Friday, April 29, 2011

Wedding Vendor Customer Service

Customer service is so uneven as to be annoying, often because you're never quite sure of the level of service you're likely to get. However, usually the more you pay for something, the better the customer service. To wit: Our wedding vendors have been friendly, helpful, and available, getting back to us by phone or e-mail within a day or two of contact, answering our ridiculous wedding n00b questions without making us feel ridiculous, etc. After all, neither Ed nor I have been married before, and we're not really wedding-obsessed people, so we had no clue what we were doing in terms of planning our wedding.

However, we've run into some problems with our reception site, the costliest part of the wedding. We're paying just over $11,000 for our reception site, the Hotel Bethlehem. (That includes the $9,000 base figure for the small ballroom, but not the 6% Pennsylvania sales tax, which isn't too surprising, or the 20% service charge that gets added to everything. And by "everything" I mean things like every single thing that you would think would just be part of the base amount for the event.)

It's a beautiful building, in a beautiful, historic part of Bethlehem. We chose that particular venue because it's close and easy to get to from the church. And for the price, we were expecting a certain level of customer service, which in part we've gotten. Our coordinator is our point person who will be available the day of the wedding, coordinating arrival times with our vendors (the florist, bakery, and DJ), setting up the room the way we want, distributing the wedding favors, etc. As part of our package, we also have access to a hospitality suite where Ed and I, and the Bridal Party, can rest our weary wheels before the grand entrance. The staff will bring us food, and Ed and I get a "complimentary" room for the night. 

However, getting anyone to actually talk to us about what we want during the reception is turing out to be difficult. We started out with Cathy-with-a-C, then were handed off to a second person, then back to Cathy-with-a-C, who then went to work for someone else, so we were handed off to Kathy-with-a-K. We've tried calling her with questions; she wouldn't return our call. We tried e-mailing, and more time would lapse. Finally, we made contact and made an appointment to talk to her - in person - a few weeks ago when we were in Pennsylvania. We got a slew of questions answered, and were told that e-mail is a better way to reach her because she'll often go days without getting to her desk (and by extension, to her telephone to check her messages).

Ed and I finally made up our minds in terms of what food we wanted, so I e-mailed Kathy a detailed list with all the ins-and-outs. Finally, today, ten days after I e-mailed her, she finally responded, apologizing because of new pricing codes and an inability to review the banquet check with a director who is out of the office.

The best part? The banquet check she had attached did not include the correct number of guests; it did not take into account the three vendor meals we'd requested; and we were charged for five children's meals we did not want (the kids get the same meals as the adults at our reception; we're not serving them chicken fingers simply because they're kids). And would we check to see if her numbers matched ours?

It would take so little effort to compose and send a short e-mail telling us how busy she is, that we haven't been forgotten about, that she's working on our bill.

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