Photographer:Fotograaf: Loraine Bodewes
Receptionist at Townhouse Design Hotel
Selke Ruijssenaars / 22/ master’s student of Human Decision Science/ works about 16 hours per week/ earning 10 euros net per hour
‘Receptionist’, as it turns out, is an outdated term today. Selke Ruijssenaars’s name tag says guest happiness server. She never once uses this term herself, though. Receptionist works for her. It’s an intriguing job title nonetheless: a ‘server’ who’s responsible for the happiness of the guests.
It’s Saturday afternoon, half past one. Ruijssenaars’s colleague is vacuum cleaning the hotel entrance. When asked if he knows where bikes can be parked, he puts the vacuum cleaner aside and takes the bicycle to the car park around the corner. “It’ll be safe there.”
Meanwhile, Ruijssenaars is explaining the computer system to a new employee. “I’ve already allocated the rooms for tomorrow. Can you have a look at the special requests? Extra duvets, a parking space… You’ll have to tick this box and that one.”
The reception desk is located in the middle of a ‘living room’ with green plants, Persian carpets, full fruit bowls, small bowls of nuts, and a wooden box of board and card games. Guests are welcomed in the front; there’s a cauldron of hot soup and a large fruit pie. Refrigerated beer and wine are available at the back of the reception desk. It’s self-service, but not complimentary. This fact is sometimes overlooked, says Ruijssenaars, even though the price tags – in both Dutch and English – are difficult to overlook.
She’s been working at the hotel since last spring. “I returned from travelling and I had to wait until September to start my master’s degree. I wanted to get a job quickly and work full-time. But I don’t really like call centre jobs or manufacturing and production work; I prefer to work with people.” She knows how to make guests happy and how to sell a product; it’s her love for sales, and a remnant of one of her previous side jobs as a ‘street vendor’ of local newspapers. And perhaps it’s also because she’s from the Dutch province of North Brabant, whose inhabitants are stereotypically positive and friendly.
Let’s briefly revisit the ‘guest happiness server’ label. Other Townhouse Hotel employees who belong to this category are the goldfish (all called “Bubbles”), even if all they do is swim in circles in the fish tank on the desk. “Guests can rent a fish to keep them company”, says Ruijssenaars, laughing, for 3.50 euros per night. And yes, this actually happens. Nothing surprises Ruijssenaars anymore: a vegan guest who doesn’t want their room to have any leather in it, or someone requesting a room without a red chair simply because they don’t like the colour red. And the oddest things happen. Just the other day, the lift in Hotel St. Martenslane (the hotel across the road, which is also part of hotel chain LBG) got stuck. The seven gentlemen – “they were on a stag do” – thought the maximum load of three people didn’t apply to them. “The night porter had to call the fire department.”
The hotel florist passes by and asks Ruijssenaars to take care of the flowers, “because you have such green fingers”. She initially thought her main task as a receptionist would be checking guests in and out, but that wasn’t quite the case. Other tasks in her job description include allocating rooms while taking into account special requests, serving high teas, keeping the ‘living room’ tidy, keeping the finances in order, making sure the tea chest is filled and taking care of the flowers. Sometimes Ruijssenaars treats guests to a little something extra, like a chocolate bar or a bag of sweets. Or she writes a card to a newly married couple.
The key word, she knows, is good communication, both with the guests (if they have questions or complaints) and with her colleagues. After all, no one wants Bubbles to spend whole nights swimming in circles in an empty room because the housekeeper didn’t know it was time for him to return to his friends.