Negotiating the Absurd: A Vacation Tale

Sometimes you find yourself in a situation that is completely absurd, and it feels like there’s no way to negotiate with your interlocutor. This happened to me on a weekday morning not long ago – it’s a completely true story, but it’s so absurd that it sounds fabricated.

My wife and I walked into the lobby of a 5-star hotel. We had taken a day off without our children for a quick getaway, and were interested in purchasing a day pass to the spa.

Thevacation photo front desk attendant said that he was very sorry, but their computer had been down for the past hour and they could not sell us day passes.  I offered to pay cash, or to leave my credit card and ID, but he refused.

Assuming there must be more to the story, I asked if the hotel was perhaps full, or if their insurance carrier required guest information to be entered into the computer.  I was told no, none of those were the issue.  It was simply a matter of the computer being down.  I protested that none of this made sense.  I asked to speak to his manager, who similarly refused to help, even after I said I’d have to go to a competitor. She went back to her office, leaving me dumbfounded.

Running out of options, I was getting ready to leave when I turned to another, more experienced front desk attendant and said, “This is an absurd situation.  I refuse to believe we can’t find some creative solution.  Isn’t there anything at all you can do?”

She said, “Actually, we can have you fill out a paper form with your credit card information; include the amount and sign it, and we will process it later.”

I said, “Perfect.” And five minutes later my wife and I were in the sunshine, enjoying ourselves by the pool.

When you’re told that nothing can be done even though logic dictates otherwise, try sticking with it. Insist that there must be a better solution that can get you what you want. You might consider switching players, or suggest alternatives, as I did.  Persistence can really pay off.