Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The terminology

Thanks, Anthony (Timeline Photos - Anthony Melchiorri | Facebook ). This could be the start of something big once we keep adding to it and linking back to it.

Some terms are industry jargon, others are specific to a particular brand or chain.

Contributions are welcome.

'Bucket': A vertical file, with a tabbed divider for each room in the hotel, into which the registration sheet that you signed is stored until you check out. In the days before computers, when this was a much more useful piece of equipment, it was also the repository for your bill (see folio).


'Clean Hotel': A hotel that commits itself to not encouraging business from the sex trade. From http://www.cleanhotels.com, a website that promoted hotel properties that say they don't offer in-room porn. (You could actually run a pretty scuzzy property and still be listed. It was run by some of the same people in Cincinnati that showed up in The People vs. Larry Flynt as some of Flynt's persecutors, so there you have it how sharp the people are who manage that site.) We go a few steps further: no hourly or short-stay rates, no anonymous room rentals or guests registered under fictitious identity, no waterbeds or jacuzzis, and known or suspected 'escorts' are banned from the property.

Contract rate (sometimes called a 'group rate') is a special rate program that is individually tailored to a specific company or group; sometimes a discount off rack rate of fifteen to as low as fifty percent, sometimes a negotiated price that is set without regard to the rack rate at all (doing the 'tailoring' is the specialty of sales managers, and most employees are encouraged to learn to do corporate and group bookings, and can make extra money if they do it successfully). When it's done intelligently and responsibly, everyone benefits. For example, while we might be giving fifteen to twenty-five percent off our entitlement rate, we're assured of an extra ten to twenty rooms per week - and if these guests stay several days at a stretch each time, our housekeeping costs go down (stayovers take only half the time to service than checked-out rooms and don't always have to be done every day); so it's worth the discount that we give them and any extra work involved. The company or group gets a good price on their rooms and has all their people staying in one place (for a company or group that rents a lot of rooms per month, we'll go an even deeper discount, or perhaps even throw in some services: having someone pick them up at the airport, letting them use a meeting room without charge, setting up continental breakfast an hour early, etc.). And the employee who scored the sale (whether a sales manager, the general manager, or a front desk clerk that's been trained to do it) makes some extra money: we pay a five to seven percent travel agents' commission on the sale. Everyone's happy. See entitlement rate and rack rate.

Entitlement rate is a special-rate program (AAA and AARP are the most common, but 'corporate' and 'government' are common ruses) where nearly everyone that asks for a ten percent discount off a hotel's rack rate gets it. As a discount, it's worthless: everybody's discount is nobody's discount – it's simply the price. Anything higher is the sucker rate (and we set our prices accordingly. Local people always pay rack rate, but on a slow night, we tell the clerks to just give the entitlement rate to everyone else that walks in the door.) Beechmont differs from hotels in the Fool's Paradise in that it's the entitlement rate (which we have in mind when we set the rates), not the rack rate (which we calculate by adding 11% to the rate we've already set), from which most discounts negotiated as corporate or group rates are taken. See rack rate and contract rate.

Folio: Often - and incorrectly - used to refer to a guests registration sheet that is kept in the bucket until the guest checked out; it is actually the current record of your bill.

In the old days, it looked like this:

'Fools' Paradise'. Sometimes referred to as 'Idiots' Delight' The hotel business, the 'hospitality industry', in general. May include Beechmont on a bad day, but it's usually how we refer to our competition (as well as hotels in towns where we don't intend to build and can't foresee ourselves buying or operating a hotel).

Most any hotel or motel (unless it was built in a terribly bad place or badly overdeveloped to begin with) is capable of generating a fair return on the investment made in building and running it, will have guests show up without a whole lot by way of marketing if given half a chance; and will actually manage themselves better than the people who manage them try to manage them as often as not, even if they don't have the brainiest people in the world running them (and they more often than not don't); provided that someone does at least a half-assed job of watching costs and keeping the customers happy (or at least sufficiently complacent or pacified that they're not walking out the door to never again return as fast as they show up).

It's one reason we don't get too chummy with our competitors or join 'industry associations' unless there's something in it for us more tangible or valuable and specific than mere 'association' or 'mutual support'. More to the point, Beechmont exists - and succeeds, and provides a much greater return on investment and a better place to stay for its guests wherever we are - because we approach it with a little more intelligence, intentionality and focus than nearly all others in our 'Fool's Paradise' do, and count on our management and employees to do so as well. (Beechmont)

Fraternization is a relationship between employees and guests or customers, between employees at the same unit, or between employees and managers in the same chain of management, that becomes personal and doesn't entirely stick to business. In most hotels in the Fools' Paradise, it's a bad, bad thing. At Beechmont-operated hotels, it can be a good thing (we want our employees and guests, or managers, etc., to form personal relationships or friendships when and how it's appropriate), or a bad thing (ummm . . . this can cause problems, and there has to be limits), so we have rules on it.

Ghost: The opposite of a sleeper. A vacant room that is still carried on the front desk records as occupied, and is being billed to the guests folio for a day or more after the guest has left (often without checking out) and completely departed the hotel. Someone on the front desk screwed up, although it could be housekeeping's fault. The room is not known to be available to rent to a new guest, and as a practical matter you can't bill it to the old one.

Group (as opposed to transient) describes business for the hotel characterized by multiple rooms being negotiated at a set price for a particular class of people (sometimes, but not necessarily, a group of people who will arrive and leave together at the same time).

Guest is a person who either rents a room for his or her own use, or who with the knowledge and consent of the management (i.e., the front desk), occupies one, presumably to stay overnight, and with an expectation of privacy. A guest is a customer, but not all customers are guests: while we try to treat either as well as we can, sometimes, in our business dealings, the distinction makes a difference.

'Locals' are 'guests without baggage': people who live in the same town or surrounding communities as the hotel itself and who register or wish to register as guests. 90% of your problems at any hotel are caused by locals, but 90% of locals cause no problems at all. (If they'd all just check in peaceably, pay the bill, close the door behind them, fornicate quietly, not trash the room, and be on their way, they wouldn't be worth noticing as distinct from other valued customers or guests; but there's always that 10% that cause 90% of that hotel's problems). While we don't pursue this sort of business, we don't ban locals or refuse to rent to them in most places (some hotels do), but we do monitor and police their behavior carefully. Locals always pay rack rate with no discounts, and any misbehavior at all - even just giving a desk clerk any sass - results in permanent banishment. (I am a hotel owner. I sometimes have guests sneaking in more guests who are not registered. Our liability insurance only covers guests, and these extra visitors use our amenities and often leave the place a mess, and are a nightmare when they injure themselves, etc. How do I deal with this? - Quora )

MICE (No, not rodents or vermin, this is actually a good thing...) Meetings, incentives, conventions and events. This is the market for big meeting and banquet facilities and services, and it will often include blocks of rooms.

Non-revenue property: A property owned by the company that is not a hotel. We need the space - we need to put our senior management, and people who provide support functions for all of our hotels, somewhere - but we can't rent the rooms in them.

PMS: (No, not that, this is actually a good thing - sometimes. Michael Forrest Jones' answer to Do most hotels use a specific POS system at the front desk or a larger computer system? | Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What are the best property management systems for small hotels?) A Property Management System is the computer system (sometimes set up on site and hardware intensive, often nowadays cloud-based and offered on a SaaS basis) that maintains and tracks room inventory and guest accounts, and prints out your bill at the end of your stay.

Room rack: The hotel's room inventory, in display or chart (or on a computer screen, list or grid) form; usually, also showing whether and by whom the room is occupied, and if not, whether it is vacant, and clean, and not in need of repair (out of order) and available.

In the old days, it was actually a rack.

Rack rate: An industry term, in use throughout the Fools' Paradise. This is the price of a room - sometimes (Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What is and why do hotels have a rack rate?). It is the targeted price from which all discounts are taken. Nowadays, even the Fools' Paradise is getting tired of a lot of the discounts and is trying to get away from them, so now it's frequently called Best Available Rate - although the discounts are still there. Think of it as the "best rate you're getting out of me unless I have some reason to give you a better one" rate.

'Road whore' is a hotel or motel property at which sales and marketing is completely static -- no one's making any effort to sell the rooms, other than waiting behind the desk for people to show up, or to call and make a reservation. Its rooms are a commodity, its revenue is completely dependent upon passerby, and it competes (if at all) on price. It is either badly run down and deteriorated, has poor, nonexistent or badly damaged sales and marketing, or both; and relies - excessively if not exclusively - upon walk-in guests, a number of die-hard regular customers, passing interstate highway traffic, reservations contribution from the franchise organization if it has a franchise, and/or locals to rent its rooms.(Beechmont)

Short-stay rate: A reduced rate for a room rental, usually daytime unless there are room attendants around at night, and usually to locals, for a stay of only a few hours, with the understanding that they clear out upon completion of their afternoon delight so the maid can make the room and it can be rented again. One step above renting rooms by the hour. They're becoming illegal by local ordinance in a lot of places and we don't mind at all: Beechmont doesn't offer or accept them.

Skip: A guest who departs without checking out, leaving some amount owing on the bill that he didn't leave funds or a valid credit card to cover. (Industry jargon, differs a bit from the use shown above at the particular New York hotel shown.)

Sleeper: A guest occupying a room that is shown as checked out and vacant on the hotel records. Someone on the front desk screwed up: it's often discovered at that awkward moment when the room is rented to another guest altogether, and the new guest enters the room as the old guest isn't expecting a visitor - especially one who has a key to his room - although ideally, a housekeeper should catch it.

'SOB report' No, it doesn't mean something ugly or insulting, and isn't a list of difficult people: quite the contrary. It's short for 'source of business', and is a report completed by the night auditor (using a spreadsheet, if not the hotel's property management system), breaking down the hotel's business for the night (and month-to-date, and maybe year-to-date) by source - which company had how many rooms and at what average rate, which group had so many rooms and at what average rate, etc.

Special Rate Program (or 'SRP'): An industry term, in use throughout the Fools' Paradise. This is a program that allows special rates - an entitlement rate, or a contract rate - to certain groups (or 'market segments') of people. We compromise a little on our room rates, but if done intelligently and responsibly, everyone benefits. Some are set up by the franchise organization (e.g., Days Inn's 'September Days Club' from back in the day). Some, we set up on our own (our hometown rates and firefighter rates are good examples; and if your general manager or sales manager are creative and on the ball, they'll come up with one of their own that works well: see 'Entitlement rate'). Or, it could just be a program where we give up a discount to generate extra business for certain slow nights.

SMERF Social, Military, Educational, Religious, Fraternal. Organizations considered good prospects for group room sales for special events.

Transient (as opposed to group) describes business characterized by individual guests making their own reservations (or arriving as walk-ins) and negotiating their prices individually if at all (rather than accepting an established, off-the-shelf rate) for their room.

Utility vehicle: A vehicle owned by the company and used by the hotel. Will often be a white van, painted or decorated in livery approved (if not prescribed) by the franchise organization of which the hotel is a part, but in many cases could simply be a nondescript, unmarked older car in good to fair condition with its original factory paint, which is why we don't just call it a van. Never, never, never call it a 'shuttle' or any variation of that term (including 'courtesy car'). While we might use it to transport guests, that's not what it's 'for' (e.g., they're also - indeed, mostly - used to transport supplies for the hotel and run other errands). Once it becomes known or established as a 'shuttle', a vehicle used primarily for transporting passengers, then a whole new level of legal and insurance requirements can be made to apply; which we would prefer to not incur so long as we can make a showing in good faith that passenger or guest transport, if it occurs at all, is only a small part of what the vehicle is used for. (Beechmont)

Visitor: Someone who is on the property (and not on the property illegally), but is not a guest or customer. An attendee at a conference or banquet would be an example of a visitor: he's not paying us to be there, but we - directly and/or indirectly - have some responsibility for and accountability to him for his comfort and safety.

There are quite a few webpages dedicated to collection and curation of industry terminology:

Hotel Jargon Buster
Hotel Industry Glossary
Hotel Industry Terms to Know

Originally appeared on Quora

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