Wakulla Springs Lodge: Attitude Matters
I think we mentioned we lived in Florida before, a while back, at which time we came to dislike the commercial Florida intensely – think DisneyWorld and Orlando and schlock-filled shops with T-shirts “3 for $10!” It’s not that I dislike Disney, I grew up with Disney, and Bambi and Peter Pan and Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella. They’re a lot of fun.
But have you been to DisneyWorld recently? Have you paid those prices? And if you want to park there, or stay there, or eat there – it is horrendous! Advertised as family friendly, but a death-knell on a family budget.
There is so much MORE to Florida, some wonderful places. Wakulla Springs is one of our favorites, and not far from another favorite, Appalachicola, home of world famous oysters, fresh out of the Gulf (Gulf of Mexico, :-), for my other Gulf friends) We used to stay at Wakulla Springs while we were living in Kuwait and Qatar, and traveling to the USA to catch some time with our son, at FSU in Tallahassee.
After our drive down, we show up at the counter . . . and the receptionist barely looks at us. She doesn’t get up. She doesn’t have a name tag on; she is wearing a FAMU sweatsuit. We give our names, and she doesn’t say anything to us, just dials a number and talks to someone and then, finally, looks at us and says “we don’t have anything ready. Check-in isn’t until 3:00 o’clock.”
Welcome to Wakulla Springs Lodge. I was speechless. I couldn’t imagine how someone could be so rude! So unwelcoming! We are guests, here to spend our money, and this is how our time in Wakulla begins?
It’s all about attitude. I could feel my temper rising. On the other hand, what good would it do to get angry? Am I going to make a difference in how this young woman welcomes her customer, or am I going to make her day worse than it already is? Sometimes it’s just poor training. Sometimes someone is just having a bad day. Sometimes it’s disgust with corporate management, and this may have been a little of all of the above.
We decided to go to lunch, and the doors closed just as we got there. Wakulla Springs is on a different time zone, and the restaurant is closed!
We were so happy to be going, and now we are having second thoughts. We decide we had better go find something to eat – have you noticed it is easier to be down or angry when you are hungry? Really, really hungry? We drove to the crossroads that had a few eating places, about half of them closed. There was one I thought “oh please, please, don’t let that be the only one open” and encouraged AdventureMan to drive on, just a little further.
What we discovered will be the next entry
This is the Wakulla Lodge fireplace:
Later, I sat in the lobby with a cup of coffee, waiting for my boat trip, and a wedding party came in to rehearse for the big day. The mother of the groom had to walk away, trying to staunch the tears, as the pianist practiced “Here Comes the Bride.” I had to cry a little along with her; I LOVE weddings
These boat trips last about an hour and tell you a lot about the history and wildlife of Wakulla Springs. They are a lot of fun:
The first night, we had a truly indifferent meal in the Wakulla Lodge Restaurant, made bearable by the cheerful and professional waitress, Brittany, who had to tell us that they were totally out of their famous navy bean soup, and also out of the salad we wanted to order.
“We’ve been inundated!” she cried. “The lunch crowd wiped us out!” She was so cheerfully honest we couldn’t help but be cheerful right back. That’s the magic in good customer service.
While the meal was mediocre, Brittany sparkled as she served, and turned what might have been a real downer into just a less-than-memorable meal, we’ve had a few of those now and then, no big deal. With a lesser waitress, it might have been horrible.
All in all, customer service was notable in its imbalance at Wakulla Springs Lodge. Brittany, in the Dining Room, was a star. JJ, a part-timer at the desk, was another star. Our bathroom floor in our room was not clean, but the staff was gracious and eager to please. The ice-cream bar attendant was overworked and grouchy. (Honestly! How can you serve ice cream and be a grouch???)
There is so much potential at Wakulla Springs Lodge. They have this fabulous location, a huge spring where water pumps out thousands of gallons per day, where manatees and wildlife congregate, where movies have been filmed, where serious birders come to “twitch” (check off birds seen), with these fun boat trips, natural attractions, lovely sized rooms, and it just needs some polish to be a seriously first-class destination.