Disrespect on Hallowed Ground

A 2019 Underground Railroad Experience

My apologies go out to Mrs. Billie Todd and her group “To be your best Travel LLC” (a group of retired educators) who had to witness what was probably the worst customer service experience I have ever encountered in my 20-years of conducting tours of the Underground Railroad  for Motherland Connextions. The incident occurred at the celebrated Underground Railroad Heritage Center on July 24, 2019.

On that day my group witnessed an executive staffer pulling me aside in the middle of the tour experience to accuse my company, Motherland Connextions,  of exploiting the center when I was merely using the public space in the lobby to interpret the history  to make sure my group would know what to look for once inside. I was even accused of cheating on admissions.  Then  there was a personal dig on my integrity of 26-years promoting and making sure our history is on the map for everyone’s consumption.

The  latter took me to a dark place I had never been before as I experience the tour being conducted by someone who just recently learned to spell the word “Underground Railroad,” interpreted information from a book, and  was new to this historical experience with all its nuances many of which she can never know.

At that point it took everything in me to keep it together and stay professional for the sake of my clients who were  being totally disrespected.  That   hurt the most because part of my service is shielding my clients from this type of treatment. So I abruptly walked away from the conversation (attack) at that point.

The executive director prior to this encounter had just welcomed our group in, offered to do a quick orientation and overall was very accommodating as she has always been with my groups in the past. So why this staff member  decided to go rouge is anybody’s guess but it’s my obligation to call it out!    

Motherland Connextions takes great strides in making sure the visitor experience is always 100%. This staff person  was more concerned about housekeeping and other personal issues concerning me and my company – not  customer service –   at the expense of my clients who had to witness the encounter that she provoked. The prudent and professional thing to do by this executive staffer would have been to have that conversation with me at a later date and not in front of paying customers,  who again witnessed the encounter then asked me what was happening as I returned to the bus.  So now there was an additional 56-other paying customers from Kentucky – Motherland Connextions guests who will most likely post on this negative issue.

Promoting the U.S. side of Niagara Falls is tough enough without unprofessional and petty encounters like this. My work on the Underground Railroad dates back to 1993 when myself and 9-other people followed the Old Harriet Tubman Trail from Guildford North Carolina to St. Catharine’s Ontario. The National Parking Service came in to be part of our culmination in St. Catharine’s.  That pilgrimage gave rise to the awareness of Underground Railroad history in the region and to the birth of the Underground Railroad Center today.

Sadly I will probably have to think twice about bringing my groups to the Center which is rated a  5-star and plays a very important role in the interpretation of the Underground Railroad in the Niagara Falls Area and was birthed from the work I began some 26-years ago.  Overall the staff is excellent and has always been accommodating.  However this one particular executive staffer seems to be more hung-up on interpretation than the total visitor experience with no understanding of respect into that equation.  What’s mind boggling – this executive staffer has told me that I bring the most groups to the Center, so why the disrespect?

This staff member  is in desperate need of hospitality and sensitivity training.

If you want to know what people are saying about Motherland Connextions read our reviews via Trip-advisor, Groupon, our web site and Facebook pages.

We New-world abolitionist will continue to push on in the name of those ancestors who came before us!!!

(Mr. Cotrell, of Niagara Falls, is the Station Master of Motherland Connextions)