It had travelled with me often. It was always faithful. It saw many places– or at least many hotel bathrooms around the globe: my travelling toothbrush. It always accompanied me on flights in its small linen bag with a much shorter-lived tube of toothpaste and a few painkillers for headaches. It shared its quarters with a wooden comb that had been handed to me on one of those rare occasions when marketing gadgets are actually useful. The linen bag is the domestic version. It's the hand-luggage-compatible safety-provisions-compliant version that can ride along in the aircraft cabin. I have a larger version for long-haul trips as well: it comes with a file, scissors, pocketknife, more medicines and liquids – and it has to go in the suitcase.
Whenever a new travelling toothbrush was due, I would get one in the same style, the same colour, shape, and hardness. The "new one" would immediately morph into my faithful old travelling toothbrush.
And now, our ways had parted. The faithful brush along with its long-term travelling companions, the comb and the bag and everything else in it. I left them in a Düsseldorf hotel bathroom one hectic morning. I only noticed my loss once I got home. First, I thought: "Well, it's just a toothbrush and a few bits and pieces. It doesn't matter. No need to get all sentimental." Then I thought: "It's worth less than five Euros. It's not that bad." Then it hit me: "My good old travelling toothbrush! All the things we did together! The many hotels we saw!" So I called them and gave them my room number from the night before. I asked if they had found anything. I described the linen bag and told them what was in it. And indeed: it had already been found. They had filed it and archived it. Did I want them to mail it all to me? "Gladly, that'd be great!" I heard myself say. Many hotels charge a service fee for that. They add postage and packaging fees. That's okay. But they didn't say a word about that here.
Toothbrush & friends arrived the next day. They travelled by courier in a padded box. That's a first-class trip for them. My joy at our reunification was immense. I think it was mutual, too.
What did the rescue campaign cost? No one ever said anything about the price. It was a service offered by the hotel. They didn't charge a single cent. Thank you, Intercontinental Hotel Düsseldorf! What do they call that in marketing? Building customer loyalty. It worked. I've been back a few times. So has my toothbrush.
Usually, customers notice when things that would normally be charged to them, aren’t. Deliberately offering them this tiny moment of joy is the best way of building customer loyalty.