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Yesterday afternoon I had a follow-up appointment with my ophthalmic consultant. I was diagnosed with glaucoma in both eyes a few months ago and I’ve recently had laser treatment to stop the progress of the disease.

There are a few places around here that still insist on the use of face masks; one is pharmacies, and the other is the surgery. So, I put on a face mask and headed to the patient waiting room. When my consultant popped his head around the door and called me into the treatment room, I noticed he wasn’t wearing his habitual mask.

“Are we losing these things now?” I asked, gratefully removing mine and sticking it in my bag.

“Yes. Two weeks ago, management decided we could stop wearing them unless a patient would prefer otherwise, in which case, I’ll put one on. Are you happy that I’m not wearing a mask?”

“Ecstatic”, I replied. “I hate the things and anyway, having just recovered from Covid, I suspect we’ll all just have to get used to it being around.”

“Ha!” He snorted. “Me too, three weeks ago.”

“Mine was three weeks ago too! I got mine in the Lake District, how about you?”

“Glasgow.”

We exchanged symptoms stories and the delay in testing positive before moving onto the frustratingly slow recovery process.

Listening to reports of how infection rates are still prevalent throughout the UK, but hospital admissions are steady, we’re being told we’ll just have to live with Covid now, it’s our new normal. At this point, Jack and I probably know fewer people who haven’t had it, than who have, and deeply unpleasant though it was, we’re pretty much over it now.

Of course, we can’t be sure exactly where or how we both picked up the virus, but my suspicions lie with the riverside hotel we stayed at in Kendal. When we booked, the only rate available was room-only. If you wanted breakfast, you had to book it separately each day. We decided to try their breakfast the first day before deciding if we would book for subsequent mornings.

Much to our dismay, the hotel was still running a buffet style service which meant sharing serving utensils with other guests, at least two of whom were coughing and nose-blowing in between helping themselves to food. The breakfast was poor anyway and we headed into town on subsequent mornings to enjoy an excellent breakfast (pic below) at The Brew Brothers for the same price.

We’ve stayed in many hotels since lockdown restrictions were lifted and almost all have abandoned self-service breakfasts in favour of table service. It’s one of the few customer service improvements to come out of the pandemic. But this hotel wasn’t supplying any kind of personalised service at all. Our room wasn’t serviced the whole time we were there. A supply of toiletries and fresh towels was left in the corridor for guests to help themselves.

This wasn’t the first hotel we’ve stayed in where our room didn’t get serviced unless requested, it was the same in our hotel in Jersey.

There hasn’t been any drop in the price of a night’s stay as a result of this reduction in service. For the same money we paid pre-pandemic, the hotel in Kendal is now operating with minimum staffing levels.

I hear a great deal about the disappearing UK workforce which is resulting in severe staff shortages in the hospitality, care and service industries but I wonder to what extent, it’s an excuse to simply deliver a poorer service for the same money?

It will be interesting to see if customer service improves as we learn to live with this new normal. My money’s on a very slow return to anything like the service levels we enjoyed pre-pandemic as establishments continue to squeeze their margins in an attempt to recover their lost income. 

Personally, I suspect this strategy will lead to fewer returning visitors and ultimately, will be self-defeating.

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