Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to get a complimentary stay at a top hotel

This article is about being assertive and demanding a better service, rather than looking for ways to deceive and get a free stay. The story below is a true incident, and may not elicit the same offer everywhere, but it is worth knowing about.

We had booked a very nice room with a view for a special occasion a few months ago. This was at one of Chicago's top hotels and we were very excited about it. The day arrived and there we were at the hotel reception, relaxed and ready to check in. We noticed that there were a lot of people around, including families and groups of young men. Anyway, we proceeded to check in.

Minutes later, we were told that we would not get the room we had asked for. We were flabbergasted, and asked for a reason. The manager on duty informed us that there was a ball game, and that they had overbooked, and so the room had been allocated to someone else who had turned up earlier. Additionally, the hotel made no guarantees apparently about room allocations.

We understood that, but our reservation online was made for this room, and this room alone. The package was named after the room. How could we not be guaranteed that room? The manager, who was looking quite disheveled and frazzled, probably due to the volume of people around him and our querying, kept repeating himself. He went on to say that he was not the regular manager, who was on vacation. It seemed of no use to carry on the conversation. Extremely disheartened, we took the key, but we got all the details of the regular manager.

We got to our room, several floors below the one we wanted, and facing blocks of concrete: office blocks. It was depressing, but we made the best of it, and departed very early the following morning. Not what we were expecting.

So this is what we did. We carefully drafted an extremely detailed letter addressed to the manager who was on vacation. We also posted a review on Tripadvisor, and included a link in the letter. We emphasized that as professionals, we had come to expect professionalism for services we had paid for, and how this incident had given the hotel a bad reputation for us. We added how we would recount this to friends and colleagues, and recommend that they don't make a reservation there.

We made a copy for the hotel's customer service department, and posted both letters, registered.

A month later, we received a reply from the hotel manager. After exchanging pleasantries and saying sorry for the fact that we were dissatisfied, his letter included a free one night's stay at the hotel. Not in a regular room, but in a bi-level presidential suite. With full access to its Executive Lounge, with complimentary drinks, appetizers, desserts, and a cooked-to-order breakfast.

We were thrilled of course. Not only had we been given, what we considered, a suitable compensation, but we were very happy that our complaint was acknowledged. The stay turned out to be one of the most luxurious ones of our life. The hotel succeeded in changing our mind about it.

So many of us when faced in a similar situation get upset, shrug it off, and fail to do anything concrete about our dissatisfaction. It is time-consuming, but if you were legitimately expecting more for your money, my advice to you is to document your complaint, and let the right people know. Be authoritative. State the time and detail the incidents. Document names. This isn't just true about hotel rooms by the way.

Following this procedure above is not a guarantee in securing a complimentary stay. It is at the discretion of each individual hotel. But it does mean that you would be asserting yourself if you have been genuinely shortchanged, and you may have a chance in getting something back. The opinion of every guest is important to a hotel, especially when it is a well-known name, so use that knowledge wisely.

Do you have a similar experience? Did you get the same results? Share your stories by posting your comments, at this link.

1 comment:

Windyridge said...

We were put in a smoker's room despite specifying that we didn't want one. We did get a free night if we wanted to stay there again in the future. There were no rooms available that we could be moved to that night. Yuk.