By Michael Matthews
May 15, 2008 -- In the United Kingdom and some other parts of the world, the day after Christmas is known as Boxing Day. It was the day when the master of the house, accompanied by his wife and entourage, delivered the remains of their Christmas dinner, in boxes, to their farm laborers. Hence the name Boxing Day.

Boxing Day was also the day where yours truly, as a small boy, was made to sit and write "thank you" letters to assorted aunts, uncles and godparents to thank them for the gifts they had given me. Of course, I always wished that it had been money instead of a useless toy. I was, I admit in hindsight, an ungrateful brat.

Now the burden of thank-you notes has shifted. I'm more likely a recipient and I eagerly await them. Heaven forfend an errant godchild forgets to thank me! (No money for you next year, I think.) I love getting letters from them and watching them develop through their writing. The fact is, the more I think about it, the more I realize that a simple "thank you" can mean so much.

Why discuss Boxing Day and thank-you notes on the ides of May? Well, as a hotel general manager, I did, from time to time, receive a thank-you note from a happy guest. (Sometimes I even received an Hermes tie; see previous columns!)

I can assure you that the simple "thank you" from a guest meant a tremendous amount to my staff and to me. It was always recorded in the guest history, virtually assuring that an upgrade was forthcoming when the grateful guest returned for another visit.

The next time your hotel visit was pleasantly pleasing, may I suggest you take a couple of moments to write a note to the general manager. Say "thank you" and, of course, feel free to name any of the staff that went out their way to make your stay particularly pleasant. I assure you it will work wonders on your next visit. And even if you don't return, you will have made someone very happy.

Speaking of which, my wife and I are off on a jaunt around Asia, mostly visiting countries whose currency is pegged to the U.S. dollar. That will make the trip remarkably cheap when compared, say, to a grand tour of Europe, where the euro continues to crush the dollar. We will be writing notes to the hoteliers who deserve them and I know they will bring great satisfaction.

Along the way, we will be visiting Hong Kong, my home for nearly 20 years, where I had notable stints at both the Regent Hong Kong (now an InterContinental hotel) and the Ritz-Carlton Hong Kong. Which reminds of a story of a particular hotelier who celebrated his wedding at the most famous and luxurious of the hotels in what was then the Crown Colony of Hong Kong. It was considered a major occasion on the social calendar of 1984.

About 300 guests and 150 or so presents were piled high. On their return from their honeymoon, the newlyweds sat down and dutifully wrote to each and every guest. They profusely thanked them for their present, naming each item, and so forth. The addressed envelopes were then taken in a large box to the groom's office for posting by the mail boy.

A decade or so later, the hotelier was divorced, his company had been sold and he was moving on to another job. As he cleaned out his office, the company mail boy stopped by and asked what he should do with the box he was holding for him in the mailroom.

"What's in it?" the hotelier asked.

"Just lot of envelopes that need stamps," came the reply.

Now, of course, I wonder if I will get invited out for a drink or a meal while I'm in Hong Kong. And it might explain why my never-thanked friends at the Mandarin Oriental hotel will be charging me such an exorbitant nightly rate!

I'll tell you all about it when I return.
ABOUT MICHAEL MATTHEWS Michael Matthews has managed and marketed fine hotels around the world for more than 45 years. He spent 14 years in Hong Kong building the legendary Regent International group. He has also worked with St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood hotels. Matthews is currently based in Arizona. He began writing Do Not Disturb in early 2004.

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