That’s My Bag

Have you ever sat in a hospital waiting room or doctors’ office when children were present?    Did you notice the “Activity Bag” that they were loaned to keep themselves busy?  Having children, I’ve spent many hours in hospitals and doctors’ offices and actually used these bags.  So then I got to thinking, why don’t businesses have these bags for adults?

When I was traveling in the hotel business I spent most of my time solo.  It doesn’t take too long to figure out in which seats you prefer to fly or what restaurants are most suited to single diners.  But day after day, it was mostly up to me to find things to keep myself occupied.  The last thing I wanted to do was sit in my room watching the idiot box for hours.  Enter the Activity Bag.

Now, I know many hotels and businesses may have binders filled with brochures they received from other local businesses.  And I’m not saying those are not good.  What I am saying is, maybe take it a step further.  As a runner, I appreciate your hotel’s fitness center.  But can you show me an outdoor running path that is safe for a single woman?  And please don’t tell me that you are located in a “pretty safe city”.  Be honest, all cities have problem spots.  If you are straight forward with me about neighborhoods to avoid, I will appreciate your opinion and that goes a long way.

If you have a restaurant in your facility, or maybe a stand-alone restaurant with which you are affiliated, you can recommend them.  And you should.  But please, don’t expect a guest to eat there for every meal!  Tell people where you like to go.  Perhaps you have a favorite meal there to suggest.  That means more to a traveler than what any brochure claims.  When I travel with my husband, we always make a point of talking to employees about where they like to go.  And when we go to those places, we make sure to tell them who referred us.  Hopefully in the future those people will return the favor to your establishment—win win!

In addition to eating and running, I also like to do some shopping when I travel.  I don’t want to go to a mall; we have one or two of those in Minnesota (yes, tongue-in-cheek intentional).  I look for the more obscure shops with local artisans.  People are usually willing to spend a little more for something made locally that is of good quality.  I always had to bring back trinkets for the kids.  It is helpful to have someone local that can point me in the direction of a good vendor.  In Duluth, for example, we have a very popular waterfront shopping area.  Numerous hotels and restaurants are down there, and that is where many employees would send visitors.  Again, there is nothing wrong with that.  It is a great area and the shops and galleries are terrific.  But if you traveled about a mile or two up the road, there’s a walkable community called Lakeside that boasts some fantastic shops, an old-time hardware store, bakery, and café.  When the steam train chugs through, it’s like stepping into your very own little piece of Americana!

Remember, the point of having a customer is to keep a customer.  And positive word of mouth is the best advertising you’ll ever get.  Assembling your business’ own Activity Bag or binder doesn’t have to be difficult.  Get your staff involved.  Ask some questions.  Explore your city and get to know the neighborhoods and what they have to offer.  Visit local shops and independent restaurants.  Talk to people and put font to paper.  And hopefully you can avoid the children’s activity bag, at least the medical ones.


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