Guest Story: The Joy of “Surprise & Delight”

The last sentence of The Ritz-Carlton credo states: “The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.” The story below is an example of recognizing and fulfilling an unexpressed wish in a unique way. It’s also an example of how using “surprise & delight” in customer service creates memorable guest experiences.


A woman came alone to the Abama Golf & Spa Resort in Tenerife, Spain, to spend a couple of days. She seemed a bit sad and lonely. However, the vacation was important as it was her escape from the cold and snow of her homeland and her chance to visit the beautiful island of eternal summer, Tenerife.

While the front office team was doing her check-in she mentioned that, unfortunately, none of her family members were able to come with her. The front desk agent noticed that the woman was having her 65th birthday during her stay and probably felt a bit sad because she would be spending her birthday alone. The front desk agent gave her warm congratulations for her day and asked her if there was anything the hotel staff could do for her. The guest shared her desire to have dinner in the great M.B. restaurant that night for her birthday.


After finishing the check-in, the front desk agent got the idea to make something special for the guest in order to make her night and her birthday special and memorable. While the guest was dining in the M.B., the front desk team worked with housekeeping to prepare a beautiful hot bath for the guest. The bath was decorated with rose petals, and there were candles everywhere. To make the experience even more special, they placed a cold bottle of Champagne and a card wishing her all the best and a “Happy Birthday!”

The guest was amazed by this thoughtful gesture, and she immediately called the front desk to thank the staff for creating such a special moment. Early in the morning, she came to reception to personally thank the staff for her birthday surprise. She got tears in her eyes while explaining that it had been a long time since anyone had made something so beautiful for her and that she would never have expected to receive this special attention while staying at a hotel. She was amazed by her birthday experience and said that she will never forget her 65th birthday. 

The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center offers advisory services, courses and presentations to organizations that wish to benchmark the award-winning business practices of The Ritz-Carlton. Your organization can learn about The Ritz-Carlton methodology for customer service, employee engagement, and leadership development. We also guide organizations through a multi-step process in order to achieve sustainable culture transformation.