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Tips for complaining at a hotel
I recently stayed at the Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi. Aside from Ritz Carlton Reserve properties, of which there are only 3 and none participate in the Marriott Rewards program, Ritz is the elite hotel group within the overall Marriott brand – exclusive of the newly absorbed SPG brands. When you stay at a Ritz you expect a different level of service, communication, and attentiveness; otherwise you could just stay at a JW Marriott and get nearly the same room appointment, more guaranteed benefits, and a cheaper rate. When there is a lapse in these added benefits I feel compelled to draw attention to it and have it tended to…Here’s a few tips for complaining at a hotel, or at least how I’ve successfully approached it.
Most people don’t like to complain.
I get it, I didn’t want to be perceived as a complainer: Nagging, angry, pushy, and seemingly never happy – complainers have a reputation. However, there is something to the squeaky wheel notion. You should get what you pay for, and if you’re not satisfied, assert your disappointment and request resolve.
Here was a situation that occurred during a recent stay of mine.
We had booked 2 rooms for 2 nights using points. The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi is ideally located for visiting the Grand Mosque as it’s located directly across the street, on the Canal, and offers free shuttle. It’s also a very good deal at just 30k points per night, A Ritz category 1 hotel.
Be educated in your position. Know your benefits and what you should reasonably expect.
Ritz Carltons have a different list of guaranteed benefits than do any other property within the Marriott Group. They do not give club access to Golds and Platinums, and do not give free breakfast. However, I have found that quite a few properties will grant these benefits as a token of goodwill. When we checked in, Gerard told us that we did not have access to the Club, but that both rooms qualified for a free buffet breakfast each morning. A nice token of goodwill.
You can be perfectly pleasant and complain.
When we showed up to breakfast the next morning we told that breakfast was not included. Say Wha? I asked the manager to double check. There were several people waiting in line to be seated and we didn’t want to cause a commotion. I spoke to the manager and she said no problem…she’d double check with reservations to clear up the misunderstanding. We waited for roughly 5 minutes, and we were starting to get some looks from people who were filing in for breakfast.
Communication is often the reason for service breakdowns. It’s not personal. Remember that when you’re complaining. It’ll help keep you even keeled.
The manager came over and had us seated and told us that they were still speaking with reservations. After being seated for nearly 15 minutes, and inquiring about the situation a 3rd time, she came over and told us that they could “discount” the breakfast. Knowing there could be a language barrier, and to clarify any misunderstanding I asked her if discount meant comped? She said no it would be discounted some nominal amount at check-out. I asked her the % of discount. She said she didn’t know. At this point I said I would resolve the issue from the front desk myself, and honestly was pretty irritated. UP to this point, nearly 20 minutes later, I had been very patient, amicable, and diplomatic. It was time to escalate.
Know who to talk to and what you want.
Be friendly, but make your complaint direct, firm, and concise. There is no point in blowing a gasket at someone who can’t resolve your issue, and let management know exactly what it is that has failed to meet your expectation. Afterall, expectation is the mother of all disappointment.
Listen to whom you’re complaining. You’ve decided to enter into a negotiation. Both sides should feel as though they’ve been heard and satisfied.
In my case, the front desk manager told me that I was wrong to assume breakfast was included in my rate. He said Ritz benefits are different than other branded benefits and that breakfast was not included and would not be comped. I listened to his plea. I then explained to him that I understood these benefits, and did not book the hotel with that expectation, and it was in fact, his employee who had created our expectation. It was at that point it became an expectation and one that should be fulfilled.
I explained to him that my parents, whose points we used for the stay, were lifetime Platinum. My family owns timeshares and the bulk of my dad’s work stays had been at Marriott. On top of this we had just stayed at the JW Marriott Beijing, Mandapa, and just finished a stay at the JW Marriott Abu Dhabi. We were quite loyal and I expressed that we had been guaranteed a benefit as a measure of goodwill by his staff, and now we were made to not only wait 20 minutes for that benefit, but had to argue over the merit of the redemption. I expressed embarrassment that we were haggling over something that my family hadn’t actually expected upon arrival, but had been promised, and something worth $20.
He comped the breakfast. I assured him that we wouldn’t expect free breakfast if we came back. We both walked away from the table with something. BYAH!