24 March 2014

RubyConf India 14 - Hospitality was anything but pleasant at The Lalit resort and spa, Goa, we had pretty bitter experience and would like to capture it here. And please suggest me where else can we do this, send us email at team at the rubyconfindia.org

RubyConf India

We are a not-for-profit conference run by community support, only thing special about us is that we run a pretty high quality conference run in a pretty hotels. We get around 450+ participants on an average from 20+ countries and 60+ cities every year for last 5 years. The reason we choose a serene and nice place to conduct the conference so that participants should not worry about food, stay, ambience, atmosphere, weather and focus on talking to new people, learning from them and helping each other.

Note

We host our conference in a city for two consecutive years.

RubyConf India 2014

As usual and like every year we started our preparation pretty early, as early as July 2013. We reached out multiple hotels and banquet halls and finalized on The Lalit, Goa.

They sent us pretty strict payment schedule. Initial estimate only for reservation + minimum guarantee for rooms came to around 30L. And they wanted us to start paying for the conference in March 2014, as early as August 2013. While we discussed and talked to them, I don’t think that they don’t understand anything but business. The payment schedule required 25% as early as 6 months before the conference and without any interest, failure to comply with anything will result in cancellatio. Btw, we have dealt with Hotels like Hyatt and Royal Orchid, and booked as early as 6 months, but never had been troubled this much.

The internet Saga

Fast forward March 2014, we checkin 3 days ago, 19th March to finalize few more things and look after arrangements such as backdrops, standees, sponsorship materials and other facilities such as internet access. The only thing which was left with the Lalit was the internet access, and they first told us Rs 800 per participant per day, simply INR 3,20,000 per day. Hotel has 8 mbps line, which we were never able utilize. Anyway, we tried to convince them saying people need WiFi only on devices, people we will not be using for heavy access during the day because they will be attending it. It took them 4 days - just few hours prior to when people starting coming to finalize rates and give us coupons. We never had this pathetic experience about internet anywhere and no other hotel treats internet as Gold. But anyway, we negotiated and succummbed to their demand, paid 1.5Lacs for internet access, which mostly did not work. Our participants are community, one of the nicest and tolerant community, which understands that what we do is for each other.

Enter the weddding and we are literally fucked, for being nice guys!

I am sorry to use such a bad language but this is what happens - 1:00 PM, I get a call saying come over to reception there is a problem. (I got huge fever previous night, and after opening the conference on saturday went back to my room to take rest)

At 1:00 PM, we are told that our banquent hall got double booked and they need it decorate it for the wedding following day - 23rd March, 2014. We booked Banquet hall for 22nd and 23rd Night. So we have to hand over it right now, we said no, Hotel guys were pretty sure about it and they said sir, you are booked on 21st and 22nd. Gautam said, “Please check your contract and and we are sure that conference is on 22nd and 23rd March”, they did ont budge, talked to us rudely, but then realized it, hotel clearly had double booked us. The manager, GM, DM and everyone was pretty nice to us and was trying to cover up their mistake. We kind of thought to be accomodative and asked them what is the solution. Here is what they proposed.

  • The wedding decoration will not be interfering with our programme, they will decorate the hall at night
  • We need to dismantle our stage and bring it 4 feet forward, well that means all pieces - projector, screens, backdrop, cables, console, audio, video, camera and what not
  • They will put some crystals chandeliers, drapes (mind it lavendar + pink), sidewall drapes a typical rich indian wedding will showcase.

With this, our AV partner freaked out, while everyone was trying to convince us, we discussed among ourself, and we such we can’t screw up someone’s wedding and if this happens to us, we would have been upset, shit happens, mistakes happens, lets co-operate. I told Hotel Manager that please discuss that how you are going to execute this, talk to me before taking any steps and then do it.

Now, we thought they will come back to us, but nothing like that happened. 7:00 PM, first day gets over, suddenly few house keeping staff moves in and started folding chairs, then someone comes and drop and big white polythene sheet infront of our stage and starts putting stuff, please note, all our arrangements are still there, when we asked about it, they said that they gonna replace existing stage with new one! I was totally freaked out, started looking for hotel staff, I could get some one, asked him, he said, sir, I was just coming to you to tell you whats happening. Now, go through this series of events un-folded.

Saturday, 22nd March
  • 8:00 PM We call up manager (Ajit Jose) and Nitin Rao, they talk to us over phone, Nitin Rao, tells us to pull the contract out and go through it.
  • 9:00 PM We are still waiting, we are told that we can see contract in few minutes, I pull out laptop and then check contract scanned copy, we were sure about it, and we saw that we were right
  • 9:30 PM DM and acting GM come to hotel, we talk to them, we tell them while its your mistake, we will co-operate, but please maintain decoram and ambience of conference
  • 10:00 PM We join our community for dinner and we are rest assured by hotel staff that everything will be taken care of and its their personal guarantee, and we told them, please make sure that we are discounted for the problems caused to us
  • 10:00 PM Hotel staff assures us, we did not realize at this point that we had upper hand and could have done drama.
  • 10:30 PM We ask our event company to checkin to one of rooms we had and help hotel with that, hotel said that they will not charge for this amount
Sunday, 23rd March
  • 1:00 PM Our lunch place is given out to Wedding Party, Hotel is serving us Lunch in Open, not even in Lobby, and there is no water and no appropriate amount of food
  • 2:00 PM All water bottles are gone from back of banquet hall, our material at reception is gone in to some storage and all standees disappeared.
  • 3:00 PM Suddenly we hear huge noise outside the hall, apparently the wedding decorators have moved in with flowers, standeeds and hammering the nails into wood, the noise gets louder and lourder by second
  • 4:00 PM The hall is completely blocked to get in or get out, there is NO tea served, we are left with complete mess.
Monday, 24th March
  • 10:00 AM We reach reception for bills, we are waiting till 12:30, Me and Sidu leave for airport in hope for bills will be settled by evening.
  • 3:00 PM Niranjan decided to stay back, Gautam has been staying in lobby for whole time, but to no avail, Hotel staff not only being rude but ignorant that Gautam’s family is waiting in room for them to leave
  • 9:00 PM Finally they call Manager, Ajit Jose, who in turn accuses them that he was waiting in his office, the office is not visible, and everyone else we have been dealing is not even worth dealing. And he said that there will be no discounts no compensations for anything and you can not leave unless you settle the amount (which you don’t know yet)
  • 9:30 PM Being humiliated, mis-treated, Gautam calls me, I tell him to calm down and I call Ajit
  • 10:30 PM I talked to Ajit for 30 minutes, he tells me that someone will call me, no one calls me, I talked to Nitin Rao, tell him the situation and he says same.
  • 10:30 PM I search over linked in, get to know that Dr Jyotsana Suri and Rocky Kalra might be right person to be contacted, I was sure that I can’t reach to Dr. Jyotsana, but I had some hope for Mr Kalra, I called up, I told them situation and demanded phone number or conferene me in. Nothing happened.
  • 11:00 PM I called up Ajit again, talked to him, told him that please understand, that you can not hold Gautam for ransom, please let gautam go, I will goto The Lalit, Delhi tomorrow morning 5:30 AM before Gautam leaves and you can hold me there, Ajit says that he can not let gautam leave unless money is paid in full. (which hotel does that? I have dealt with so many hotels)
  • 11:30 PM I called up Ajit again, I tell him that you are not dealing with a person, but with an organization, you can’t hold people, if you want I can give you my personal guarantee, he said no sir, thats not acceptable, and two days back we took their word of personal guarantee.
  • 11:45 PM Then I called up Nitin Rao, he said sir, why don’t you send me the picture of your card and we will block the amount and Gautam can leave.
  • 11:45 PM I demanded numbers for senior managenment, I was denied, I called up Lalit Delhi, but there was nothing from them as well. So no one will hear us.
  • 11:45 Pm I called niranjan, told him that we need to pay money, got 8.35 lacs figure from ajit jose, I called him to confirm the figure, he did not pick up, I sent him sms that I am paying money right now, he called me back.
  • 12:15 AM I talked to Ajit, telling him that we will pay 8.36 Lacs in next few minutes, then he said, I still have to give him my card for some pre-authorization, because Gautam and Niranjan might have some incidentals since 8:00 PM, and the figure he has is till 8:00 PM. I told him, that have some trust on me, I will pay you, we have exhausted all our cards, pre-authorization won’t go, please understand and we will not run away, he told me in very cold voice that its not acceptable. I called up Nitin Raon, and told him that for god’s sake please let them leave peacefully and any thing beyond that they will clear.

At that moment, I realized that we were fools. The Lalit did following things to us

  • Held us at ransom, did not allow us to leave
  • did not compensate us for their mistake
  • They ruined our conferences
  • charged hefty amount for 8mbps link, and their WiFi AP could not support even 100 devices
  • Charged few guest for stupid amounts for internet - like INR 5000 for one day
  • Troubled us and treated us like victims.
  • And threatened us.

The events have been depicted in a very plane manner.

You should strike when you can, thats why a simple security guard also treats you like shit, this culture is crap. WE never experienced this in past. so sad that this happened to us, please understand we spend around 50L on rubyconfindia and most of that went to The Lalit, and still they could not let us go for even 10K outstanding?