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Monterey Super 8

We decided to stay in Monterey and live next to the ocean for awhile after a busy couple of months.  Monterey was a place where we were really trying to figure out where we wanted to go next with barenakedfamily and lots of other things.  We parked at the Fairgrounds where the Monterey Pop Festival had been held and we just couldn't help but walk around the stage thinking about Fuzion.  We started to look for work in the area and focused our thoughts on the kind of job we could do together.  We ended coming up with the idea of property management so that we could have the kids around with no problem.  Monterey has lots of hotels, bed and breakfasts (though we are not good B&B people), and inns, so using some of our old hospitality background we began searching for a place to manage.  The great thing about Monterey is that everything is so beautiful and quaint we were excited about doing something like this!  It took a few weeks before we were hired at Super 8 as property managers which offered us a little apartment and some salary.  This meant that we were in charge of all the staff, advertising, guests, machines, complaints, events and tons more!

The entrance to Super 8.  Not Ramada or Econolodge!  We got that a lot considering that we were on a hotel row.  That room on the corner was always the hardest to sell because it was right on the roadway.  Really wasn't that noisy, but had lots of people ask to move.  It's a real pain in the butt to do stuff like that because the room is now dirty and adds to the maids work and they are run on a really tight clock.  And they are paid next to nothing to clean up after people.  Think about that the next time you feel like whining.

The door on the right is the best motel room on the property with a fireplace and a private patio. It's right next to our apartment door too.  We would occasionally go and watch TV with the fireplace on then go from door to door back to our apartment!  That was very wicked cool!  All the flowers and gardening on the property was cared for by the dad who owns the place.  Now his son and daughter run the place as a Family business which made it easy for us to consider working with them.

Do you know how hard it is to change the light bulbs in the roof of the canopy?

Welcome to Super 8!  This is our lobby!  We had to learn a new computer system and reservations as well as tourist packages and prices.  Took us about a month before we were completely comfortable with everything.  Didn't help that the stuff we were using was twenty years old and took forever to do things!  The property has had a lot of managers and no one has actually cared for the property.  When we got there we had local customers that were checking in and running shady things out of the rooms.  We quickly had to run off a lot of trash and clean up the kind of people that were coming in.

The lobby was were we also had continental breakfast every morning.  We have a local baker that brings fresh muffins and Danishes every night for the next morning. Greg and I worked the three to eleven shift and would wait up for him till about midnight and help get everything ready the night before.  The kids were in charge of setting up the breakfast every night.  They loved it!  Austin was in charge of arranging the muffins and such in the baskets and he took pride in how many he could get in there looking nicely.  The girls set up the cereal, toast, plates, spoons and knives, cups, sugar, creamers, and jelly.  They loved arranging it all and tried new things all the time.  As they all did this stuff Greg and Jenn worked on the night audit and checking in the last reservations of the night.

Rolly has been in the office the longest and is a pro at everything there!  He trained us on all the things we needed to know.  He is definitely a cool guy.  We enjoyed his company and got to know him really well.  The kids loved Rolly and he treated them great.  He is used to things a certain way.  When we came in we saw some simple improvements we could make to get the office more efficient.  We moved the monitor up on the shelf so that we would have more room where we write and Rolly is more of a creature of habit and continuously moved it back down.  We learned to move it down when we came on and move it back for him at the end of our shift.  There were other things like that, but he is so cool about it we enjoyed it all!

The kids learned all kinds of things like working the key card machine, entering Expedia and Hotels.com reservations on the computer, guest complaints, showing people to their rooms, running towels and pillows, talking to the housekeeping, swiping credit cards, and filing customers on the board.  Talk about unschooling!  They were way more efficient than some of the people we hired to do all this.  They also earned tips running things for people.

Maria is the housekeeper manager that has been there for over sixteen years!  She is in charge of all the maids there and oversees the work they do.  She also doesn't speak any English and would often go on for about five minutes or so in Spanish then ask if we knew what she was talking about.  Maria said that she was only going to talk to us in Spanish so that we would learn and she stuck to that.  We had many conversations with her only listening to us if we spoke in Spanish.  She was one of our favorites as well.  Jenn's little sister in Texas sent us a Flat Stanley project so Stanley hung out with us and the staff for two weeks.  Here he is with Maria.

We took Flat Stanley around to all the staff.

Rolly loved Flat Stanley!

Anna is Rolly's daughter that often came to work with him and hung with the kids.  She is holding Flat Stanley during our room inspections.  We had to go in and make sure the rooms had all the amenities and such.  The kids helped us with the checklist and it made it go faster!

The laundry room where all the pillows and linens are washed and stored.  We had to learn to run the washers and dryers here so that if we needed something when housekeeping was gone we would have it.  This is where the kids would come to get extra pillows, towels, and shampoo and soap for the guests.

Working in the office there was always so much paperwork and filing!  But it was cool meeting all the different travelers and such.  There's Flat Stanley hanging out behind the desk!

This is our office space and that is the monitor right below Greg that we kept moving around between us and Rolly.  We also had to learn the phone system which runs the motel.  You can see the big phone board right next to the monitor.  And Flat Stanley.

The kids were always finding work that they could do to help us.  Here they are making tourist packages with local coupons, attractions, and maps.

Out front of the lobby the kids and I are off too help a customer set up his room with flowers he ordered for his thirtieth anniversary.  But we had bigger plans for him and his wife.

We put his flowers in the room but also picked a few off the property and used them to sprinkle them on the bed and tables.  We also got some cookies and chocolate and left them next to his flowers.  When he got back with his wife they were blown away by all this and he came to lobby to thank us.  He could hardly talk because he was about to cry and gave us all a huge hug.  It was those times that made all the hard work and long hours worth it.  And it doesn't take much effort at all to do something like this.

We went to check out a strike by the workers of a hotel down the way from ours.

There is a lot of work to do in a job like this and that includes dealing with all kinds of customers too.  We had a guy who came to stay with his wife in one of the rooms.  They kept the windows closed the entire time and made many calls to the front desk for different things.  When we delivered towels to their room at one point the room smelled really strong of beer.  The maids informed me that there was tons of beer cans and the room was really dirty when they went in there to clean.    He called the front desk asking for band aids claiming that he stepped on some glass in the sauna.  Jenn went over to his room to give him some and see what happened.  He explained that there was glass on the floor right as you walk in.   Jenn went to the sauna to inspect and found this glass carefully laid out right over the door step.  Thinking it was placed too perfectly she looked around and tried to match up the glass with any of the bulbs in the whole hot tub area.  Finding nothing similar we shut down the area and took pictures suspecting that he had set the whole thing up.  Later when he was checking out he walked into the lobby just fine and when he didn't get the attention that he wanted he started yelling and began limping on the foot he stepped on the glass with.  We just let him vent and he eventually left.

We had so many problems with the hot tub area even though it was a selling point.  When we first got there they had a huge problem with local people sneaking into it at night.  There were many times we had to run people off after finding them in there.  We ended up having to put wire fence around the top to keep them from climbing in.  We also learned that the European travelers are used to getting in completely naked and didn't change just because they were in America.  There were many times we all saw naked people and Families in there.

This is a moment where we could sit and chill in the hot tub area with out having to deal with anyone.

It could be a relaxing place at times.

The kids with Flat Stanley in front of our apartment!

When we first got the job the owners were concerned about the size of the apartment for all of us. It was a one bedroom with a big living room, kitchen, and bathroom.  It definitely had more room than the RV and we had to convince them that we would be just fine in it.  Some people don't get that you just don't need  so much room to be a Family.  Size is not important!  Family time is, and living in small space works just fine for us.  The doors were weird for us because we were not used to closing each other off, so they hardy were closed at all.  The kids turned the living room into their room and decorated it with Rolling Stone covers and pictures.  It was really cool!

The whole apartment was decorated with all kinds of art and music.

The kids room.

Rolly always popped in to see what we were doing.

Rolly had a birthday and we set up the whole office for a party with decorations and food that we all handmade.  He said no one there has ever treated him this nice and after working there we really started getting to know what he meant.  The general idea behind running this place was to do it cheap.  That started to suck really bad.

We really appreciated all the work that Rolly did for this place and he was the only reason this place was still running considering that they had gone through so many managers in just a short time.  When we came on board we changed this whole thing around with something as simple as appreciation and a little love for the people, you know.

Rolly had no idea that we had done this so when he came into work the next morning he was totally surprised.  We shut the office down to have a party with the employees.  We got all the staff together and they were just so surprised that someone did this for all of them.  They were not used to being treated like this and the fact that they were invited and fed was a treat for them.  To us it just made sense.  Rolly was so grateful.  And we were grateful for Rolly.

Working in the motel business we enjoyed several perks like free lunches, passes to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, discounts at local restaurants, limo rides, and helicopter rides!  A guy who does helicopter rides brought in his brochures and ended up taking Greg up for a ride!  They went all the way up to San Francisco and back and Greg said it was really cool!


A photo of our motel Greg took from the air.

Greg took this photo of downtown Monterey when they were coming back.  The big marina is where the harbormaster office is and we would often visit.  Mary works there and would always give the kids the keys to the marina to go look at all the boats. We got to just hang out in the harbormaster office and hear all the stories going on out at sea.  That's  also Fishermans Wharf where all the tourists go.  We really enjoyed Monterey and the community there.  The people are nice and the weather is great.  We started to realize that the job we had was taking up all of our time and that we were not able to visit all these cool places.  We liked what we were doing but had a hard time finding a balance with the kind of work it was and Family time. 

We signed up for a three month trial period as property managers at Super 8 before having to sign a one year contract.  We loved the kind of work that it was and we loved the people we worked with.  As we worked closer with the owners we saw that no matter how hard we worked and how much time we put into it, they only wanted more.  Not only from us but from all of the staff.  We tried to work with that but it started hurting all the relationships we worked hard to build with everyone.  The owners soon started wanting to take more of the time we had to be a Family away and we knew that they were not going to change.  The breaking point of all this was when the owners decided on a whim to yank the head housekeeper's role from her as well as taking back a dollar an hour promotion with that.  She had been there for ten years already and had waited for years to get that one dollar an hour raise. On top of that she is one of the hardest working people there and we felt if anything she should at least get to keep her money.   We fought for weeks with the owners about this and told them we did not think it was fair to take her raise away from her and we refused to.   We told them that she might quit on us and we couldn't afford to lose her as we were getting ready to go into the busiest time of the year.  They were so focused on the money that they said that would be fine, people like her were disposable to them.  Even if they worked there for ten years and cleaned their personal houses for beans.  Took the bus everyday to get there. Had three kids to raise on six dollars an hour.

We were so shocked at their reaction and so was everyone else.  When Greg had to tell the head housekeeper that this was going to happen she fell apart.  That sucked.  And we all knew who was behind it.  From that point on we were so upset with them and where their focus was that we knew we had to get out.  No way would we sign a contract to work with that.  There is too much else to do out there.  We came in and cleaned up the property from a shady motel to a top notch tourist destination.  Secured the freaking hot tub area.  Built strong morale with all the employees.  Filled occupancy.  Organized the front desk procedures.  And scored an A on the inspection from Super 8 headquarters that they had previously lost.  That A is a huge tool for any motel to achieve and promotes the business in bigger ways.  It is not easy to get and we came into it having to work months on bringing the property to this level.  The grade is not only for the rooms and property but for the customer service as well and that's where our greatest effect was.

After telling the employees that we had decided not to sign on they completely understood.  All of the staff let us know how much they enjoyed having our Family around and appreciated us.  They told us that we were the best managers that had ever been there and they would miss us.  It was hard for us because we considered these people our Family.  We appreciated each and every one of them.



April '05 >>