Stunning Hotel, Crappy Service


We are in the Medieval Cite of Carcassonne, France, staying at the Hotel de la Cite, a 5-star venue inside the walls of this spectacular fortress city in the south of France. Due to guests arriving to rent our French house for a week, we are staying one night here in this hotel before flying home tomorrow to London and back to work and school.

Believe it or not, it was less expensive to stay here one night than to pay the ticket change fees for the three of us! Go figure. Another one of Ryanair’s ancillary income schemes.

Having been to this great old walled city dozens of times as a tourist, I was looking forward to staying at the best hotel in the area. A 5 star hotel always conjures up visions of the classic Ritz Carlton hotels and their legendary service. I was looking for a gracious “guest experience” at every turn.

But the guest experience at this 5 star hotel is definitely one step below crap!

It started with being dropped off at the designated area outside the massive city walls. What is sign posted as “hotel guests entrance” is actually a wooden shack manned by a very rude guard and a woman with an official looking clipboard, who ticked off our name and told us to wait in the dirty and dusty parking lot and the hotel van would be around shortly to pick up our luggage and drive us to the hotel.

After waiting fifteen minutes, we called the hotel. Don’t worry, shuttle is in its way, we were told. Ten more minutes, another call to the hotel, “on its way”. Another fifteen minutes and we asked the girl with the clipboard if she could help, to which she replied, “I don’t work for them but you can call yourself.” Beginning to feel like outsourcing gone horribly wrong.

After waiting over forty-five minutes the little van driver shows up, and a drive of no more than 300 meters brings us into the walled city and to the hotel! Overall, not a pleasant guest experience, but of course the hotel manager explained there is only one driver on duty and he was busy with other guests. His attitude one of annoyance with our impatience and lack of understanding. First rule of crappy service, make the guests wrong!

Needless to say, the entire stay is one of poorly trained staff giving indifferent service amid a beautiful hotel setting. There were vacuum cleaners lying out in the guest corridors, an electricians ladder and box of light bulbs next to the Grand Staircase all day. A very poorly trained young bar man.  The list goes on. Wifi is off and on and slow, breakfast buffet is on par with Holiday Inn Express, the rooms are stifling hot.

What’s so hard about good service and adequate staff training? After meeting the hotel manager, who informed me he has been here 15 years, I now understand the poor customer experience. Shadow of the Leader!


If you like stunning surroundings in a Medieval castle with a ghastly guest experience, then this is the hotel for you.  Otherwise, give it a pass!

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
This entry was posted in corporate culture, John R Childress, John's views on the world, leadership, strategy execution and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Stunning Hotel, Crappy Service

  1. I strongly recommend you submit this blog on your experience of Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne as a review on Trip Advisor. Then something might get done to improve things for future visitors – or, if not, other visitors will start echoing the points you mention . . . and hence the picture of Hotel de la Cite presented on Trip Advisor will become more representative of reality.


  2. Alan Meekings says:

    Hello John,

    Thanks for sharing this experience. It illustrates how arrogance can crowd out attention to fundamental purpose and customer service.

    I recommend you post this blog as review on Trip Advisor.

    Then there’s a chance that things may actually be improved for future visitors – or, if not, then other visitors will start to echo your comments and, hence, the picture of Hotel de la Cite in Carcassonne will be eventually become more representative of reality.

    Bye for now,



Leave a Reply to Alan Meekings Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s