My review of Thon Hotel Vettre had consequences
The day after publishing my review of Thon Hotel Vettre I received an email from the hotel Director himself. Naturally, I was surprised. Despite of efforts in SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), my entry was as far behind as the 4th page on Google, upon use of the search query: “Thon Hotel Vettre”. And still, their systems had uncovered it. If anything such thorough and constant surveillance of the net on the side of Thon Hotels deserves recognition. Naturally, they were hardly pleased with such a critical review. They wanted to defend themselves, explain themselves, and preferably; that my recommendation was changed in their favor. Still, to receive this kind of an email was much to my surprise. It was fun, to feel a certain degree of recognition. And at the same time, it shows the importance of reputation. And perhaps most of all, it is evidence of the importance and power in blogging. Blogpower!
This soon became a rather lengthy email correspondence with the hotel Vice Director. Resulting in an invitation and a date. So then, on a rather gloomy December day I returned. Soon we were three sitting in the foyer with plenty of thoughts to put to word. Vice Director Petter Whilhelmsen who had arranged to meet with me was present. He was accompanied by a chef from the hotel kitchen. Post introductions it became clear they both had expected me to be older than they assumed I was by judge of appearance. I left those suppositions remain unanswered. It is a common mistake to believe me younger than I am anyway.
The conversation that followed contained a bit of both this and that. It quickly became apparent that both of them had merely schemed through my entry. Obviously displeased with the unfortunate review they did to a certain extent attempt to criticize what I had written. On one account they were in fact correct to do so I must admit. However, the very first words spoken, perhaps strategically from their point of view, was as follows: “You caught us with our pants down” Followed by admitting faults of their own and failure to uphold expected standards when I had stayed at the hotel. There after came a bunch of excuses about it all being a flaw in their otherwise bullet proof routines. The new regulations (those mentioned in the screendump-email) which were introduced on the 13th of December were partially used as a shield. An implicit message that: of course it would become even better. And finally, the end game excuse: apparently it was the first night they had served the Christmas setting, and with the new layout not all routines for marking of allergens were in place yet.
I chose to not weigh these arguments too heavily. That I had been invited with the aim of changing my review with fine words and promises was a certainty. They would of course want me to change the sad recommendation to avoid Thon Hotel Vettre if suffering from food allergies or intolerance. In the email correspondence they had weighted a desire to want my counseling. So I chose to focus on this aspect. I had prepared a set of questions. They were intended to uncover potential flaws or room for improvement in their routines. When I took the notebook from my bag they both appeared somewhat surprised. I guess that was more than they perhaps expected from a blogger. Either way, they both quickly turned to smiles and allowed me to begin.
All my questions were answered rather well. It was obvious that much thought had gone into how things should be done. Routines were thoroughly planned. My impression was that much of this were routines they had always had. Routines which then had failed during my stay. Also, they emphasized that there had been some changes made in the aftermath of my previous entry. Without any specifics as to what these changes might be. It was clear that they knew what to answer. The fact that I could not corner them is really a good sign.
Observation and advice
After the conversation I was given a little tour of the dining hall. The buffet had been left after the last meal in my honor. Everything had been washed and newly arranged, it looked quite delicious. I thus had a chance to observe how it usually appears at Thon Hotel Vettre. Specifically with labeling of the food and common allergens. It was done clearly by use of charcoal on the stone table. Again the soon to be enacted regulations of food labeling which was to be introduced roughly a week later. They would then put this additional information on stone just like now. I used the opportunity to point out possible issues with gluten contamination and risks of allergens being transmitted from one food item to another. I had some tips and ideas of adapting the buffet on those accounts. Both in terms of placement of foods and of information useful to allergists. Vice Director Petter Whilhelmsen played the part of a keen listener. He appeared to make mental notes and hopefully some of my contribution has proven to be of actual use to them.
During the meeting we had come to an enjoyable common ground. The impression was that all parties strived to reach a common goal: To make a stay at Thon Hotel Vettre a pleasant and safe experience for food allergists and the intolerant. As a thank you for the help I received a gift certificate in the post some time after. That was a kind, and unexpected reward. From the point when I had said yes to the meeting they had shown appreciation of me spending my time on this. Naturally, I am grateful for their attitude and welcoming spirit.
Big thanks for the gift card!
Impressions from the return visit at Thon Hotel Vettre
Walking up to the bus stop in the swirling snow I had a had time to compute the impressions. Despite of my harsh criticism I had been welcomed with hospitality. They had shown a genuine interest in self improvement, as well as a certain need to defend the unfortunate events of my first visit. Naturally, the whole meeting had after all been arranged only because the Thon-system had caught up my bad review. And still, the meeting served more purpose than just damage control. Now, can I change my review based on a meeting and a nice cup of tea? No. It is not solid grounds for evaluation. But it is clear that they have the right intention at Thon Hotel Vettre. And during my next stay, should there be another one, I shall review them again with blank sheets.
I gave a feeling the next experience will be one far better than the first.