Stop judging books by the cover

Brenda Cannon HenleyBy Brenda Cannon Henley
We make terrible mistakes about people, places, and things when we judge them by the cover or by what we see first. And, I would add a third category — going by what someone else has said. I know the quote well, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression,” and I have used it in teaching for years. My boss for many years always insisted that our brightest, most efficient, public oriented young lady act as receptionist and telephone person. He said that in many cases, if the first phone call or contact does not go well, there is never a second opportunity. He knew what he was talking about and I understand his thinking better than ever now. By the way, the church he pastored in Georgia grew to be the largest in the state and we won countless awards and were pointed to as an example ministry for years all over the nation and around the world. I thank God for my years at Forrest Hills Baptist Church where I learned the basics of dealing with people.

Two things led me to this point of thinking today as I write this article. One was so terrible I cannot write about it yet, but I will, I promise, in future days. The second is something we can learn lessons from and help us to be better travelers.

For the past three months, I have had occasion to travel to a small town in Texas. Nothing new for me to make reservations, travel, arrive, stay, pay, and leave. I have traveled much of my adult life and spent 17 years crisscrossing this country and going to several foreign countries in my job. I know hotels, motels, planes, and rental car companies.

For these three short trips, I chose a hotel property where I have a membership in their points plan and it is new, so I have enjoyed my time there. I like clean, good beds, nice bathroom, and quiet. Location helps, too, and in this case, this property put me very near where I needed to go each day. I have never had a problem with this property nor have I seen anyone else having issues. The manager is a sharp tack, kind, helpful, and has always honored my requests. In fact, she is a joy to do business with and sees that we are comfortable. Several food choices are nearby and we enjoy our time there.

I completed the two-day assignment for which I was there, and determined I needed to stay one more night and speak to one more person. I simply picked up the phone and called down to the desk and asked that they extend my room for one more night. Did not think a thing about it and was all set. Got that last interview, packed my things, and went by the desk to turn in the key. A young lady was on duty I had never met and she quickly rang me up and handed me the receipt. Since they already had my American Express Platinum card on file, I did not have to give them anything. As I was riding down the road with someone else driving, I glanced at my receipt. I was surprised to find that the three nights cost me well over $100 more than I had thought or ever paid. I read the info again, picked up the phone, and called the desk. The young lady stammered a bit, and said, “Yes, Ma’am (heavy emphasis here), that is correct. We charge more for a second and third night during the week.” I knew that wasn’t right and ask for the manager. She was not in, but I remembered and called her again two days later. I explained that I was not angry, but that I wondered when their policy had changed, why there were no signs, note, or other means of telling the customer. She said, “Miss Brenda, what are you talking about?” I repeated my same story and she said, “Give me a minute and let me check your portfolio. There should have been no additional charges.” After a very few minutes, she came back to the phone and said, “I see where you were charged more. I have taken care of it. Do not worry. Your card will not be billed for the additional money.”

The only thing that I can think of is that the second employee I dealt with saw an older guest (I am 75 now, but still in good health and have a decent mind), perhaps tired, and certainly ready to head home, and decided she would tack on a little extra money. I have no idea if she could somehow get that difference or if it simply made more profit for the property. Maybe it is a rule in some properties, but if so, I have never heard of it in all the years of travel. I have heard of weekends costing more and holidays causing an increase, but a Monday – Wednesday night, never. And, there were no notices alerting guests of the difference. At any rate, I got my problem corrected, but I stopped to wonder, “How many more unsuspecting guests are sized up and charged simply by their ‘cover’ look?”

Be alert. Watch out for your own interests. Check statements and accounts. And, do not pay more for anything just because of your age or location.

Brenda Cannon Henley can be reached at (409) 781-8788, or

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