If you’re like me, you travel a lot. and you almost certainly have your own views of, and preferences among, the familiar roster of hotel brands, Hilton, Marriott, and Sheraton, but also at the high end Fairmont, Four Seasons, J.W. Marriott, and Ritz Carlton. All of the latter are without fail lovely “properties” (as the hospitality industry somewhat bloodlessly refers to its locations), but do any of the brands consistently stand out in your mind? For me, one does: Ritz Carlton.

Before going one paragraph further, we need a quick “get a grip” timeout.

The experience of staying at any one of these high end hotels is as pleasant, welcoming, and even luxurious as any time spent away from home can be. All are excellent at what they do. So when I identify Ritz Carlton as “standing out,” you could say I’m splitting hairs, and I couldn’t strenuously disagree. Perhaps more pointedly, I can’t remember the last time I chose where to stay on a trip; I go wherever the client wants me to be. But permit me to elaborate in any event; there’s a message coming.

The primary distinction I sense is consistency. A stay at any one of these hotels (again) can make you feel all your needs are attended to, all your questions answered knowledgeably and well, but at a Ritz Carlton, it’s always the case, and it happens seemingly without effort.

The more I reflected on this, the higher the degree of difficulty it seemed to require in my mind. Their website lists 80 hotels in 26 countries employing 38,000 people. How could an organization possibly deliver that degree of consistency across its global span?

I’d heard about the “Credo Card,” the plastic laminated mini-folder (about the size of a credit card) every Ritz Carlton employee supposedly carries, but it seemed almost too perfect to be true—a species of urban legend—so the other week as I was checking in at a Ritz Carlton, I had the presence of mind to ask the fellow manning the reception desk (“Jeffery”) if he had such a card. He immediately pulled out his wallet and produced it. He then printed off its contents from the Ritz Carlton’s website and handed the printout to me. Some urban legend.

So shall we take it as our text for today? We shall.

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