A Euro in the Hand: what Grandma did


Transfer Day #2 has come and gone and I can write about it now that it and I have the distance of days.

Transfer day is known well in resorts as the dreaded of all weekdays, not least for the challenge of turning the whole chalet around within hours. But there are other more complex issues. At 6:45 in the morning, the guests you have taken care of for seven days are leaving and for some, this is truly a sad time. Mournful even. For others it may be a time to resist hoofing the departing guests’ over-sized baggage down the hill to the bus stop (if not the guests themselves) in an effort to see the back of them. Either way it is fraught with emotion of some kind.

Whatever the emotion and no matter how strong, it doesn’t linger, new guests will be with you in five hours and round you go again. In the moonlit morning these fabled newcomers are shrouded in mystery and their coming is richly anticipated. On command, I can hear my chef saying, with a kind of dark superstition, ‘oh, I hope we get good guests this week.’ All he does not do is rub his hands together with Dickensian greed. Because good guests leave good tips.

Which brings me to a significant source of tension; tips. Either between chalets or within them, tips are a big deal because the wages are small. And, while I have covered tips already, in life we are always learning and travelling and this week my journey continued.


And finally we come to What Grandma Did.

Before I lay all the blame at Grandma’s moon-booted feet, I must confess to not doing my job properly. As Chalet Host I am responsible for cleaning the guest’s rooms everyday. On the last day I am instructed to place a tip envelope – this asks the guest to consider whether they have received a service which has exceeded their expectations – in each room. Despite having entered and read the reminder in my phone, I forgot to do this (not an exceptional part of the service, I grant you). However, given that our guests, including Grandma, seemed to have had a lovely holiday, this did not concern me.

So, come bleary-eyed o’clock on the Sunday morning, as guests milled and we watched these movement more closely than usual, Grandma sidled up to the chef and placed notes, wrapped in a 50 euro note, into his hand. She moved on quickly to me, passing me notes wrapped in a 20 euro note.

Now, here is not the place to get into what each of us did or did not do for Grandma. What is important is that it is company policy to split tips evenly between those members of staff who work in the chalet irrespective of a particular guest’s point of view.

So we lugged and hoofed the luggage to the bus stop and waved and hugged the guests and the men helped the Gallic driver, who still managed to smile despite the Marlborough clamped between his teeth, as he loaded the bus.

Back at the chalet there was a distinct lack of communication from the chef on some subject matters. At once, he was quite happy to discuss the quantity of kilos he considered he had lost since beginning the season (only to be challenged by our manager, in mock apology, with an equivalent sum, that bring the quantity he estimated to lose each morning!) he was silent on the quantity of euros with which Grandma had greased his palm. While the chalet is typically tropical inside, the temperature dropped below zero.

Most of the time we communicate in words and phrases that are pre-programmed; we think little about them and they come from somewhere other than our true nature. It is widely suggested that words account for no more than 7% of communication. And then occasionally we do something which offers a window onto who we are and what we truly value.

It turns out that my colleague, the chef, quite simply values the sum total of 15 euros ahead of his word, established company policy and his working relationship. Convinced (correctly) he had more money in his hand than I, he did not want to risk it bring reduced.