Sunday, May 26, 2024

The Duty of Hospitality (is not just expected of the Host)

From the archives: Seeing as summertime is approaching and holiday visits to Italy will increase, along with requests to visit wineries, just a little revisit to this subject during our Memorial Day holiday

My dad, Lou, in the 1950's - the consummate salesman

I received an email from Italy, via a concerned and upset supplier, whom I regard as a friend.

“The person you arranged to visit our property in Tuscany never showed up. They never even called! Do you know what happened? We were waiting. We are still waiting. This happens too many times! Please make sure the people you set up visits for really want to come to visit us!”

I cannot tell you how many times this has happened. And with the tourist season ramping up, I fear more incidents like this. In this case I made three calls, filled out visit forms, three properties I made arrangements for and the client was a no-show at all three. To quote my dad above,
The client, whom forever going forward will be persona non grata in my books, emailed me a month ago. “I am going to Italy, to Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Please set up some appointments for me and my colleague. We are planning a fall trip to take our customers on a tour and we’d like to find some nice spots to visit.”

So I drop everything, make some calls, fill out some forms, stop what I am doing. Because that is what we do. We are in the service business. I can go straight to the vineyard, these people are my friends. But even friends have limits.

I don’t know how to say this but in the most direct of ways. Italians value hospitality above almost anything else. So when someone, a client or a friend, is presented to them by someone with credibility, such as myself, they treat a visit as if it were a family visit. Ospitalit√†. Often cranking up the oven, cooking lunch. Bringing out the linen table cloths. Friends of my friends are my friends. That kind of thing.

When one crams appointments, trying to make two or three stops in Tuscany in a day, and the inevitable happens, and one doesn’t call, it makes it an embarrassing situation; the impression is that ugly self-centered Americans are at it again. And of course I get the inevitable call asking me why I didn’t know better than to set up an appointment for these deadbeats. The Italians don’t say it that way but that’s what they mean, when they ask me simply, “Why?” And I cannot provide them with a suitable answer.

So, going forward, to anyone reading this, if you ask someone to set you up in Italy (or France or California), for God’s sake have the courtesy to show up and if for some reason you cannot make it, at the very least, call and express your regrets at not being able to make the appointment.

You are being welcomed into someone’s home. It is simple civility to act with a modicum of respect for everyone else’s time.

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