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It’s no surprise when hotel staff greet you with a smile as they attend to you, but there are some who take it to the next level.
Yesterday (Nov 23), 99 outstanding staff members from the hotel industry who went above and beyond the call of duty were commended with the National Kindness Service Gold Award. It wasn’t one-way either, with five guests receiving the Gracious Guests Award for showing exemplary graciousness to the service staff.
The annual ceremony, organised by the Singapore Kindness Movement (SKM), shows appreciation to those in the hospitality industry for going the extra mile to ensure their guests are satisfied.
This year’s event was attended by guest of honour, Minister of State for Trade and Industry, Ms Low Yen Ling. Ms Low, who is also Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, presented all the Service Gold and Gracious Guests awards.
“Kindness is a simple but powerful virtue that can shape the world into a better place for everyone. Regardless of who we are and where we come from, it is within us to be considerate and think of others to make their day,” said Mr Arthur Kiong, 1st Vice-President of Singapore Hotel Association, at the event.
The Pride speaks to three of this year’s winners:
Taking the initiative in kindness
In her 10 years as a room attendant at Orchard Rendezvous Hotel Singapore, Puspah Karuppiah has met all sorts of hotel visitors.
But a couple she met last year was one of the most memorable.
She was assigned to clean their room as they were long-staying guests.
Knowing this, Puspah made a standing arrangement with them to clean their room at their preferred time.
A few days into their stay, Puspah noticed something.
She realised that there was always a pile of dirty clothes on the bathroom vanity during the day. But they were not sent for washing even though there was a laundry list on it.
Talking to the woman, who is hard of hearing and has weak eyesight, Puspah realised that she couldn’t fill in the forms because she needed her husband to do it. However, as he had to work, she often had to wait for him to come back before they could send their clothes for cleaning.
“So, I decided to help them instead,” Puspah told The Pride.
Puspah developed a closer relationship with them and had even bought them murukku – a fried savoury South Indian snack – when the couple told her how they loved Indian food.
Another instance of Puspah demonstrating kindness was during the circuit breaker in April 2020. Puspah learned that one of her Malaysian colleagues, who was a vegetarian, had trouble looking for food as many shops were closed.
She offered to cook and bring the food to the workplace for her colleague for free.
“I enjoy helping people around me because when I see them smile, it also makes me smile,” Puspah told The Pride.
Kindness does not stop after working hours
Most of us go into “zombie” mode after a long day at work, but not 25-year-old Lim Chao Xian.
The banquet assistant manager at Sheraton Towers Singapore Hotel was on his way home after a 10-hour shift when he heard loud continuous honking. Turning around, he saw a woman outside her broken-down car, in a near-state of panic as several drivers behind her were blasting their horns.
“I saw the lady looking so lost and confused so I decided to go over and check if she was okay,” Chao Xian told The Pride.
He was on Scotts Road, walking towards Newton MRT station when he noticed the commotion.
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Walking closer, he realised that she was trying to direct the rush-hour traffic around her car, but the drivers were taking out their frustrations on her.
Seeing that she was torn between diverting the traffic and trying to start her car, Chao Xian offered to help without a second thought.
The Malaysian, who has been working at the hotel for the past four years, took over directing traffic as she got back in to try to start her vehicle.
However, after a few couple more failed attempts, she gave up and the pair decided to call for a tow truck.
But her car was still blocking one of the two lanes on Scotts Road. Thankfully, Chao Xian spotted a colleague, banquet manager Tommy Sze, and got him to help push the stalled vehicle to a nearby taxi stand to avoid blocking traffic.
When everyone else was only thinking about themselves and how they were being inconvenienced by the situation, Chao Xian did the opposite and went out of his way to help someone in distress.
“I treat people like how I want to be treated, because when I am feeling lost, I would also be happy to receive help from those around me,” Chao Xian explained.
Going an extra mile for non-hotel guest
Ever since travel restrictions were lifted, Changi Airport has been buzzing with tourists again.
So it already was a busy weekend when 38-year-old Mustafa Syed Ahmad spotted a lone traveller looking lost in his hotel lobby.
What made it an unusual sight was that the woman was in a motorised wheelchair.
The guest relations officer at Crowne Plaza Changi Airport went over to talk to her as she was looking flustered. It turned out that she wanted to book a room but could not get a reservation as the hotel was fully occupied.
As she turned to leave, she realised that her wheelchair battery was running low and asked if she could have it charged at the hotel.
In the middle of the bustling lobby, during the hotel’s busy period, Mustafa went to look for a quiet area for her to rest and charge her wheelchair battery.
She felt bad that she was troubling him even though she wasn’t a guest at the hotel, explained Mustafa with a laugh.
“I thought about how the wheelchair was her way of transportation, if I were in her situation, I would hope people would help me too,” he added.
Mustafa reassured her that it wasn’t any trouble and made sure her wheelchair was sufficiently charged before he let her go.
“When someone, regardless of if they are a paying guest or not, enters my hotel, I want to make sure that they leave the hotel happy,” said Mustafa.
The woman was so touched by his attentiveness that she later wrote a letter to the hotel to commend him.
“When you do an act of kindness, I believe it will come back to you one day. Even if it doesn’t, I think it is good enough if I am able to make someone’s day a better one,” says Mustafa.
At the event, General Secretary of SKM, Dr William Wan, explained how much of an impact hotel service staff can make because it forms a part of a tourist’s experience.
Dr Wan said: “Often, we capture the sights of the countries that we travel to on our phones, but the human connections made are captured in our hearts. By being champions of kindness, our winners definitely made an impression with their service excellence. The kinder you are, the stronger our hospitality industry will become.”