A Travellerspoint blog

8. Upgraded on land but not in the air

View Mucho Machu on paulej4's travel map.

Cusco, Peru
Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What a difference some feedback makes. My earlier stay at the JW Marriott was chronicled in an earlier post as being marred by a couple of unfortunate events. When the front desk manager asked why I had told the checkout person when she asked, "How was your stay," and I replied, "It wasn't the best," I told him my tale of woe. It wasn't much of a tale really and half of my problem was of my own making (taking a nap when I had scheduled a room service delivery).

Well, he decided to make amends. Witness Room 300. It is a two room suite actually. The living room has a sofa and two overstuffed chairs across a coffee table and a four-top glass top dining table in the corner. The mini bar and coffee maker are in this room and, or course, there is a big screen TV. Did I mention the half-bath?

Witness the view from 300 as opposed to my last view from 413. The view from 413 was of the tile roof and a plastic sheet covering something that I was not supposed to be able to see. It worked quite well. The view from 300 is of a neighboring roof, true but it is 25 feet away rather than 2.5 feet away. And over the roof, rather than a plastic tarp there is a cathedral dome, a mountain range and a beautiful sky. Same hotel.

It is true in the annals of customer service, some of which I have written and recorded and taught over the last thirty years, that the best impression is left after a failure experience has been made right. Jesus Rodriguez, Guest Service Supervisor, JW Marriott Cusco has proven it again. Well done, SeƱor Rodriguez. If you are ever in Kansas City...

As I sit sipping my morning coffee after logging onto this "Travelpod.com" site, I am virtually pestered by the site to provide a review of the hotel. When I write about riding on Peru Rail, I am requested to review the trip. Lounging on one of the two overstuffed easy chairs that parallel my matching couch, I am amazed at how different my first stay at the JW Marriott was compared to this stay because of the room I was assigned. On Peru Rail--and also on American Airlines and LATAM Peru--my experiences are in every way different based on the seat I was assigned. The number of stars I award is, in lodging and transportation, largely based on the chance distribution of assignments of rooms or seats.

At a restaurant, my evaluation is based on the seat I am assigned, the choice of entree or appetizer I make and the server who is assigned to my table. On the bus up the mountain to see Machu Picchu, if I was first in line I got the good seat and if I was last in line I got the worst seat and my experience on the exact same conveyance was sifted from this many stars to that many stars.

9894dcb0-3024-11ea-946b-6d7e5b5d6fd3.jpg98952ad0-3024-11ea-a840-65a2253b31c2.jpg980287c0-3024-11ea-8eff-198834a34b7c.jpg9806cd80-3024-11ea-ac06-cf7fc0c5a55c.jpg97f76430-3024-11ea-ae21-25bd8f6a8a33.jpg97f6c7f0-3024-11ea-89d5-d79c1e4ee961.jpg98003dd0-3024-11ea-ade5-b185fc1f7af2.jpg97f36c90-3024-11ea-ac06-cf7fc0c5a55c.jpg9804d1b0-3024-11ea-8d3f-89b94d4e23e6.jpg97ea6be0-3024-11ea-8eff-198834a34b7c.jpgCustomer satisfaction in these industries, then, is in significant margin left to chance or random assignments. If the purveyors of the thing that is assigned (room or seat or, in some cases, customer service person) can guarantee absolute consistency (think McDonald's quarter-pounder or Apple iPhone) then chance assignment plays no role. What one consumer gets is exactly the same as what all other consumers get. But with Marriott, Peru Rail, American Airlines, LATAM Peru and even the Machu Picchu bus, chance plays a large role in customer evaluation.

Consider that the next time you're on Yelp or Tripadvisor or Expedia or Orbitz or all the rest. If the reviewer was in seat A2 he loved it; if he was in B40 he didn't. If he was in room 300 he loved it; if he was in 413 he didn't. If he had the front row window seat in the bus he loved it; if he was on the aisle in row eight, he didn't. And, if as a tour guide, he got Juan on a sunny day, he loved it; if he went without a guide on a foggy day where they didn't open the gate until two hours late, he didn't.

They were all on the same train, the same plane the same bus and were taken to the same place but they had different stories to tell about how they reacted and then, without knowing how different the experience was for someone one seat or room or day away might have been, the hit their buttons: *** or *****. Reader beware.

I spent the morning strolling around Cusco, taking Juan's advice to visit the large market structure which is just a mile or so away from the JW. It is, in many ways, like other central markets I have visited from Nairobi to Barcelona to Montevideo. The capitalism on display, worldwide, at these markets is worthy of analysis by someone more economically astute than I. That being said, I am amazed at how many people gather in a municipally or state owned shelter, occupy stalls and sell something. My assumption is that if they do not do this they cannot survive. There is, I am told, no governmental safety net here as is the case in most of the third world. If you don't earn money to live, you die.

At the Cusco market, people like you and me sell to people like you and me. What do they sell? Chickens whole or parts, grapes, socks, dolls, men's razors, blankets, guinea pigs (for eating more than for pets), all kinds of fruit, vegetables, meat, shirts, hats, shoes, pots, pans; well, you get the idea. Outside, a man has a car battery hooked up to a CD player and speakers and he blasts his collection of CDs for sale. Next to him an old lady offers things she has sewn and next to her a younger woman sells ice cream. There are many more women working like this than men. There are an astounding number of young women offering massage services. I am told that these are all legitimate massages and that the sex trade in this Catholic society, such as it is, exists on the outskirts rather than in the central city. Prostitution is legal here for women over 18 as long as they register with the municipality in which they work and maintain a health certificate. I see absolutely no sign of it but I was offered by a young man as I passed by information on a "T T' Bar. I never saw evidence of one and did not stop to visit with him about it.

The streets are crowded with cars that are unofficial taxis. I am told that some people who might have been successful enough to own a car during a previous political climate might have lost their standing and then, out of necessity, turned to driving people here and there to make a living. Uber is here without Uber. I have never seen as many cars--taxis--who see an older tourist like me walking who then toot their horn and gesture that my trip would be much easier in their car than on my feet.

Men on the street are doing hard labor either by moving this and that about town on two-wheel dollies, or working digging here or there to replace infrastructure. Most structures outside the central city are works in progress with steel rebar jutting into the sky like fledgling trees waiting for the owner to gather enough money to build the next story so they can be encased in more concrete to frame the homemade bricks that will become walls.

The point I am making is this: with very little exception, nobody is idle because to be idle is to die. I am leaving the criminal element out of this equation but they are not idle either. It takes work to pursue the work that is crime.

Babies and toddlers are everywhere at work with their mothers. They seem to understand that they are children of whom a certain amount of responsibility is demanded even as toddlers. They must not cry or whine or be selfish; instead they must not interfere with the work that is needed to sustain the family.

How does the government survive? There is no way these people pay income tax. This economy is all underground. With no tax, of course, comes no social security or unemployment or aid to dependent children or welfare or or food stamps or anything else to rescue the down and out. The trick here is to not get so far down and out that you die.

Of course there is a white collar culture here as well to be sure. Even at the hotel I see managers supervising workers ranging from housekeeping to waiters to bellmen to security. This more formal employment I assume is taxed but, frankly, I don't know. What you hear when you ask is just as likely to be wrong as it is to be right. Wikipedia is more reliable.

As a grandfather I am thankful that I gave life to my children in the United States. With all its flaws and with all the complaining we Americans do, our system--sometimes broken and sometimes not--is something that, I believe, most third world occupants are willing to risk life and limb to achieve. We call it illegal immigration.

I am at the hotel bar waiting to go to the airport as I write this listening to a weird remix of Bing Crosby singing, "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."

Posted by paulej4 17:30 Archived in Peru

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