The Animal Person Minute: On Customer Service
Our photo today made me cry when I saw it on the Internet. That’s my Violet Rays in 2002, I think, during her 2 1/2 years of racing in Oregon and Florida, after being bred and trained at a greyhound farm in North Carolina. In case you’re unaware, the dogs are often transported in unventilated trucks, with several dogs to a cage, and every year dogs die in transport.
And yes, I realize the irony of #7, Michael Vick’s number. But enough of that. It’s all too depressing right now.
Today’s topic is Customer Service. I’m heading to Asheville, North Carolina and for reasons I won’t bore you with, decided to take the dogs. I found a beautiful pet-friendly place, called the 1900 Inn on Montford, which as a gorgeous cottage house with suites that have private, enclosed gardens. We were booked to stay in the Rosetti Suite, which you’ve got to see. With the exception of the colossal leather chairs in front of the fireplace, it’s spectacular. I spoke with one of the owners to do two things: find a pet sitter and make sure that our breakfast, which they are known for, was vegan. She didn’t know of any pet sitters and I got the "Oh no, you’re a vegan? You do eat dairy, right? What’s wrong with yogurt?" She was clearly unhappy about my veganism. I let the whole thing go and asked her to just stock the fridge with fresh fruit.
Over the subsequent three weeks before the cancellation deadline, I couldn’t find a pet sitter. It seems what I really needed was a babysitter–someone to sit in the suite watching the 42" plasma TV and making sure nothing happens. I’ve never left the dogs alone in a strange place and I have no idea what might occur. The day before the cancellation deadline I was still without a person until the final moment. But I didn’t feel comfortable with the person I found, as she had a weird reaction when I said Violet has diabetes. So I canceled and said I couldn’t find a pet sitter.
And the owners sent me this e-mail that said they had done some research and found a couple of people whom they would offer to their visitors. NOW THEY DO THAT? I thought? If you’re going to be pet friendly, it would behoove you to be connected with some pet sitters. Don’t you think? I was so angry about how much time I had to spend that I didn’t want to stay there, dogs or no dogs. When I regained my composure I realized they had made a mistake. They simply hadn’t thought anyone might be gone for six hours to attend a wedding and need someone to walk the dogs or otherwise care for them. And they remedied their mistake.
I figured that considering they were open to learning, I would educate them about veganism. I sent them an e-mail the included the following:
You might also look into vegan options for your guests, and find a supplier (any health food store) of vegan muffins and other breakfast stuff (soy yogurt, soy milk).
I was surprised to hear you so taken aback by the fact that we’re vegans. We heard that Asheville was vegan friendly and had lots of options for us.
Though I joked around, the fact that we find killing without necessity to be morally unjustifiable is not a joke, and some vegans would have gone to another Inn as soon as they heard, “oh no, you’re vegans?”
Also, just so you know, there’s an adage that goes: “There’s as much suffering in a glass of milk as there is in a steak.” (Gary Francione gets the credit for that one.) Milk, butter, and eggs, and even cage free eggs, which for some reason people think are humane, are no-nos for vegans. Think of it this way: if someone died for it, we don’t eat it.
I hope that helps you with future guests.
I received a reply including:
Thank you Mary. This is a helpful reminder for me to be more sensitive.
My apologies for sounding "put out" that you were vegans. That was sheer frustration on my part, as I do not do my best with the unfamiliar. You are also correct in assuming that I should be better prepared. Worse yet, I would not have responded in the same way to a traditional religious dietary restriction. I consider your choice to be a vegan both spiritual and humane.
Again, thank you, your comments were helpful and considerate.
Though I was initially annoyed, I made the choice to turn the situation around and be kind and informative. Of course, it takes two, and they too made the choice to hear me and act from a place of humility rather than get snippy. They had nothing to gain–I had already canceled. But now their future guests will be better served, as will their companion animals. Though I haven’t stayed there yet, I’m sure I will.