I recently described my frustration in dealing with a reservationist at a higher-end hotel chain. The reservationist was seemingly incapable of determining the best rate for which I was eligible. Unfortunately, my problems with the reservationist were only the tip of the iceberg of difficulty with the hotel.
Our problems started with inconveniences that we could tolerate. For example, the hotel staff was unable to tell us where we could wait for the tourist trolley that would take us to the dining and entertainment district. We found the trolley station ourselves, after a bit of wandering, and were surprised to learn that it was only about 1,000 feet away from the hotel. We were met with similar ignorance when we asked about nearby restaurants.
For another example, on our second evening at the hotel, my son was hungry after the hotel restaurant had closed. Although we are not advocates of using a hotel mini-bar, we also did not want to listen to a hungry teen for seven hours until the hotel restaurant opened again (and yes, we had brought from home, and he had eaten, snacks to satisfy a small military base). Accordingly, we looked to the mini-bar and decided to buy a bag of pretzels. Somewhat annoyingly, the key to the mini-bar was missing so we had to call down to the lobby and request another key. A missing key is excusable, but what happened next was surprising. The hotel staff suggested that we had lost the key – which we had not. The staff was perturbed that we were even asking for another key, or so it seemed to us, but we got our key in the end.
When we did get into the mini-bar, however, we were dismayed to realize that the pretzels were stale. Indeed, after biting in to a pretzel, my son checked the expiration date and it was more than three months prior. We again called down to the front desk and asked that someone bring up a bag of fresh pretzels. Based on the reaction, one would think that we were primadonnas who could not be satisfied. Nevertheless, we did not complain. Rather, we explained our problem and eventually got a bag of pretzels.
Our real trauma did not begin until our final day at the hotel. I was visiting the hotel on business, but my wife and son were tagging along for some R&R. I knew that I would not be able to check out until 4:30pm on my departure day so I arranged for a 4pm checkout, both when I made the reservations on the phone and when I checked into the hotel. The hotel offers such late checkout options and the woman working the front desk was very happy to give us the ability to keep our room until 4pm. Sadly for us, and for the hotel, there was a different person at the front desk on our final day.
The employee at the front desk on our final day was a nightmare. At 2pm, she appeared at our room, knocked loudly, and demanded that we leave. She would not even identify herself other than to say that she was from the front desk (and it was only later, as you will soon learn, that we were even able to confirm that she was a hotel employee). She even went so far as to tell my wife that my wife was lying about our late check out and continued to badger my wife and son for 15 minutes, demanding that we vacate the room. During the course of those 15 minutes, my wife had to deal with several anonymous calls from “hotel management” – each suggesting that she was lying and demanding that she leave. The behavior of the hotel staff was shocking.
We checked out of the hotel at 4pm, as we had been told we could. The abusive woman was not at the front desk at that time and the staff was very polite and helpful, but we still had very negative feelings for the hotel. Mistakes, we can forgive, but outright rudeness and hostility we cannot.
When I got home, I waited a couple of days for the hotel survey that I knew I would receive by e-mail. When I received it, I sent a scathing report to the hotel’s head office. I expressed my deepest dissatisfaction with the hotel and with the behavior of certain of its employees, especially the abusive woman from our final day. I expected to hear nothing further from the hotel.
I was wrong. The hotel wanted to make things right and a hotel representative called me in less than three hours! The hotel truly wanted to know what had gone wrong with our stay and how they could improve the experience of their guests. The hotel truly cared and I was pleased to learn that due to other problems with the abusive woman at the front desk, she was already a former employee. I talked with the hotel representative for a long time and felt much better after the discussion. Then the real shocker came – the hotel gave me a free night (which can be up to a $400 value) and credited my hotel reward program with 5,000 points – the equivalent of a ten night stay. The hotel wanted me to return and they made it very easy for me to do so. My attitude toward the hotel was quickly improved from very negative to “I’ll give them one more chance!”
If you have a bad experience at a hotel, or a restaurant, or a store, a well-worded and sincere letter of complaint can do wonders to improve your mental health. We all need to get those problems off of our chests. More importantly, a good hotel, restaurant or store will want to hear your complaints so that they can remedy them. Take the time to complain and you will be doing yourself and the store a favor, and there is always a good chance that you will receive some form of compensation in return for the problems about which you are complaining.
I am sure you complain to your family and friends when you have a bad experience. That is human nature, but your family and friends can’t fix the problems that you experience when you are out spending money at a merchant’s place of business. Take your complaint to the person who can remedy your problems – the business owner who ultimately received your money.
How do you handle problems at hotels, restaurants and stores? Do you complain? Do you take the time to put your complaints in writing? What kind of responses do you typically receive? What is the best response that you have received?