Bell desk is an extended arm of the front desk. There are many activities at the time of arrival, during the stay, and at the time of departure of the guest, which cannot be carried out from the front desk but are to be carried out essentially, in order to provide services to the guest. As the name suggests it is a small desk/counter in the lobby near the main entrance of the hotel. The bell desk should be situated in clear view of the front desk, cashier, and particularly the doorman standing outside the lobby, so that the doorman may signal for a bellboy at the arrival of a guest. Further, it is also important that the bell desk be situated near the luggage centre and luggage entrance.
Head Hall Porter
The in-charge of uniformed staff is the head hall porter, and he usually wears a uniform of either tails or a frock coat with brass or silver buttons and gold or silver braid or any other uniform as decided by the management. The majority .of hall porters in larger hotels are members of an international society called “Societe des clefs d’ or” and wear a badge of crossed keys on the lapel of their coat.
Functions of Bell Desk
The senior bell captain is the in-charge of the bell desk and along with his staff performs various duties from here. The various functions performed from here are as follows.
1. Luggage handling
Luggage handling of the guest is done on various occasions such as arrival, during stay (change of room), and at the time of departure. At the time of arrival when the luggage of the guest is moved from car/taxi to the lobby and further to the allotted room, the activity is called “up bell activity”. When the luggage of the guest is moved from room to lobby and further to the car/taxi at the time of departure the activity is called “down bell activity”. The baggage is collected from the room upon request.
Some guests may request to hold on to their luggage for a couple of days while they make an onward journey and return to the same hotel. A left luggage register is maintained in this case and an entry is made in this book. A baggage ticket (which has two parts) is used. One part is attached to the luggage and the counterfoil is given to the guest. This portion details the hotel’s liability exemption clause. When the guest comes to collect his luggage, he has to produce his portion of the baggage ticket. The luggage storeroom must be secure at all times.
Luggage Storage Room:
- The luggage room should be always organized and neat.
- The luggage room is divided into 3 areas, arrival, departure, long term storage.
- Each luggage has to be tagged using a luggage tag (Sl. no, Guest name, date, room no, guest’s signature, and time of collection).
- A phone number or email address must be on the long-term storage luggage form.
- The long-term luggage storage register has to be completed and signed by the guest.
Following questions need to be asked while keeping in Items for long storage:
- a) Fragile Items
- Ask the guest if there are any fragile items in their suitcase,
- If yes, mark “Fragile” on the luggage tag.
- b) Perishable
- For items that need to be kept cool (medication, food…) check with Food and beverage kitchen.
- Record where the items are stored in the luggage register.
- For long-term luggage storage, ensure with the guest that there are no perishable items inside the luggage.
Security & Safety
- Always keep the luggage room closed and dry.
- Do not leave guests alone in the luggage room.
- Remind the guest to keep their valuable item with them (Jewellery, phone, wallet, camera, I pad, etc.)
- Log down in the bell desk log book and on errand card each luggage handling done (Arrival, Departure, Stored), etc.
Apart from luggage handling, the bell desk is also responsible for paging a guest. The paging is a system of locating the guest in the hotel. Many times the in-house guest expects a phone call or a visitor but decides not to wait in the room, and might decide to go to public areas such as a bar, restaurant. Swimming pool, lobby or lounge, etc. of the hotel or may go out of the hotel. In such cases, the hotel requests the guest to tell about his whereabouts through a location form. This proforma may be kept in the stationary folds in the room as well as at the information section of the counter. Usually, the guest fills it in but many times, the hotel staff on the instructions of the guest may fill it in. The completed location form is kept in the key and mail racks. This information is sent to the telephone department also (the guest may directly inform or the front desk may do so). The purpose of the form is to earmark the area of paging and save time. In the case of a computer system, the information is recorded on the computer instead of the location forms.
3. Mail and Message Handling
The bell desk’s function is also to handle and distribute mail and message received by the front desk in the absence of the guests to their respective rooms.
4. Delivery of Newspapers
As per the hotel policy, all hotel guests receive a copy of a local newspaper each morning. The bellboys in the night shift are responsible for delivering the newspapers to all occupied rooms.
The bell captain obtains the room verification report (providing information on all rooms presently occupied). The bellboy then marks the room numbers for each newspaper. The bellboy also inserts the daily newsletters in each paper provided by the public relations office the previous evening. The bellboy then distributes the newspapers. The record of numbers of newspapers received on a daily basis is maintained by the night shift bell captain.
5. Collection of Room Keys at Departure
Another very important function of the bell desk is the collection of room keys from a checkout guest and depositing the same at the information desk.
6. Miscellaneous Jobs
Miscellaneous jobs such as postage stamps handling, taking care of outgoing mail of the guest, carrying out outside errands for the guest and hotel such as buying of cinema tickets, moving of files and documents, etc. for the guest as well as going to banks, post office and FRRO police station for delivering of ‘C forms’ etc., confirming of railways/bus reservation, etc. are done by the bell desk. Bellboy shall do the outside jobs only on the instructions of the bell captain. A service call slip will be prepared. Also, an entry in the logbook will be made and an entry in the bell captain’s control sheet, which is meant to control the movement of bellboys will be made. Finally when the bellboy will return an entry will be made in the service call slip and bell captain’s control sheet and will be signed by the bell captain. In most hotels these days the bell desk is also responsible for car parking areas and control of revenue generated from the car parking area. At times when there is a room discrepancy, the bell desk staff helps the lobby manager in checking and sorting out the status of the hotel.
7. Safe Deposit Locker- A key concern for guests is the safety of their belongings, especially cash, jewelry, gadgets, and important documents. Hotels provide safe deposit lockers for the same. At the time of check-in, guests are advised to keep their valuables in the safe deposit lockers available at the front desk. Two- Key Lockers Kept in the hotel Front Office back area, they are controlled by maintaining a user logbook. Monitoring of the Locker area is done with CCTV cameras.
Though this service is obsolete, now as each guest room is provided with an electronic safety locker.
8. Wake-Up Call
In some hotels, the wake-up call to groups and crews is coordinated by the bell desk. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the bell captain on duty in the morning shift to prepare the wake call sheets of all the groups and crews in-house.
It is generally, done in the morning but guests may require this service any time of the day.it is the duty of the telephone department to wake up the guest.
Wake-up call handling tips-
- Give full attention to writing the proper room number, name, and time to wake-up the guest to avoid any mistakes
- On making the first wake-up call always politely ask if he/she wants a second wake-up call or not.
- While call you should say-“Good morning Mr. X. this is 6 am in the morning which is your wake-up time. Have a nice day”
- After getting your call at a time guest may not understand, hence you should take few seconds and then explain why you called clearly to the guest.
If after 2nd call guest does not respond at all then send the bellboy to knock on his/her door to wake him/her up.
Records and Procedures
1.Left Luggage Procedure
At times guest finds it inconvenient and expensive to carry their luggage to a place where they are going for a few days. Guest is expected to check out by check out time (12 noon) even if their flight is in the evening and they find it too expensive to retain the room for an extra day just to keep the luggage. Most hotels offer the left luggage room facility free of cost but some hotels do charge for it.
The left luggage facility may also bring back the guest to stay in your hotel on his next visit. The procedure for receiving luggage is as such:
- Before accepting the luggage, it is checked whether the guest has settled his bill or not.
- Check the baggage of the guest if it is properly locked or not. In case the baggage is damaged then the guest must be informed and a note for the same must be made in the receipt.
- Luggage tags/ stickers should be pasted on all luggage pieces. A proper receipt must be made, signed by both guest and bell captain, and handed over to the guest.
- Enter the details in the left luggage register with the expected date the luggage will be picked up by the guest.
- Keep the luggage in the left luggage room under lock and key.
- When the guest comes to pick up his luggage pieces from the left luggage room then the following procedure is carried out. The guest is requested to give the receipt.
- In case the guest has lost the receipts then the guest is requested to sign in the left luggage register.
- Check the receipt and bring out his luggage pieces from the left luggage room.
- Make an entry in the left luggage register entering the date luggage pieces delivered.
2. Scanty Baggage Procedure
Scanty baggage means no baggage or light luggage consisting of briefcase or airbag. Guest with scanty baggage is normal skippers from the hotel. Skippers are those persons who check out of the hotel without settling their bills. The scanty baggage guests also normally go out with their light baggage and the hotel never knows that if this guest is going out with an intention to come back or not. To safeguard the hotel’s interest, normally guests with scanty baggage are requested to pay in advance. There is a set procedure adopted by hotels to keep control of guests, with scanty baggage.
- The lobby manager and the reception are notified immediately on the guest’s arrival about the scanty baggage.
- The arrival errand card is stamped with scanty baggage.
- Guest registration card’s all copies are stamped with ‘scanty baggage’.
- The scanty baggage register is filled up by the bell desk.
- Get the guest registration cards and the scanty baggage register signed by the Lobby manager.
3. Message Handling Procedure- Receiving messages for in-house guests in their absence, recording them, and communicating them to the guest as soon as possible is an important function of the front desk staff. The efficiency and professionalism of the hotel and the attitude of staff are reflected by the way this function is carried out by the staff.
The need for receiving a message for in house guests is when the guest is not in the room. Usually, when the guest goes out of his room, he would leave his room key at the counter where the information clerk would put in the appropriate room number in pigeon holes. Sometimes the guest may leave his whereabouts at the reception counter through a yellow card also called locator or location form whereabouts in the card.
- In case a phone call comes or a visitor comes to the hotel to see the guest, the receptionist will first confirm through the key and mail rack whether the guest is in the room or not. He/she will look for any location form left by the guest also.
- Suppose a visitor comes and the in-house guest has left a location form indicating that he will be in the bar, dining hall, etc., then the paging in that particular area will be done for him either by public address system or through a traditional page board system.
- In case the guest has not left any whereabouts but has left the key at the counter, the visitor will be asked to leave a message for the in- houseguest. A special Performa called the message slip is prepared and is filled in by the visitor.
- Usually, hotels prepare the slip in triplicate on behalf of the visitor. The top one or the original is kept in key and mail rack in an envelope and is delivered to the guest when he/she comes to collect the room key.
- The first copy of the message is slipped in the room and the second copy remains in the message book as a reference copy.
- In case the guest has neither left any location form nor has given the key of the room to the reception counter, the same system is followed for recording but in addition, either an “attention card “or “mail and message advise slip “ is put on the knob of the room or message light is activated in those hotels which use electronic systems. The message details may also be fed into the computer and the guest may view it on the screen of the television in his room.
- A similar system is followed in case of a telephone message. The important point to be noted here is that whenever the receptionist receives information about the guest’s whereabouts (through location form) he /she must immediately pass on the same information to the telephone department so that call may be diverted to the message center immediately.
4. Mail Handling
Mail handling is a very important activity of the front desk and the way mail is handled shows the efficiency and attitude of the hotel staff. Any delay and carelessness shown by the staff may result in great dissatisfaction. The term “mail handling” covers both incoming and outgoing mail.
As per the policy of the hotel, the incoming mail may be received at the bell desk or by the information department. The first step involved in the mail is sorted, arranged alphabetically, and put separately ie,
- Mail for the guest
- Mail for the hotel
Next, the mail is the date and time-stamped.
The incoming guest mail is sorted into three categories:
- Mail for the in-house guest
- Guest who has already checked out
- Guest who has not yet arrived.
- Mail for the in-house guest
In case the key of the room of the in-house guest is in the keys mail rack, the in-house guest mail is put in the key and mail rack and is delivered to him along with the room key when he comes to the counter. In case, the guest is in the room, he is intimidated about the mail and if he/she so desires the bellboy takes the mail to the room.
Sometimes the guest may go out of his room without leaving the key on the counter. In such cases, a Mail Advice Slip is put on the doorknob of the door so that if the guest goes to the room directly, he/she would know about the mail which the hotel has received in his / her absence.
These days hotels use message lights on the telephone or on the door and computers are used for this purpose in some hotels.
- Checked out guest
The mail of the checked-out guest is checked out with the forwarding instructions and mail is forwarded according to the instructions left out by the check-out guest and appropriate entries are made on the mail forwarding address slip.
- Awaited arrivals
Mail of such guest is marked with the date of arrival and kept in the Hold Mail Rack This information is then marked on advance reservation slip/movement list or is fed in the computer.
On the night before the arrival date, the expected arrival mail along with the reservation record is sent to the front desk. When the guest arrives, the mail is handed over to him at the time of registration. The awaited mail is retained for a period of one month only. After the expiry of the date, it is sent back to the sender.
At times the hotel may also receive registered, recorded mail such as letters, packages, parcels, etc. for the guest. Since there is a record maintained by the hotel of all such staff mails at times of receiving, it is important that they should be delivered urgently to the guest and acknowledgment taken.
Incoming guest mails may further be classified into two categories:
- a)Ordinary guest mail
- b)Registered guest mail
- a)Ordinary guest mail: The mails whose delivery record is not maintained by the delivering agency are known as ordinary mails. But, the hotel still keeps a record of all received mails at the mail receiving desk in a mail log book to avoid any kind of future discrepancy.
- b)Registered guest mail: The mails whose delivery record is maintained by the delivering agency are known as registered mails. The postman maintains the record of delivery by asking the addressee to sign the delivery report as a token of receipt of the mail. It is advisable not to accept tampered registered mails. When registered mails are received, they are recorded in the mail logbook and the guest’s signature is taken at the time of delivery.
- Hotel Mail: The incoming hotel mail is sorted into two categories i.e. mail for the hotel’s official purpose or for the employees of the hotel.
- a) Official Mails
- b) Employee Mails
- a)Official Mails: The official mails are sent to the concerned and respective departments.
- b)EmployeeMails: The Employee mails are sent to the time office to be placed on the main display board, from where the employees may collect their mails.
2) Outgoing Mail: Outgoing mail of the hotel includes mail of the hotel and guest. It is classified as:
- a) Hotel Mail
- b) Guest Mail
- a)Hotel Mail: Outgoing hotel mail is handled by the individual departments. The various departments have their own record-keeping staff who maintains a record of all outgoing mails. Large hotels use Franking Machine for postage. If the volume of mail is high the use of the Franking Machine saves a lot of time. A record needs to be kept of the quantity and costs of the mail being sent out.
Franking machine– Franking machine can stamp hundreds of envelopes quickly and efficiently by printing the correct amount of postage required and date on the envelope according to the envelope’s weight and size.
- The franking machine records the totals of all stamps issued.
- At the agreed time, the amount of postage used is paid to the supplier (Post Office) along with a lease fee for the product.
These are utilized mainly by large businesses and are rented from Post Offices. They are used to process out-going bulk mail.
- Franking machines are programmed by the supplier to have a certain amount of value placed for pre-programmed credit on a meter.
- When this value is reached the machine ceases to operate until more money is paid and the meter is reset.
A Franking Machine is a mechanical device used to create and apply physical evidence of postage (or franking) to mailed items. Postage meters are regulated by a country’s postal authority. A postage meter imprints an amount of postage, functioning as a postage stamp, a cancellation, and a dated postmark, all in one. The meter stamp serves as proof of payment and eliminates the need for adhesive stamps.
- b)Guest Mail: Besides the outgoing mail of the Hotel, the hotel also provides the facility or service to the guests staying at the hotel such as posting their letters, sending parcels, etc. to their desired destination. Generally, the bell desk keeps stamps, envelopes, letters,s and parcels scale. The stamp folder is used to prevent the stamps from getting lost. The folder contains separate divisions for various denominations. The stamp folder should be kept under lock and key. Any letter or parcels posted for guests must be weighed by using the letter and parcel scale to ensure that the correct amount of postage is affixed and a voucher of the charges is sent to the cashier’s desk. Here the hotel needs to ensure that the correct and complete address of the receiver, as well as the contact details of the sender, are mentioned clearly on the mail or parcel and the required charges be paid in advance to the hotel.
Some hotels use a book called postage book to keep the record of postage used. All mail for dispatch if franked by a franking machine or if the stamps are used should be entered into the postage book.
The procedure of sending ordinary mail to guests is simple. The guest leaves his mail (to be posted) at the Bell Desk where it is weighed and then the necessary stamps are affixed and posted. In the case of Registered mail, the mail is sent to the post office, which issues a special official receipt. These receipts are retained as they are required to be produced in case of a claim for clarification from the guest.
Formats and Records Maintained At Bell Desk
Bell Desk Log Book: A logbook has to be maintained by bell boys for all the shifts to keep a record of all activities and instructions that are performed during a particular shift and need to be shared with the next shift.
Bell Boy Errand Card:
The Bell boy Errand card is an important format maintained by the bell captain during the shift timings of individual bellboys to control the activities when they leave the desk for any purpose like luggage delivery, newspaper distribution, message delivery, etc. The bellboy errand card is printed on both sides, front side used at the time of arrival and the backside used at the time of departure.
Lobby Control Sheet:
This sheet is maintained by the bell captain during a particular shift in the hotel. The sheet is a summary of all the activities performed by bellboys/bellhops during shifts. It even helps in the preparation of individual errand cards for the bellhops. This format is further used by lobby managers to counter-check the movement of bellhops for better performance.
Guest Location Form:
This form is used to know the location of the guest when they leave the room and inform the location which is kept in the key/mail rack.
When a guest is expecting any message, he usually informs whether he will be in the hotel or outside and accordingly, gives his location in the hotel or provides a phone number in case he goes out of hotel premises, and intimates to reception once returning to the room. In the case of a visitor, only after his instructions by the guest about his whereabouts.
The inventory register keeps a record of all inventory items of the bell desk such as bell trolley, torch, formats, wheelchair, metal detector, paging board, stationery.
Message form is used to deliver any received message for an in-house guest in their absence from the hotel. The message is delivered immediately on arrival at the hotel. Two copies of the message are prepared, one copy is taken by a bellhop and slipped through under the door of the guest room and the other is kept as a record in the key/mail rack. It is done to make the delivery/communication of the message to the guest.
Wake-up Call Sheet:
Wake up call sheet is used to wake guests who wish for the same. Guests who want to be waked-up early in the morning or want to get a reminder about some important work generally request it. This sheet is prepared by the telephone operator or is done by the bell-captain.
Room Shifting Slip:
In case a room of a guest has to be changed, for various reasons, in that case, the room shifting sheet is used to maintain records of the same. It is done with the approval of the front office manager/lobby manager.