Monday, February 28, 2011


Answer the phone!

One of my pet peeves is to be in a hotel lobby and to hear a phone ringing numerous times. When I was the Resident Manager of the Sheraton Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami, I used to remind our desk staff that the guest who was standing in front of them could tell if they were busy but the person on the phone couldn’t. After several rings the guest on the phone is left to assume that we are either too busy, poorly trained or just not interested in their business.

As you will recall, Richard Nixon won the Presidential election in 1972. While he was in office, his “Summer White House” was located on Key Biscayne just over the Biscayne Causeway Bridge east of the Sheraton Four Ambassadors Hotel and the city of Miami. Whenever President Nixon visited Key Biscayne, members of the Secret Service, FBI, White House Press Corps and other dignitaries would stay at our hotel. The typical room block request was between 125 and 150 rooms. As you can imagine, it took no small effort to coordinate the arrangement of accommodations for everyone involved. A tremendous behind the scenes coordination effort was put forth by the advance team of the White House as well as the hotel staff. This included the selection of specific highly trained staff members who underwent frequent background checks and screening prior to each official visit.

The coordination of arrangements, some of which included the blocking of parking, meeting and banquet space, special food selection and preparation, pre-blocking of room accommodations and numerous security related issues were time consuming and required intense diligence. In order to help facilitate the process, a specially designated phone was installed in the hotel with a direct line to the White House. The phone sat atop my desk and was the topic of many interesting conversations amongst my staff. Some of them would stand at my door and stare at the phone as if it was an antique Cuckoo Clock about to engage in its mid-day chime. I have to admit that things got pretty exciting around the hotel when that phone rang.

A specially trained and pre-screened staff was designated to service the needs and requests of the foreign Heads of State and other dignitaries. During my four year stint as Resident Manager of the Sheraton Four Ambassadors hotel, we hosted Presidents, Governors, Senators, Congressmen, Kings, Queens, Princes, Foreign Ambassadors, Movie Stars, Rock Stars, Sports Stars, famous singers, entertainers, bands, the Secret Service, the FBI, military officials and other dignitaries from all around the world. It was an “all hands on deck” occurrence whenever “the phone” rang. I’ll never forget those words, “Mr. Cerrone, it’s the White House calling”.

For those of you who are reading this and are in the hotel business, think about this. What other business could you be in that would offer a similar mix of famous and interesting people that we get to host on a daily basis. Wow, just answer the phone!

[The Miami Chapter….to be continued]

Friday, February 18, 2011


Have you heard the one about the guy who went into a hotel in New York City knowing that it was completely sold-out due to a major city-wide convention? He walked up to the desk clerk and asked if there were any rooms available, to which the clerk said, “Sorry sir, but we are completely sold-out”. The man asked the clerk, “Do you by chance have a Presidential Suite”? The clerk responded by saying, “Why of course sir, every fine hotel in this city has a Presidential Suite”. To which the man responded, “Well young man, I just spoke to the President and he told me he wouldn’t be using his suite tonight and so I’ll take his room’’.

My career in the hotel business has now spanned 40 plus years, seven moves and five states [Boston, Miami, Orlando, New York, Orlando, Shreveport, Atlanta]. It seems like just yesterday that I was driving my 1962 red Volkswagen “beetle” through the snow covered streets of Boston on my way to my first job in the hotel business at the Sheraton Boston Hotel. I started as a mail and information clerk of this 1012 room hotel, about as low as you can get on the totem pole. In hindsight I’m glad I had an opportunity to start at the bottom and “learn my way up the ladder” so to speak.

After completing the Sheraton Management Training Program which was a two year, three property tour of duty, I was promoted to the position of Resident Manager of the Sheraton Four Ambassadors Hotel in Miami, FL. The Four Ambassadors was the flagship Sheraton property at the time. A 744 all-suite hotel with 2 ballrooms, 5 restaurants, 3 bars, two swimming pools, a spa, health club, men’s and woman’s salons, shops, 4 towers of 22 stories each and the longest lobby [522 feet] of any hotel in the world. As Resident Manager, my wife Christine, our two daughters and I lived at the hotel in a suite on the 21st floor overlooking Biscayne Bay. As an aside, there is good and bad about living in a hotel. The good is the commute. The bad is your 24 hour availability to your workplace.

My family and I lived in Miami from 1970 to 1974. Two historic events happened in Miami in 1972. The first was the Miami Dolphins became the first ever [and still only] NFL Football team to go undefeated and then go on to win the Super Bowl. Also in 1972, Miami was the host city for both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. Because of the size and stature of our hotel, we were the host property for all of the leading Republican and Democratic candidates for President.

Of course, each candidate wanted to stay in the one and only Presidential Suite. Atop each of the four towers were the Presidential, Governor’s, Senatorial and Congressional Suites, in towers one through four respectively. They were each well appointed and of similar size [2 bedrooms]but each had a separate and distinct outstanding view of either the Biscayne Bay or the city skyline of Miami.

I have a public confession to make.

Knowing each of the major candidates’ desire to stay in the Presidential Suite and not wanting to play favorites, I asked my Chief Engineer to have 3 additional Presidential Suite signs made up. For a “hold my breath and cross my fingers” 4 week period of time, we became the only hotel in the world with four Presidential Suites. It certainly was a gamble that could have turned out to be a public relations disaster, but fortunately it paid off and all the candidates left satisfied with their special accommodations, the “best room in the house”.

{The Miami Chapter….to be continued]

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