Friday, May 20, 2011


Fourteen months ago, I posted a blog entry here on The Killzone, in which I described a day of, shall we say, intestinal distress while in Islip, NY.  In that post, I wrote something kind of snarky about the Hilton Garden Inn where I was staying.  Specifically, I talked about my dismay that after hours of overnight dehydration, I couldn't order room service to have that bland meal one needs after such an illness.

Among the comments generated by that post was this one: "My name is Adrian Kurre and I am the head of the Hilton Garden Inn brand. I read your post on your stay at the HGI Islip. I'm disappointed on a couple of levels. First that you became ill and could not make your presentation and second that we could not get a meal to you at lunch time when you were still feeling less than perfect. I know that you are not blaming the HGI for your illnes, but I sure wish we could have helped you feel better. If you'd like to email me at adrian.kurre at hilton dot com I'd love to hear more about your stay and what we could have done to make it better."

I thought (and still think) that that was the coolest thing in the world.  I wrote to Adrian to tell him so.  Here's a guy who no doubt has a bazillion things on his plate, and he took the time not only to stand up for his brand, but to reach out to a customer to show that he cares.  In an era when true customer service is hard to find, I really was very impressed.  So impressed, in fact, that wherever possible, I've become something of a Hilton purist in my travels.

It turns out that my effusive email arrived in Adrian's box on a day when he needed to hear good things, and thus began a year-long correspondence through which I learned, among other things, that he'd become a fan of my work (how can you not love a man with such fine taste?).  As a gesture of thanks I asked and received permission to set a pivotal scene in Threat Warning at the Hilton Garden Inn in Arlington, Virginia.  (I promised Adrian that Jonathan and his team wouldn't make a mess while they were there.)  I think stuff like this is very, very cool.  Fiction is rife with random events connecting to cause an unexpected outcome, and I'm always thrilled when happy randomness affects me. 

There's actually a coda to this story that I'll share when the time is appropriate, but for now, I just want to praise kindness, caring and serendipity.  You never know when the smallest gesture can make a big difference.  

By the way, here it is for the record: Even though the restaurant was closed at lunchtime at the HGI in Islip, someone from the staff would have gone out and picked up food for me if I'd asked.  It's that kind of place.  I like those kinds of places.


  1. Nice post, John. People like Adrian are rare and stand out when you cross their path. It's uplifting to hear a story like this. And your reaction to what he did was nice to hear too. Your post is a reminder that even though we see and hear about bad stuff happening around us and in the news, we still have control over our own actions and how we treat others. A little kindness and consideration goes a long way. Thanks for the warm and fuzzy.

  2. It was awesome that Adrian followed up & that you responded. Good story - a win for both. I travel a lot. In fact I've been mostly out of town since October 2008 (I build railroads & write books for kids - what a combination). There's nothing worse (other than being away from home in the first place) than subpar accomodations. I use Hilton 90% of the time, or their subsidiary Homewood Suites when I have to stay for several weeks (defined as up to 3 months - beyond that I lease a house or condo). Their service is always terrific.

    I remember the days having to fly home to Florida from Chicago just to feed the cat, but that's another 'road story'.

  3. John, I'm finding that a number of hotels monitor the web for comments and attempt to make things right when they come across an account which indicates that someone's stay was less than perfect. The hospitality industry is going through some very tough times right now, and it's nice to see some of those folks get proactive.

    Re: Hilton Garden Inn, the employees at the property on Gravier Street in New Orleans (CBD) treat me like a son when I stay there each August. I was actually greeted by name by the desk clerk when I got off of the elevator in the lobby on my arrival.

  4. John, my wife and I often reflect on good customer service. When it happens, we say, You know, it doesn't take much, so why doesn't everybody do it? I remember once a personable young woman at Panda Express in a grocery store, giving me wonderful service, above and beyond. So good I went to the manager of the store, who had this look on her face of, Oh no, what's the complaint going to be? But I praised the young lady by name, and isn't it funny that I remember this some six or seven years later?

    But here's an application for us as writers: we're offering customer service to our readers. When we give our all to the page, it's customer service. When we settle for something less, we're shirking our duty, aren't we?

  5. Great story, John. It speaks well for the Hilton Garden Inn brand that a top manager reached out to set things right. And it's great that you have found a new fan!

  6. Am at a hotel as we speak, attending the Atlanta Writers Conference. Then will be at a different hotel Sunday for a whole week attending brain bungling CCNA certification boot camp.

    So far so good. I know I will be a bummer of a burned out customer by the end of next week.

  7. Ahh, the power of the Internet. Can't wait to hear the 'coda'. :)

  8. Hilton Team MemberJuly 15, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    I work for Hilton HQ in McLean, VA and I can confirm that Adrian is one seriously cool guy. One of my favorites, actually (but don't tell my boss, he'd be jealous). And now I'm so curious that I'm going to buy one of your books tonight.