteliers and see you in the next time!

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Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

 

How did I work in a Chinese hotel??

Welcome hoteliers!

When I graduated college I worked for half a year in a temporary front office position at the Staybridge Inn & Suites in Times Square, NYC. Sounds nice right? Well, it wasn’t all that bad, except I wanted a life-style change. Now I know what you’re thinking… what recent graduate is talking about life-style change when we’re just beginning well, I had been to China a few times to study abroad and I just felt I wanted a more international life-style and New York isn’t where I’m meant to be at that time.

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So I wanted to work as a front desk agent in China, which you’ll find out why that was lunacy and near impossible, and I had very little luck finding anything; actually let’s tell the truth, I applied to over 300+ internationally branded hotels in many cities for a front desk agent and never got a reply.

Now I’m a firm believer in this belief that I have; actually I’m going to make it a “Cooper quote, from here on out, officially a thing in this blog. #cooperquote

“The internet doesn’t hire people, people hire people” – Daniel Cooper #cooperquote

What I mean is that from then on, I stopped applying online for hotel jobs; I needed to find the person who would hire me, or, could influence my application and reach out to them directly. In most hotels the General Manager is the highest position which led me to my next revelation… (Don’t get upset with me HR people)

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“If I apply online I’m at the bottom of the barrel, if I can send a nice email to the GM or my department manager and have them forward it, I’ll be at the top of the barrel and likely to get a response” – Daniel Cooper #cooperknowledge

***I promise not to sugarcoat anything in this blog just, FYI***

When I got my first interview using my new method, new to me anyway, because again, the internet never contained this information, maybe because it’s a crazy method, but I had no idea how to do it, so I made my own way; anyway I was contacted by the HR at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Shanghai for a position of a Duty Manager and the interviews were conducted on Skype.

 

 

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When you’re having 4-5 hotel interviews a day on Skype, this is exactly how you look!

The Process

Most of the time, the hotel will either call you (they can call internationally obviously) but more commonly will Skype you for two reasons. One, you’re not in China, and two, they want to see what you look like; looks are a thing in Asia and influence your hiring prospects, anyone who says otherwise is sugarcoating in fact, you need to include your picture in your CV which is basically your resume.

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It’ll look a little something like this.

The first interview is with the HR manager or director, hiring an expatriate is a big deal abroad, so the big wigs have to interview you of course, second interview was with the director of the department, and final interview is with the General Manager or Hotel Manager.

After you pass the interviews and get an offer, congrats, you have to produce a ton of documents such as your college degree, former employment letters providing proof you worked where you said you did since they’re not going to call your past properties, a copy of your passport, criminal background check (don’t be a crook) and in 1-2 months your letters will be in the mail to go get yourself a work visa and head to China!

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That’s the how anyway, now, why did it work out for me?

To be honest with you guys and everyone has a different experience, also, I’m African American, which will be a whole other story, but it does give you additional obstacles but other opportunities as well, I got the job because I had something they needed and they had something I wanted.

In simpler terms, they were using me and I was using them.

win win

I did take a pay cut, which you shouldn’t have to, maybe the gross salary isn’t as high, but there are many perks, which I’ll discuss in another article. I was paid around $1,200 a month, base salary in Shanghai which can be just as expensive as NYC and had $800 as housing allowance which means I pay first and they reimburse me. To scale it even more, the position that I had, equivalent in NYC would be making around $2500 a month after tax, but the standard of living was similar, until you learn to live like a local.

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Noodles are life!

They hired me because I spoke Chinese, accepted a lower salary, was a native English speaker, and was from NYC so I knew how to handle crazy oversold situations; also I could wear 3 hats at once, and teach free English to the staff, so for them total win.

For me, although I knew I was getting low-balled and I had other offers, the decision was like this:

Hotel Indigo Shanghai: Management Trainee position

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Hotel Indigo, red circle is Grand Hyatt, blue circle, Park Hyatt!

Intercontinental Shanghai hotel: Management Trainee

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Le Méridien Hotel Qingdao: (different city, beautiful city!) Management Trainee

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Holiday Inn Weihai (also a different city): Management Trainee

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Duty Manager!

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Grand Hyatt Shanghai was from the 53rd floor to 87th floor of the Jin Mao tower

So I could be an intern, or jump into management “oh boy my first management position!”

oh boy


I accepted the Grand Hyatt offer; also I knew that I wasn’t in the greatest position to haggle or get into management in NYC, so I knew if I took this position, I could move up and gain more China experience which will further my career there and at home.

So I got my papers in the mail, booked the cheapest economy ticket, a one-way ticket 🙂 and I was in China to start my new job and new life!


My advice is when it comes to China, just as back home; persistence in job hunting is a must. However you also need thick skin, there is some prejudice about how you look, which country or city you’re from, which school you attended etc. If possible, learn some Chinese, it will boost your prospects greatly, and finally, unless you receive an “expatriate” salary package, which I will discuss later, brace yourself to live a more frugal life with a pay cut. It was okay for me because of the title, position offered, and the experience I would gain, make sure you’re okay with it before you accept!

Thanks for stopping by and see you next time!

Best 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

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