One stormy night many years ago, an elderly man and his wife entered the lobby of a small hotel in Philadelphia. Trying to get out of the rain, the couple approached the front desk hoping to get some shelter for the night.
“We’d like a room, please,” they husband requested. The clerk, a friendly man with a winning smile, looked at the couple and explained that there were three conventions in town. “All of our rooms are taken,” the clerk said. “But I can’t send a nice couple like you out in the rain at one o’clock in the morning. Would you perhaps be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not exactly a suite, but it will be good enough to make you folks comfortable for the night.”
When the couple declined, the clerk insisted. “Don’t worry about me; I’ll make out just fine,” he told them. So the couple agreed to spend the night in his room. As he paid his bill the next morning, the elderly man said to the clerk, “You’re an exceptional man. Finding people who are both friendly and helpful is rare these days. You are the kind of manager who should be the boss of the best hotel in the United States. Maybe someday I’ll build one for you.”
Two years passed. The clerk was still managing the hotel in Philly when he received a letter from the old man. It recalled that stormy night and enclosed was a round-trip ticket to New York, asking the young man to pay him a visit.
The old man met him in New York, and led him to the corner of Fifth Avenue and 34th Street. He then pointed to a great new building there, a palace of reddish stone, with turrets and watchtowers thrusting up to the sky. “That,” he said, “is the hotel I’d like you to manage.”
That old man’s name was William Waldorf Astor, and the magnificent structure was the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. The clerk who became the first manager was George C. Boldt. This young clerk never foresaw how his simple act of sacrificial service would lead him to become the manager of one of the world’s most glamorous hotels.
The way to the top with people is not just through service. It’s through extravagant, sacrificial service. When someone goes out of their way to help you, it makes all the difference in the world.
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