Dear reader, I am embarrassed to tell you I am that man. In 2005, my wife Anne and I stayed at one of our favorite hotels, the Inn at Spanish Bay in Pebble Beach, California.
As I often do, I got to know many of the hotel staff by name and in some cases, had the pleasure of listening to them tell me about their lives, including their families and their careers. Among the people I got to know were several of the maids for as immigrants, they had compelling stories to share.
Just as other hotels do, the Inn offers their guests the free use of bathroom soap and I particularly like the aroma and texture of this hotel’s soap. I mentioned that to a maid and requested an extra few bars and after that a few extra bars of soap were left for me each time a maid came into our room.
But rather than politely asking them to stop, to my shame I kept giving the bars to Anne to put into a bag in our suit case and encouraged the maids to keep leaving them.
When Anne and I checked out of the hotel, I informed the front desk I had “10 or 12 bars of soap” and offered to pay for them. But the good natured desk clerk smiled and told me to enjoy them at no charge.
Shortly afterward, during the long drive to Los Angeles about 300 miles away, I mentioned this to Anne and she remarked, “Oh no, you must have about 40 of them.” I should have known this was the case, but for whatever reason, I didn’t and I was stunned and embarrassed.
Looking back on it, the likely reason I didn’t know is I didn’t want to accept my dishonesty instead treating it as if it had never happened.
I remained silent on the subject but for the next two weeks my dishonesty haunted me. I knew the management would have no way to know this had happened, but the important thing was, I knew.
Finally, I called the hotel’s General Manager Rod Schinnerer and told him what happened. There was an awkward moment of silence, and then he replied in a soft voice, “You and your wife have been regular guests here for years. There will be no charge for those bars of soap. Please enjoy them with my compliments.”
“Thank you,” I said. “That is very kind of you and I appreciate it very much. But if I bought a single bar of this soap in the gift shop, how much would it cost me?”
“$3,” he answered. “I’m going to send you a check for $120,” I told him. “That’s not necessary,” he replied. And I said, “Rod, this is something I have to do. I know you understand why.”
After we hung up, I spoke with Anne, who handed me our check book and I wrote a check for the full amount and mailed it to him immediately.
Rod and I have had a fine relationship for years and it has continued since then. And we have not spoken of this incident again.
But here is the point. Integrity is the foundation for trust and without trust, there is no basis for a quality relationship. Integrity is also essential to one’s own self-esteem. Therefore, that $120 was a cheap price to pay as I sought to restore my integrity and my self-esteem.
But even now, my misdeed haunts me. And as a result, when I visit a hotel, if they have a product I like, I buy it. The thought of secretly taking it makes me cringe. But I also feel good knowing this experience at the Inn taught me a valuable lesson that will last me the rest of my life.