Everyone has a story like this. Many of us have more than one. But I’m still taken aback when it happens.

I left my room in a well known national chain, and headed down to the quasi-high-toned restaurant attached to the hotel.

Truth be known, the restaurant is probably a reluctant player in the whole breakfast thing. It’s an operation of one of the big name restaurateurs in the area, and wouldn’t strike you as the kind of place that would think an egg worth scrambling, much less care to mess with an omelette. But proximity to the hotel likely weighs in the decision.

Road warriors know the drill. Frequent-staying comes with a (little) perk here and there. This particular stay included complimentary breakfast. So, heeding mom’s counsel, I aimed to enjoy the most important meal of the day. Along with a cup of black coffee (mom would not be particularly proud).

But this early morning experience was about to be all about the restaurant — not about the customer. When I presented my breakfast certificate, I could tell something was awry.

Clearly perplexed, the waiter flagged down the manager. They whispered between themselves, and then the manager articulated (?) the dilemma. “You only have the yellow copy of your breakfast coupon.”

I felt reprimanded, and I knew not why.

She provided explanation. I should have presented a two-part certificate — the yellow, which lay before us, and a white version, which I reasoned must have become separated 17 floors and 10 minutes away.

For an instant the manager appeared to wrestle with the issue. What might be done? I explained that I had checked in the day before, would be here all week, and the hotel might be able to verify my creds.

But this wasn’t part of the plan. And process won out. Without the white copy of my certificate, this high-end big name restaurant had no way for the server to get credit for having served me breakfast.

I didn’t want that to happen. And since this was clearly my fault, and the morning schedule did not allow time to retrieve the stray white certificate, I meekly copped to my shortcoming, and asked for permission to charge breakfast to my room.

At this point it might be fair to note that I frequent both the hotel and the restaurant. Or, I used to frequent the restaurant. Sometimes 3 or 4 times in a work week for lunch or dinner.

But the experience they consistently deliver says “We are special — and you are oh-so-fortunate we are here.”

This was an excellent reminder that — whatever our endeavor — the experience we deliver will eventually trump a reputation, a quality product / service, and any glossy ad or eloquent marketing message.

Scores of restaurants serve a pretty darn good breakfast.

And in today’s market, the experience you deliver IS your marketing message.