5 Things I Learned About Service From A Trip to Jamaica

The Jamaican people have a signature style of hospitality so warm and sincere it leaves a lasting imprint of ‘oneness’. The airport shuttle driver played Bob Marley’s “Don’t worry about a thing. Every little thing is going to be all right,” setting the mood for a relaxing trip. The warm ocean breeze and shocking colors of bougainvillea refreshed us as we trekked across four parishes to arrive at our destination, the Couples Tower Isle Resort.


1. ‘Yaa Mon’ and ‘Mi Lady’

Yaa = ‘I agree with you’, ‘I get your humor’, or ‘I have this for you’

Mon = ‘friend’, ‘brother’

Mi = ‘you are mine’, ‘I care for you’,

Lady = ‘lovely woman’, ‘you are beautiful’, ‘I have respect for you’

These nicknames, bestowed upon us (and every guest) at our arrival, were spoken with good humor. They immediately made us feel a part of the family and culture. Our first names sufficed for dinner reservations, sign ups, and introductions. The formality of a last name and the implied pride of reputation would have been out of place.

Service lesson: Quickly establish trust, familiarity, and friendship. A nickname also sets up an expectation for the way we will behave. We live up to our nicknames. In Jamaica, we are all laid-back dudes and elegant ladies.

2. ‘Respect’ is better than ‘Thank you’

We felt as though we were watching Olympic level serving talent. Byron gracefully lifted our suitcases, Phelicia carefully folded plush towels near the pool, and Denville lovingly laid place settings at the dinner table. These were gifts prepared for us. Clearly, by their impeccable dress and style, the hosts had self-respect and confidence. We felt the need to express our gratitude for the dedication of our hosts, their talents and the importance of their chosen work. It is fitting, then, that ‘respect’ means ‘thank you’ in the Jamaican community, and it felt natural to express it.

The people we met were not staff. They were our hosts. The equality and mutual admiration between the hosts and the resort guests was implicit. Each host treated us with the gracious respectfulness they would show to a person they would be spending a lot of time with in the future – as though we were the parents of their potential fiancés!

Service lesson: Respect for the person doing the work is just as important as the worker’s respect for the customer/receiver. No service can be given freely and happily without an understanding that the person providing it is valued. This earned respect cannot be demanded, it follows naturally from self-respect, and pride in the job.

3. No Problem, Mon

‘Don’t worry, be happy’.

‘Everything gon’ be all right’.

‘Your things will be OK right here’.

‘No, but the conversation is not over, I have a solution for you’.

There are no problems in paradise.

A 24-hour concierge desk, front desk greeter, operator, strolling managers, and an informed front line team of bartenders and housekeepers ensured any issue would be empathetically addressed and confidently handled.

Service lesson: The first person to hear about a question will be the person who can answer it, when the team is accessible.

4. You OK?

In Jamaica, when passing Byron in a hallway, he would stop, lean against a wall or his bellman’s cart, admire our faces and inquire, ‘You ok?’. He had time to stop and chat, inviting a casual conversation between friends - giving us the feeling that if anything was not perfect, he, as our host, would find pleasure in resolving it, yet his grin conveyed the humor in his own question. How silly, of course he knew we were genuinely well cared for here!

The palm fronds were swept aside almost before they landed on the pathways. The water glasses were refilled, and empty cocktail glasses and plates vanished as we were distracted by the smiles and friendly conversation with dining room servers.

The hosts looked for opportunities to bring us comforts, yet they seemed to have a carefree day just as we did. They were relaxed, smiling, and as happy as we were that room service orders could be placed on the doorknobs, the in-room refrigerators and bars were stocked daily, tours of the grounds and gardens happened with regularity, water sports equipment was freely accessible, food was served freshly with artistic presentations, and excursions to waterfalls and coral reefs were fun-filled. All of this was included. You could walk from place to place as you would in your own home, without your watch, wallet or backpack.

Service lesson: When providing an experience of rest and relaxation, the best hosts model the behavior with a relaxed pace and presence of mind. Service looks effortless when the infrastructure anticipates common requests and needs of guests and resolves them before being asked.

5. One Love. Let’s Get Together and Feel All Right.

The oneness of all the people in the world, the love so easily bestowed upon a stranger, and our common appreciation for friendships was strongly felt in Jamaica. Tina, Derek, Frances and Jamie joined hands with us as we helped each other climb up the Dunn River waterfall. Every fellow traveler we met seemed to be just like someone we have known before. As we delighted in the newness of our experiences, we shared our first names and the city we came from, and sometimes talked about the children in our lives, but chatter about careers and accomplishments was gratefully absent. No judgments, no ‘to do’ lists, no worries.

Service lesson: Our psychological needs for belongingness and love are universal. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, they come before our need for esteem and feelings of accomplishment, which may differentiate us and make us feel separate from each other.

By the time we left, we had been completely won over by the people of Jamaica. It seemed only natural to invite them to visit our home as well.

Where we stayed: Couples Tower Isle Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica


#couples #allinclusive #honeymoon