Many Chinese companies that I meet make good products or deliver good services. But a lot of these companies don’t understand the concept of marketing them, or dealing professionally with potential customers. This sadly not only applies to small start-ups, but sometimes even to 5-star resorts. A typical example is the upscale Fuchun Resort in Hangzhou.
On Sunday I was in Hangzhou and decided to make a detour to Fuyang to take a look at the Fuchun Resort there. I had seen the resort in several glossy magazines, and also received a brochure the last time I was having dinner at T8 in Xintiandi. The pictures looked fantastic, and it seemed like a great place to spend a weekend. Prices were on the high side, with the cheapest rooms on weekends coming in at over RMB 2200 per night (with a minimum 2 night stay), but if the quality is right I am willing to pay that – even in rural China where people live a whole year on that amount.
We drove over in our car, and asked for directions from the phone directory service 114. That went fine until we were in Fuyang, where the directions they had given us led us to a dilapidated hotel with the same name next to the Party School. Not exactly what we were looking for. So we called the resort, and the girl on the phone asked if we had made a reservation. A reservation? No, we just want to take a look to see if the location is suitable for a conference. The reply: if you don’t have reservations I won’t give you our address! I asked for the manager, and was put on hold. After waiting for over 5 minutes I realized nobody would come on the phone and hang up. We called again, and got someone else on the line. This lady claimed to be the manager. She said she did not want to tell us the address either. If we wanted to take a look we should call on Monday. We told her we are potential customers and had driven over all the way from Shanghai. She literally said: “Bad luck for you. Go back to Shanghai and call back on Monday for an appointment”. My wife asked her name and if she would be willing to take responsibility for her actions. She told us her name was Huang Juli, and she had no problem taking responsibility for this. “Just go back to Shanghai, I won’t tell you where the resort is located”.
I still thought it was just the staff that was not well-trained. So I decided to find out the address of the hotel in another way. My wife stopped a few taxis and finally found one that knew the place. It was just a five-minute drive to the entrance. But there we were stopped again of course. This time it took us about 15 minutes to convince the guard to get the (real?) manager on the phone.
Her tone was extremely bitchy, how did I dare to drive up to the gate of the hotel? I explained her my idea to organize a 40-person VC conference here in September, but she did not really care. I should call on Monday to make an appointment if I wanted to take a look. I kept calm and explained that we drove all the way over, and that we were standing at the entrance road of the hotel. She told me the hotel was fully booked and that the guests ‘were just teeing off’ so we could not enter. I repeated that I was a potential customer and would only need a few minutes to get an impression. No, this was not possible. But I don’t give up easily and kept on asking her if she really wanted to send potential customers back on the 3 hour drive to Shanghai. Finally she told me she would make a one-time exception and we would be shown around for a few minutes.
We were indeed shown around, but not by the manager of course, but by a receptionist who hardly spoke any English. On our tour of the hotel we only saw two guests on the terrace of the restaurant, the rest of the place was deserted. Even the pool and hot whirlpools had no guests. I seriously doubt that the 70-room hotel was indeed full. I asked the receptionist how many members the club had, and she told me about 100. Not an awful lot of people for such a golf club resort. The place looks nice, but the location (very close to Fuyang city, and not directly on the river as they imply in their advertising) could be better.
Note: generally I tend to write quite positive about places that I visit or restaurants where I eat. If the experience is not good, I often just don’t write about it. I know the impact that a negative blog post potentially can have, especially when it’s indexed in Google and could end up high in the search results. But what happened here is something that I do not want to keep silent about. I am still flabbergasted about the way this resort is sending away potential big customers. The Fuchun resort is not a private club that does not allow any outsiders in, but a hotel with a golf course that can even be booked through discount websites such as Ctrip.
They have of course lost me as a potential client because of how they treated us. And I advise all my readers to think twice before going there – and if you go, don’t forget to make a reservation first 🙂 If you want a nice weekend with good service there are a lot of better options around Shanghai.