Where would the money go?
11.08.2012 - 02.09.2012
Korla, August 18th 2012
Before Peng Lung, my driver, came to pick me up and bring me to Tiemenguan, I proceeded with check-out from Jinyue Hotel. Because my train was 10 o'clock at night, I decided to keep my luggage at the front desk. But fearing communication difficulty with the front desk staffs like during check-in, I asked Cory to interpret for me through my cellphone. Everything went perfectly fine. With a big smile, the staff helped pull my suitcase. And then I got my deposit money back. Done.
Back from my self-city-sightseeing, reluctant to bother Cory too often, I challenge my Mandarin with the hotel's front desk staff. It turned out much easier than I had expected. The staff immediately understood me and kindly pulled my suitcase out. Great.
At the lobby I sorted my stuffs. Toiletry bag, cosmetic bag, snack, drink, book, pocket camera, anything that I would need in the train, I fitted in one day-pack. My handbag containing money, passport, and tickets, also can fit into this backpack. Thus, when I need to leave my cabin, I just bring this one backpack with me. When I go to sleep, I tuck my day-pack under the train's pillow which is always too thin for me. Now, my day-pack becomes my pillow. In case of a night bus, my day-pack becomes my bolster. That's my custom on overnight journeys. Safe and comfortable. Perfect.
While I was still in the midst of packing, Peng Li showed up. She didn't come with Peng Lung, but another guy. I was surprise to see Peng Li, because when she dropped me off after returning from Tiemenguan, she said she wouldn't come back. Just the driver will.
The guy who came with Peng Li smiled at me and sat quietly on the couch next to mine. But Peng Li stood next to me watching. I felt annoyed. "Can you just sit over there?"
"Have you got your deposit money back?" Peng Li asked.
"Yes, I have."
Peng Li went to the next couch and sat nest to the guy. But a few minutes later I saw her walking to the front desk. Oh maybe she needs information for someone who is coming to stay here, I thought. Or maybe she wants to book the hall for her wedding. Thus, I continued packing.
Suddenly Peng Li was already standing in front of me. She said, "They said you have to pay for one more night, because you are late."
It was like an electric shock for me. How on earth could that be?? I've already proceeded with check-out more than 6 hours ago. Because I'm still here in the lobby, I have to pay an extra night? Moreover, how can I be asked to pay for check-out when I've already checked out? Logically, I should have gone through the process of check-in before charged for check out.
"But I have already checked out this afternoon," I said to Peng Li.
"I don't know. They said so."
Another funny thing is, all the time since I asked for my luggage until I did packing in the lobby, the staffs said nothing to me about charging an extra night. Why would they have to wait until Peng Li comes to tell me that? Logically again, if I really owed them an extra night and Peng Li didn't come, wouldn't they have loose money instead? What hotel would wait for someone -- an outsider -- to tell their guest that their guest owes them something?
I walked to the front desk and said in English, "I have already checked out this afternoon. Why should I pay again?"
The ladies behind the table just stood watching me as is if I were a cuckoo popping out from the clock. They said not a word. Aaarghhh!
I grabbed my cellphone and called Cory. Next, he asked me to hand my cellphone to the staff. I didn't try to figure out what the staff said over the phone. While she and Cory talked, I yelled at Peng Li with the highest tone I had. My blood was boiling to the max.
"Why do you have to come here to the front desk and talk to them?!! Everything had been fine just now! Why do you have to meddle with my business??!!"
Peng Li's face seemed shocked. She must have not expected that I could be that mad.
"Errr, I'm sorry. I just thought have you got your deposit money back?" Peng Li asked.
"Yes, I have!! You have asked me already and I said I had!! Why is it so difficult to talk with you??!!"
The front desk staff returned my cellphone. Cory was still on the phone. "I have already talked to the hotel staff. You don't need to pay anything. Now you just get into the car. Just you and the driver. Please hand the phone to your driver. Let me talk to him."
After talking over the phone, the guy who came with Peng Li, kindly helped me carry my luggage to the car. It was a sedan, far better than Peng Lung's car. He started the engine and was about to drive away. No Peng Li.
Of course I didn't mean to shoo her away. At least she would need transportation to return to her home. So I quickly opened the door.
"What is it? You left something?" the guy asked me in Mandarin.
"No, no. Where's Peng Li?"
I couldn't get what he answered me. It was something like, you go with me to the station. Of course I'm going with him to the station. But where's Peng Li? I walked back towards the hotel building. It was then when I saw Peng Li getting into a taxi. Oh. I remember Cory said just now, "Just you and the driver."
On the way, this guy's cellphone rang. After he hung up, he picked up a plastic full of grapes and other fruits from the seat next to him. "This is for you."
"No, no, thank you."
"It's alright. It's for you to eat in the train."
"I have so many things to bring. I cannot carry it."
"I will help carry your things into the station."
He looked sincere to me and half pleading to accept his offer. Ah... how can I explain myself in this limited Mandarin?
When we arrived at the station, I tried with all my might. "I really thank you for this. But when I arrive in Akesu, I would have to carry my things myself. It's difficult."
He understood, fortunately. I gave him the money, he carried my suitcase, and then said good bye at the entrance gate.
Actually last night I had planned to pay extra as a token of gratitude. But having experienced how they brought their relatives with them in 'my car', and how they lingered with my time this morning, I concluded we were even. It became worse when Peng Li messed up in the hotel.
About the weird 'check-out' again, in fact I've done this kind of checking out many times in China, and other countries. I proceed with check out, pay, and then leave my luggage to get it back in the evening. They don't always can speak English, but understands what I mean. This time in Jinyue Hotel, was my first time I asking someone (Cory) to tell the hotel staff that I needed to keep my luggage at the front desk.
Somehow I think, had Peng Lung remained 'just driver', had he not meddle with my checking in, I wouldn't have that much trouble communicating with the front desk staffs.
The way Peng Lung rushed to the front desk ahead of me always flashes back and forth in my mind. Of course the way Jinyue Hotel's staff discussed over my passport with Peng Lung aside of me is something I cannot forget. But the most unforgettable: Why did Peng Li have to walk to the front desk whereas I didn't ask her and didn't appear of needing help either? What had Peng Lung and Peng Li been up to?
Had I paid the so called extra night to Jinyue Hotel, where would the money go?