You must remember the “Hotel California?” “You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Well the Hotel Hilton, in
In 2004, I was sent to a town called Swindon, in
I believe everyone has heard the, “You Say Tomahto, And I Say…Tomato” skit. If not, I have a new version to share. “I say, what time is checkout and you say, you may check out anytime you like Sir.”
I called down to the front desk, to ask, “What time is check out?” The front desk manager politely informed me that I may check out any time I like. I laughed a little bit, as I am humored, but I did re-confirm, “I may check out any time I like?” The front desk replied, “Yes Sir, you may check out anytime you like.” Questioning the validity of this response, I called back to the front desk a few hours later and spoke to a second individual, who provided the exact same response. This time I even felt a little patronized, as if the signal sent was a polite, “Duh!”
The next morning, I called back to the front desk one last time, as I knew deep down that the information on check out times was incorrect. It is not like this is the first hotel I have ever stayed at. However, the third individual I spoke with gave me the exact word-for-word, “You may check out anytime you like, Sir.” So with the three confirmations on check out time, I decide to take a conference call from my hotel room instead of driving to the site office before heading to the airport. I log in to the conference call at As I am chatting to the individuals joining the call, a loud, rapid knock occurs on my hotel room door. I glance at the time and it is I open the door and the front desk person immediately says, “Sir, it is and check out time is .” I said, “The front desk told me three times, I can check out anytime I like.” The response, “You may Sir, you may check out anytime you like, but you must vacate the room by I ended the conference call a little frustrated and immediately went down to check out!
How simple my question and yet so difficult a response. Who’s English were we speaking any way? Was my question too far off? How convenient to be able to check out anytime I like, but how thankful I was, to be able to leave – fortunately, for me, this was not the Hotel California [You may check out anytime you like, but you can never leave]. How would you clarify the check out time? Did I ask the wrong question? It goes to prove that even the most simple of cultural misunderstandings may be interpreted in multiple ways.