Navy Military Spouse of the Year Gives La Quinta ‘A Try’
By Alisha Youch
Proud Navy Spouse since 1995
Navy Spouse of the Year, Alisha Youch (center), Commander Daniel Youch, USN (left), General Garry Parks, USMC (Retired), Chairman of Armed Forces Insurance (Right).
One of the unexpected pleasures of being named 2013 Armed Forces Insurance Navy Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse Magazine was receiving a lovely gift basket. The gifts were thoughtful, but more importantly they would also help me in the coming year in my Navy Spouse of the Year efforts. I am a psychiatric social worker, and I have recently founded an advocacy organization called Military Families Count, which seeks to improve mental healthcare and support services for military spouses and children. My advocacy efforts will involve a good amount of travel in the coming year to meet with legislators and government officials. One of the first gifts I put to use was a pair of gift certificates from the great folks from the Military Marketing Team at La Quinta Inns & Suites.
A recent trip to Washington, DC left me in need of a hotel room for two nights, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give La Quinta a try. Making my reservation was a breeze! Once I selected the La Quinta location at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I called the 800-number to make my reservation (just to make sure I would be able to use my gift certificates. Otherwise, the online reservation system would have done the trick.) All the reservation specialist needed was the serial numbers on the certificates, and I was all set. The process could not have gone more smoothly. That is, until the day of my trip . . .
As I was running out the door to head to the airport, I realized I did not have my La Quinta gift certificates with me. My husband helped me search for them, a scene which ended in our tearing apart the garbage cans both inside and outside our house on a hot, humid Georgia day – not a pretty scene! We never found the gift certificates, but I did find the business card that had accompanied them. I cleaned it off and stuck it in my pocket.
As my husband drove me, now late, to the airport, I called the BWI La Quinta, panicked, and told the manager my story, asking whether she could honor the gift certificates since I had previously given them the serial numbers. The manager kindly told me that she was not able to authorize such a deviation from policy. I knew it had been a long shot, but it had been worth a try. My husband reassured me that we would manage to cover the cost of the hotel room.
The security line was unusually long for an early Saturday afternoon flight. “Perfect,” I thought. I was already running late, and now this. I reached into my pocket and pulled out the business card I’d retrieved from the garbage can. It belonged to Derek Blake, the Vice President of Marketing for La Quinta Inns & Suites. The card included his cell phone number – but it was Saturday afternoon! My discomfort was quickly overtaken by my desperation, and I dialed. My call went to Derek’s voicemail, and I tried to explain my situation without rambling, asking Derek if there was any way he could help. As I tucked my phone back in my bag, and a few minutes later, as I laid my bag on the scanner belt, I heard it begin to buzz.
Once through the security checkpoint, I found Derek had returned my call and left me a voicemail, and we engaged in several rounds of phone tag. In his third voicemail to me, Derek stated that he’d taken care of everything! He said he’d spoken with the manager at the BWI La Quinta, and they would be able to honor my gift certificates. He also told me to call him back if I had any trouble checking in. I never actually spoke with Derek that day, but I did text him back to thank him for his kindness and help.
Arriving at the BWI La Quinta late that evening, I was prepared to have to explain my story, pull out Derek’s business card, perhaps even call him in order to get past the front desk. I wheeled my bag up to the desk, and was welcomed politely by the clerk. I gave her my name, ready to explain . . . and she immediately pulled out a small folio bearing my keys and handed it to me, saying, “thank you for your service.” I was so eager to get to my room that I didn’t question her statement, but in the elevator, I wondered to myself how she knew I had a military affiliation. I looked at the folio in my hand and saw that it indicated I was a member of the La Quinta Military Rewards Program. I didn’t recall signing up or telling anyone I was military . . . then I realized that when Derek called the manager earlier that day, he must have shared that part of my story.
My room at the BWI La Quinta was comfortable, clean and nicely appointed. (I particularly appreciated the built-in nightlight on the hairdryer on the wall, which provided just the right amount of light to help me find my way around at night without needing to turn on the light.) I was really pleased to discover that La Quinta Inns & Suites provides free Wi-Fi in guest rooms – an amenity not provided at several of the “upscale” hotels I’d stayed at recently. Breakfast the next morning was more than satisfactory, and they started serving at 4:30 a.m. to accommodate business travelers – a very nice touch! My two-day trip took me from DC to Baltimore, to DC, to Baltimore and finally back to DC. Knowing my comfortable, clean La Quinta room was waiting for me each night made the demanding schedule manageable. I texted my husband from my room the first night and said simply, “Figure out which La Quinta locations we can stop at when we PCS in August!”
The staff at La Quinta went above and beyond to make my trip successful – from the clerk who checked me in smoothly and politely, to the housekeeping staff who brought me extra towels (which were very new, very white and very fluffy), all the way up to the Marketing VP, who took time out of his Saturday to help me. I’d been able to accomplish my goal that weekend – a quick, busy two-day business trip with a minimum of hassle and a maximum of comfort. At the same time, La Quinta had been able to accomplish theirs – making loyal customers out of my family and me!