An Acknowledgment Gone Astray…

Sometimes our best intentions to acknowledge someone generously, profoundly and in a heartfelt way go astray. I hate to even plant this thought, but this situation is still bothering me and I could use some of your input. What could I have done differently to make this work better?


So here’s the story — I went to Lyon, France last week to visit two dear and elderly friends that I had the joy of living with for a summer when I was 18. And yes, that was quite a while ago! Claudia was my mother’s pen pal for 70 years, believe it or not. And I was a lucky beneficiary of that relationship. So when I came to visit this time, I decided to stay in a nearby hotel and not disrupt their daily routines (they are 90 and 87) and it was “petite” but lovely and well-situated.


The first morning of my trip, I came down for a breakfast that I had been dreaming of for weeks — French coffee and French croissants. What could be a better treat than that!? But I was a little mixed up due to the change in time and found that I had missed breakfast entirely. Even at a nearby restaurant, there were no croissants left and they were serving lunch instead of breakfast. The next day, I made sure to be at breakfast at my hotel an hour before it ended, and imagine my shock and despair when I was told by the server that there were no more croissants! In my getting-better-and-returning French, I managed to communicate my despair to the very sweet woman who was serving me. I told her how my visit to Lyon was first of all to see my dear friends, but second of all to have French croissants! She saw my despondency and told me she would go to a nearby restaurant and get me some.


I was truly shocked and moved by her offer, and said that I would do that myself. But before I could finish my sentence, she was out the door. A few minutes later, she came back — out of breath — with a bowl full of flaky, delicious croissants. I was flabbergasted — nearly speechless. I told her as best I could how delighted, surprised and moved I was by her incredible customer service and that I would let her boss know how I felt. She thanked me and went about her business.


That day, I was told, her manager was off. So I wrote a long and detailed letter in my not so fluent French, but wouldn’t give up until I got it all out — about how amazed, delighted and totally surprised I was by the level of service provided by the server, Magdaly. I left the letter for her in her box and went out to see my friends — the real reason for being there! It was an awesome visit. The next day, I asked if the manager had received the letter and was told that she had. I sought her out and introduced myself as the letter writer, and again said how thrilled I was with Magdaly’s level of service. She smiled politely and said, “Oh yes, that is what we always have around here.” I asked her if she had told Magdaly about my letter and had acknowledged her for her service. “Yes,” she said. So why didn’t I “get it”? I made sure to mention the letter I had written to Magdaly myself, and she seemed very pleased that I had gone to the trouble of writing. She felt it would be a good thing for her to have that in her file. But I was left feeling empty and unsatisfied because I just didn’t get a sense that the depth of the acknowledgment I had written had been shared with or communicated to her.


I am left feeling disappointed and incomplete with the communication with her manager. Perhaps I should have made a copy of the letter and presented it to Magdaly myself –, since I am still not sure that her manager fully communicated what I had written, or truly acknowledged her for her unique and above and beyond level of service. The experience with her manager made me sad. Does anyone have any ideas for me? I think in the future, I will make sure to present a copy of anything I write to a person’s manager, to that person herself, especially if it is hand-written. But how could I have gotten through to the manager in a more powerful way? I feel that she was just taking her employee for granted, and that is something I always counsel against. 


I welcome your input, and do want all of you to know what truly outstanding service Magdaly provided! And the croissants were yummy!