I arrived at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Concord, NC, (just north of Charlotte) last week all happy. I had my work planned out for the next day and life was good. I’m not sure I’d ever stayed at a Hampton Inn, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. Funky little artistic touches, everything was clean, the free wireless worked, the lobby was inviting. People were even hanging out there.
About half an hour later, a giant storm blew up, first thunder and lightening, then driving rain, and then hail. Being a storm lover, I had to go see it for myself. I was on the fifth floor, the top, and took the elevator down to the lobby. I was alone, save for a guy puffing away on his cigarette. Rain poured down in sheets and lightening crackled. I clung to the cement post, thinking, if this were metal, I would not be out here.
The storm waxed and waned a couple times and finally I headed back to my room, commenting to the desk clerk, “That was a great storm!” She said something like, “are you kidding me?” Then she relayed what I said to someone else behind the desk.
Soon, I understood her reaction. Further down the hall, water was pouring down a wall. Pouring. A guest in the hall said, “you should see the second floor.” I walked toward the two elevators and one had water dripping down the outside. I took the stairs. The hallway was under water. Not a lot at all, but still. Ick. Thirty minutes later the fire alarm went off and we were all evacuated for 30 minutes or so until firefighters arrived to decide whether we could stay.
One couple I talked to had taken the elevator pre-evacuation and once they reached their floor, the doors wouldn’t open. Somehow they managed to pull them open. Yikes! I used to have major elevator paranoia, so the thought of that freaks me out. Meanwhile, several of the ceiling panels buckled under the weight of the water from the second floor, which now had fully flowed to the first-floor hallway and part of the lobby.
Long story short, the firefighters gave us the OK to return to our rooms, though most people on the first two floors had to go to a different hotel, which the Hampton Inn folks arranged for them. I heard different theories as to why the leaks occurred, but never anything official. Bottom line: too much water came down in too short of a time. There were flash floods all over Concord, as well as a few other evacuations.
I was in bed by 1 a.m., thinking, no way will we be getting breakfast. Wrong. In the morning, except for damp carpet and barrels under holes in the ceiling, everything was in order, with fresh coffee brewing and food laid out. Amazing. I heard several customers checking out, with the desk clerk offering them a full credit for their stay — and several of them refusing! That is a powerful testament to the notion that if you treat customers right, they’re much less likely to be cranky. (Airlines, take note.)
By the next morning, a disaster-response company called Advance Catastrophe Technologies was there in full force, drying the hallways and rooms with giant fans and dehumidifiers. It was a class act. Because the Hampton Inn is a franchise operation under the Hilton umbrella, I can’t speak to others, but the Concord site did things right. Though no one, of course, can control what happens when Mother Nature checks in for the night.