Thank you for your input everyone, and it is clear to me now what the concern should be: consistency in communication.
It seems there are a lot of differing views and it makes me nervous if it "depends on who I talk to" -- it reminds me of customer service in my cellphone provider.
I appreciate how busy the front desk can be, and at the same time, I don't expect to have variation in the rules based on who's there or what their workload is; I expected more consistency on the part of the front desk staff (which, Charles, is indeed who I talked to and exactly as you described). What would be handy is to have some official statement on their website, or, if allowed to train, some form we could print out and fill in the blanks along with instructions on fees, etc. It would be a great tool to be able to hand to the front desk and they immediately know what's happening.
As I said, I'm only disappointed, not irritated -- it is HQ after all. That, and not only am I a peon, but a peon from a different style anyway, so I would never dream of pushing this further.