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  • Writer's pictureL. Darryl Armstrong

Joe Elgar, Bellman – Receives “Golden Eagle” recognition – Marriott Renaissance LAX

From the back of the bay on Eddy Creek, Ky – Many of you know that a part of our portfolio at L. Darryl ARMSTRONG and Associates Behavioral Public Relations LLC is customer service training.

As part of that portfolio, we give two awards: “The Stinking Fish” for abysmal service and “The Golden Eagle” for exceptional service.

We don’t often give out and certainly not lightly “Golden Eagle” customer service recognition awards.

Sadly, we just don’t see that many examples of exceptional customer service anymore in many industries. However, when we do see it we believe in commending those responsible.

Exceptional customer service is a combination, we believe, of learned and taught behaviors and are used by those folks that have a true sense of serving.

This article is about the exceptional service of a bellman named Joe Elgar.

I would suspect that if Marriott General Manager of the Year Scott McCoy could clone Joe he would do so.

A year or so ago, after a long and very difficult week of work in California, my wife and crew stopped at the Marriott Renaissance-LAX to spend the night. My wife and the crew were headed to the East coast to work and I was headed to the Midwest. All of us were exhausted yet very happy that our work was appreciated by our client and the schools we had been working with.

I came down with something pretty nasty, although I am not sure what it was but by 10 p.m. I was in severe distress.

We had already turned in our car because we were leaving at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m.

As the evening wore on I became more ill with severe stomach issues, a fever and a headache. Finally, I relented and about 1 a.m. in the morning my wife called down to the front desk to see if someone could secure some over the counter  medicine for me to at least give me enough relieve to get through the night and crawl on the plane.

In steps Joe Elgar, the bellman on duty.

My wife is always pleasant and very nice in any request she makes unless pushed otherwise and she knew I was not in any condition to even talk on the phone. Her pleasant demeanor and the customer focus of Joe led to Joe taking his break time and go to the nearest all night pharmacy to get me some medicine.

Although this sounds like a minor request think about it for a moment – an employee, who doesn’t know anything about us and who has a limited break goes out of his way to assist a couple whom he doesn’t know from miles away. A couple that he probably never expected to even see again.

I was so grateful that I generously tipped and thanked him the next morning for his service although I confess I was still in such distress I could barely hold my head up and be polite.

Bellman Joe stepped to the plate and I was able to get to my next client – fortunately a day ahead of the need – sleep 21-hours and be on my feet to do my gig.

When Kay and I stepped into the Marriott LAX a few weeks ago, we turned our bags over to the folks out front and who showed up at our door to deliver them, who remembered us and we became reacquainted – none other than Bellman Joe!

Same great personality, same wonderful smile but now off of the late shift finally 😉

We had a delightful reunion; he certainly remembered all the details of the event and was even kind enough to give us a free breakfast the next day before we flew out again at the ungodly hour of 06:30.

Joe Elgar went above and beyond anything that he had to do for us and I would suspect for anyone who is in need — assuming, of course, they are polite and civil in their discourse.

Service personnel are often overlooked in our society– yet I recall a lesson my Grandfather taught me when I was but 6-years old.

He took me to a barbershop to get my haircut. The janitor of the shop was there and he was whistling and sweeping and joking with the locals.

My Grandfather joked back, asked about his family, called him and his wife by name, talked about his garden and his old war injury. Not one other person in the shop paid this gentleman any attention.

Every time I went back to that shop with my Grandfather I observed he did the exact same thing.

Then one day several years later my Grandfather died.

At his funeral was a large display of the most beautiful roses any of us had ever seen – a display that if bought would have cost well over a hundred dollars in 1960 money. There was no name on them.

All the family was perplexed yet they all also loved the arrangement because roses were my Grandfather’s most favorite flower.

I went back to that barber shop shortly after my Grandfather passed away.

The old gentleman janitor was sitting there smoking his pipe. I called him by name and asked about his old war injury and reminded him who I was.

His face lit up and he smiled and joked with me. He started telling me stories about my Grandfather and his generosity and how at times my Grandfather inspired him to stay focused on his work instead of becoming depressed — depression was a serious issue for the old gentleman.

He told me how my Grandfather had inspired and helped him build his own greenhouse where he grew roses – roses that kept his and his wife’s spirits high even when times were bad.

And he told me something else I have always remembered, “Son, your Grand Dad was the only person whoever spent any time with me when he came in here. Everyone else seemed to not even notice me. He was a genuine man that understood each of us have our jobs in life – none no better than anyone else – just different. “

Before I left I asked him why he didn’t come to my Grandfather’s funeral. He smiled and said that he couldn’t because his wife was sick the day of the funeral but that he hoped we enjoyed that lovely arrangement of roses – which he had grown in his own greenhouse, picked and arranged and had delivered to the service.

We should remember as the old janitor said, we each have our own jobs in life – some are just different than others.

Joe Elgar will go far in life – make no mistake about that. His focus on the customer, his winning smile and demeanor, his desire to fulfill his role is a rare thing these days – we wish you well Joe and award you our “Golden Eagle” for exceptional customer service  — we do hope to see you again on our next trip.

At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.  — Albert Schweitzer

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