At what point do you complain about a hotel stay?

To start I have a confession to make: I’ve only once written a complaint letter to a hotel, and that was due to awful service (at the Crowne Plaza Auckland years ago, for what it’s worth). Yes, I’ve experienced minor hiccups I address at the hotel, like if they don’t honor late check-out, don’t provide upgrades within the terms of the loyalty program, etc. But I really don’t know at what point I should complain about a hotel, or if I should just chalk it up to being an airport hotel and lowering my expectations.

Yesterday was our last night in Ireland, so we ended up staying at the Hilton Dublin Airport, which was 115 Euros per night (which definitely isn’t cheap for a mediocre airport hotel).

Anyway, while the service was fine, the stay was unpleasant for a few reasons:

  • The shower temperature was highly variable. I set the temperature control to a reasonable temperature (40C), and then it fluctuated wildly, from unbearably hot to cold.
  • The shower wouldn’t drain.
  • The internet connection was among the worst I’ve ever had in a hotel. Not only was it slow, but I had to reconnect every few minutes.
  • The bed was the most uncomfortable hotel bed I’ve slept in. I realize there are different levels of firmness in different countries, and that wasn’t my issue. It was more that the springs were so worn that it was downright uncomfortable to lay down.

Now, I assume the only issue that could have been addressed at the hotel was that the shower wouldn’t drain. I suspect the mattresses, internet, and water temperature fluctuation were similar in all rooms. I didn’t address the drain at the hotel because I only showered as I was leaving, so at that point it was too late to switch rooms.

I mentioned my issues in passing at the front desk upon check-out, though obviously it’s nothing one of the front desk associates could address on the spot.

So I’m curious, is this the point at which most of you would complain, or would you chalk it up to being an airport hotel? If so, would you contact the hotel directly, Hilton corporate, or somewhere else?

The reason I’m kind of torn is because I prefer to save complaints for situations where something can be easily done to rectify the situation, like when you deal with a rude employee. In this case I’m sure the hotel knows their internet is painfully slow and unreliable, I’m sure they know the beds are super-uncomfortable, and I’m sure they know the water temperatures are painfully variable. But I assume they’re not willing to invest to fix those issues.

So what would you do? Move on or complain? I realize this is entirely insignificant in the grand scheme of things, though I’m curious to see what through process you guys have when it comes to complaining to hotels.

Worst. Shower. Ever.

Filed Under: Hilton, Hotels
  1. I was just a global hotel chain staying at a 5 star property.

    After all the bubbles disappeared in my spa bath floating in the tub with me was a dead cockroach like insect. Utterly repulsive! Nearly vomited!

    Any thoughts on compensation?

  2. There’s three levels of complaining for me.

    I complain if it’s fixable unless (in the rare situation) I really need to vent. In that case it’s usually to a front desk employee who does not give a shit anyway.

    If the stay was truly ruined in some fashion, I’ll hit the front desk on the way out and shoot off emails to anyone I can find.

  3. I would def let them know. I always let hotels know at the front desk if it’s significant. But I start out by saying a few things I’ve appreciated about the hotel. I usually don’t report something I think might be a cultural or personality misunderstanding (e.g. rudeness) unless it’s obvious. Considering that it was a Hilton I think I would say something in an email at least, if the experience was that bad, which it sounds like it was.

  4. As the ambassador of travel, you should complain when something is not up to par. Should not managements’ response to complaints be part of the overall evaluation of the stay?

  5. I stay at the Hilton Dublin Airport on a regular basis and have never had any of these issues.
    Their staff are usually very helpful, the rooms and beds are fine and I’ve never had issues with the showers.
    The wifi can be a small bit flaky from time to time, but there’s ethernet as well in the rooms


  6. Move on.

    We’ve all had this happen to us. You experienced the ‘perfect storm’, where all of the above happened at once. When I have drainage issues, I always call down to the front desk so that housekeeping can clear the drain for the next guest.

  7. If the mattress is bad, ask for a new one, seriously. I’ve had hotels bring in a new mattress in the plastic, unwrap it in front of me, make the bed and then leave the room. Never hurts to ask.

  8. Forgot to mention. Some hotels, probably not the Hilton Ireland, keep stock mattresses on hand in case anything goes wrong.

  9. I redeemed 50k points for a radisson blu in London last night and got a room the size of a Yotel. The twin bed was large enough for a nine year old and the shower was so tiny that it was hard to get wet. I’m top tier with club Carlson but all benefits were ignored. Would you complain? It felt like since it was not a revenue stay, they dumped me in the “crew” room.

  10. @Lucky – I think you answered your own question yourself: you should complain if your stay becomes unpleasant and you wish you hadn’t chosen that hotel. Generally, when the problem is something that can be fixed on the spot, I just call the relevant department and they fix it. If it’s something systemic (bad plumbing, slow Internet, etc.) that can’t be fixed AND it’s serious enough to make me wish I weren’t there (of if they refuse to fix it, are rude, or give me attitude), then that’s when I write in. Most of the time you don’t even have to write in: most hotels send post-stay surveys that you can fill out and most of the time they actually take it seriously. On the handful of occasions that I’ve written about problems in my surveys, I’ve been contacted by the GM!

  11. For things that can not be immediately remedied and for which I want it to be clear that I dont want compensation, I wait until I leave and then write a letter to the hotel. They have always responded politely and thanked me for my input.

  12. I think it’s helpful to Hilton Corp. to let them know that a given property, which not Hilton owned, does not live up to the Hilton standards and thus tarnishes the brand. That is certainly true in this case.

  13. In May we stayed a night at the Caesars in Atlantic City.

    In the middle of the night they had to drill the lock open from the room next to ours, because it had “a dead lock”.

    Made a complaint in the morning at the front desk and got directly full room-service breakfast almost as expensive as our room.

    It was a good lesson for us, to make fast a complaint. šŸ˜‰

  14. Instead of thinking of it is as complaining, frame it as “they can’t fix it if they don’t know it is a problem.” I always assume the manager of the hotel is acting in good faith and wants it all to be good.

    Especially if you’re going to blog about it, you owe it to them to provide the feedback.

  15. Any business that wishes to grow and thrive encourages customer feedback. How you go about it makes a difference. Inform them so they can better prepare for the next guest. No need to rant and rave as I have seen some guest do.

  16. You’ve already written a hotel review for the world – and if the hotel is following what people write about it online, they already knowā€¦ as do potential guests.

  17. Granted, these are all “first world problems,” but my guess is that while hotel management might know about, Hilton doesn’t. Starwood would’ve already contacted you based on this blog post alone.

  18. Wow. I don’t think it’s fair to make all of these complaints the morning after as you’re running out the door. Maybe you took your shower in the morning, so that’s understandable. But the bed should have been reported as soon as you realized you could not sleep on it, so they could move you to a different room — or, as some other folks are saying, you could get a new mattress.

    After the fact, the stay can’t be fixed, but I would write a POLITE letter documenting the multiple problems because this is simply unacceptable for 115 euro. I don’t complain about minor hot/cold or slow drains in a shared shower/hostel/extremely cheap hotel but for 115 euro airport hotel, it really can’t be excused and I think you should receive a partial refund or some other apology.

    But, most of the time, if I have a problem, I work with the hotel on the spot to fix it on the spot, rather than stewing and brewing and then posting how horrible it was on the internet. Telling the person of some problems as you check out is not fair to the hotel, really. Give them a chance. Now if you had reported that night and not been given satisfaction, yes, by all means, post here and post on Trip Advisor too.

    If the internet was included, slow speed is just something you put up with. If you paid extra, I would ask for a refund on the spot or file a complaint/chargeback later. Always give the hotel a second chance to refund you, by filing your request in writing, before you make a chargeback. It’s just a common courtesy since chargebacks cost them extra fees.

  19. A polite but accurate complaint is always necessary as long as your expectations were reasonable. Maybe the hotel doesn’t know about the problem. Maybe they know but don’t think anyone cares.

  20. When I’m that unhappy in a brand name hotel, I write a letter to the Chain Pres (it will get forwarded appropriately) and copy to the hotel GM.

    Most properties are franchises and the HQ is often not all that aware of property variances. Things like hot water fluctuating and terrible internet are systemic problems that the property owner has to fix. When they know the HQ management is watching, then they might do something about it.

    Complaining on the way out to someone who (a) has heard it before, (b) doesn’t care and (c) won’t pass it on is useless unless it makes you feel better, but even then won’t fix the problem.

  21. I agree with Anita above, frame it as feedback to hopefully improve future experience for other guests, and I would also suggest posting something on Trip Advisor or Yelp.

  22. If it’s something that can be fixed during the stay, complain ASAP. Internet issues can often be fixed during the stay, as can bedding. Hotel managers probably prefer hearing complaints in real time, when they can more easily diagnose and respond, rather than reading them days or weeks later in your blog, on an online review site, or in the aggregate reports from the chain’s surveys.

  23. Lucky, I would speak with the GM or supervisor on the hotel premises to have the issues addressed. If the supervisor does not resolve things, then I would also write a letter to the hotel’s GM. Don’t let a poor stay at one Hilton create the impression that all Hiltons are of this nature.

    Hilton has the largest number of international branded hotels, and there are some excellent properties. I had a great stay at the Hilton Dublin Kilmainham. My advice is to read the tripadvisor reviews before selecting a hotel.

  24. Bad shower, bed and internet? DEFINITELY take action. Pretty basic needs in a hotel room and if you’re there only one night it’s difficult to fix. “Complaints” get you nowhere, unfortunately. When faced with this kind of thing in the past (not very often, fortunately), I have decided how much I want to pay for the room. I go down to the front desk in person, ask for the manager and nicely tell him/her what the problems were and what I want to pay. It often takes some patience, but I just keep repeating myself and pretty soon they give in. If you are talking with someone who is unhelpful, tell them that they can fix the problem now or you will dispute the entire charge with your credit card (I use American Express exclusively) and they won’t get paid at all. It’s really annoying to be cheated at a reputable hotel and paying what you think is right makes you feel better.

  25. Agree completely with Stuart above. I’d the hotel is not living up to the brand then corporate need to know so they can keep watch on it. Surely, if it goes on long enough Hilton will dump the hotel or tell then to rebrand to a Doubletree or something.

  26. I would have told the front desk about the shower drain so that they could fix it for the next guess.

    As for the infrastructure issues such as the internet and the shower temp, I would also contact the hotel manager, either by email or written letter, and clearly articulate the problems and your expectations. The manager might or might not know about these issues, but he/she won’t be able to justify the capital spend to fix these problems unless he has evidence (emails, letters) from customers stating this is a problem.

    Next time you might also try contacting the internet service provider — this happened to me at a hotel in DC last year, and the ISP logged into the hotel server and found that most of the hotel bandwidth was being used by 3 rooms that were playing online games. The ISP throttled back their allocated bandwidth, and the problem was solved — my internet was much faster. Takeaway: The thing you think that isn’t fixable just might be fixable.

  27. I always let the hotel know of room issues so that they may fix it for the next guest, which it sounds like you did on the way out. if they have a bad service culture, then i complain to corporate.

  28. For the average Joe, complaining to Hilton corporate is pointless. Usually they don’t respond or if they do, they respond completely off-topic. Hilton hands-down has the worst corporate level customer service in the industry!

    I once called and emailed Hilton corporate about a hotel that I left it was so bad (I still had to pay for my stay there and at a new hotel). After 15 phone calls with no call-backs and about 8 emails where they repeatedly asked about reservation information (confirm #, rate, etc) as opposed to details of the issues, I gave up. Finally a “supervisor” from their customer care phone line agreed to some concessions for me. After a week, I had received nothing that was promised, so I called back. I was told that the person who made the concessions to me wasn’t permitted to do so and the offer was “over and above” what’s normal for them to offer in this situation, so I got nothing! (I ultimately disputed the hotel charge with CC company after I was informed it was treated as a no-show so I didn’t even earn points for the stay that I paid for and left!)

    You, on the other hand, as a blogger will likely get a kings ransom. So, I’d say go for it. (Not meant to be snarky…I’m a fan of your work…I just know how Hilton operates…it’s all about leverage, which you have!)

  29. I would complain — if nothing else just so they can hopefully correct the problems for any future guest that might stay in that room.

  30. I always let hotel know with regard to their service failures (whether these can be easily fixed or not) – being firm believer that absent such feedback hotels will have no knowledge of things needing improvement. So one can say I always complain.
    The point whether I ask for a compensation is a separate thing entirely. Most of the feedback I provide to the hotels on minor issues do not request any compensation.

  31. You just did complain – blogging about the issues is way more of a public complaint than “complaining”

  32. I’ve stayed at this property a few times and the staff/management there have always struck me as being exceptionally keen to resolve any issues.

    Any decent hotel GM definitely wants to know about issues like this with his property. Write and let him know. He will appreciate it.

  33. As a royal ambassador i ve always contacted the ambasador desk or IHG guest relation dept while still at the hotel and problems been solved swiftly,they usually ask you property name and room number so they will call you back and update you,well lets remember ambassador is a paying program and IHG cant afford upsetting its1% top customers, many times i ve e mailed the GM befire taking matter further and they will be happy ti keep it within the hotel.

  34. In situations like this, I complain on Tripadvisor, so that other potential customers benefit from my experience. Hotels often check the reviews and respond to them these days, so it’s also a way to let the management know what, specifically, you didn’t like.

  35. I booked a stay & fly parking package at the Dublin airport hilton a few years ago and never again will I stay there. My trip was organised so the stay was upon my return due to a very late arrival in DUB and not wanting to drive the 3hrs home. Arriving at the hilton they initially could not accomodate me on their airport transfer bus as I didn’t have a room booked and hadn’t booked for the bus as the front desk. The bus was more than full so I think they had to arrange some taxis as well. When i arrived back into DUB I attempted to call them on the courtesy phone to let them know I had arrived so I could get the bus. Of course all I could get was an automated system so I gave up and walked to the bus pickup spot only to have missed the bus by a matter of minutes. They only run a bus once an hour so I then had to fork out for a taxi to the hotel. And yes, the mattress was horrible although I don’t remember any problem with the shower. Filled in a complaints form and never heard anything from them. For a 4* star hotel, service once an hour to the airport is pitiful. I now stay a Bewleys which run a bus pretty much nonstop. Have never had to wait more than a couple of minutes for a bus any time of the day.

  36. Didn’t “complain” per se, but filled out the follow-up email survey honestly after a mediocre room at the SEA airport Radisson. Room service, bar, and staff was great, but room was dated and dirty. Didn’t expect anything, just wanted them to have the feedback.

    A few days later, I got an email from the hotel GM, apologizing, noting that they were planning on a remodel, and telling me that they were refunding my stay on my credit card. Absolutely didnt expect that, but what great service!

  37. Always try to talk directly with the Director of Rooms, who is in charge; second the assistant hotel manager and if it’s very serious, the hotel manager.

    That’s de hierarchy.

  38. I look at these types of letters as 50/50- 50% for me, 50% for the next person coming along who might have that room (and those problems).

    So, as an HHonors user with Ireland still on my to-do list, please do let them know what didn’t work well.

  39. As some have noted, you should let the front desk, at least, know about all of the issues. Surprisingly enough, most hotels only become aware of a problem if someone reports it to them. You should not assume that they know about problems and just don’t feel like fixing them. I am not sure what you meant by “in passing,” so it is hard to say if you provided enough information for them to address the problems.

    Even if they cannot fix them for you, at least someone else won’t have to endure issues that likely could be fixed. If you did not make clear what the problems were, you should write a note to the hotel management letting them know what room you were in and what problems you experienced so that they can address them.

    I would not advocate notifying Corporate as you cannot really provide any useful information to them since you have no idea whether or not the hotel was willing and able to address your concerns. But then, I would not advocate posting a blog report about it either unless management had told you to ‘pound sand’ when notified of the issues.


  40. Tried to check into a Radisson at 5 pm and was told my room wasn’t ready and to come back at 8 pm after dinner. Complained to Corporate about that.

  41. I typically voice my complaint in a letter after the stay or using a survey card. Uncomfortable beds (thankfully less common these days than ever, even in budget hotels!) are the worst, considering sleep is the main reason we have a hotel, right? But I usually don’t voice that concern other than on the survey box.

    The shower temperature fluctuation is probably something I’d bring up to the front desk or to maintenance if I was planning to stay more than one night. It’s happened a few times and it’s the worst. I’ve actually had that happen in a few airport lounges as well..One minute the water is burning hot, and then ice cold. Very strange stuff.

    Bottom line I try to have reasonable expectations, but since your night was a one night stay, I agree with voicing your concerns at check out.

    Hotels can only improve if they receive guest feedback. At a Hilton location, even in Europe– an uncomfortable bed is something that I feel would be totally unacceptable.

  42. Sometimes when you do write a complaint you get interesting or useless responses. For example a Hilton stay was ruined by kids running constantly up and downthe hallways. They were part of a sports team. I ended up canceling the rest of my stay. The response was that the hotel asked the parent/ chaperons to control the kids but they refused to do so. Huh? At that point the hotel should remove the guests from the property not just give up and the inmates run the asylum.

  43. The WiFi at the Hilton Shepherd’s Bush London where I recently stayed was exactly as you describe in your Dublin stay – weak and constantly requiring new logins. I was told by staff that the software was being upgraded, despite the fact that it was a weekend. Another told me it was BT’s fault. They moved me to another room but to no avail. Despite my complaints to hotel staff, I got nothing but apologies.

  44. There’s a Radisson Blu on the airport proper, as well as Clarion. Why did you stay at the Hilton, which is like in the next town?

    We stayed at the Clarion, and found it to be fine.

  45. there were twice at the same marriott hotel that their cleaning lady threw away my bags. what would you do in such case?

  46. last saturday 6/30/2012 at double tree niagara falls hotel in canada, i was charged $100 because they claimed i damaged their wall paper. that was weird — i did not touch it nor see any damaged wall paper.

    any advice on how to defend my innocence? thanks in advance.

  47. Quality of stay complaints are – in my view – things to address with the hotel directly and promptly. For these problems, as long as you are still there they can prove they are willing to work to ensure you have a good stay. Once you’re out the door it becomes quite hard.

    That is not to say that no issues should be escalated. A few years ago I was attacked at the Sheraton Brussels, and the hotel staff indicated it was my fault for being an American ( This merited me escalating to every Sr. Starwood employee I could find.

    Ultimately, you also need to think about what the goal of the complaint is. If you are desiring some form of remediation, then consider what that would look like and whether it is something within the company’s power to deliver.

    In my case – I was hoping for more than a canned letter (which I got), but upon reflecting I doubt anything they could have offered would have made me feel better about the experience. Ultimately, I am again staying at Starwood properties, but it is a grudge I still carry.

  48. I know this is not the most rational answer, but if I am angry enough (i.e. emotional), then I’ll complain. If I just shrug it off, I won’t. Hence, it’s no straight forward answer…

  49. I have a problem. I have been staying at a hotel for over 5 months off and on. But I have spent more money in that hotel that most. Thousands of dollars. Over the 4th of July holiday I stayed again. I was put in a room where the window was screwed shut. No air circulation. Just air conditioner. The bathroom had black mold heavily in the tub. The girl at the front desk was very rude at check in. I had my disabled parent with me. Never complained or had any problem at this hotel. Until this recent stay. I got really sick in the room. The hotel was booked the next two days. I had to leave very sick. We ran the air till the air shut off and then it got hot. The shower temp didn’t work. What do I do?! I contacted the hotel general manager by email. Left a phone call message. What do I do?! I asked for a refund. I should be refunded and given a free stay for all the money spent and for that room.

  50. @Emmilie,
    Did they give you a refund? What hotel chain is it?

    I have been arguing with Double Tree Niagara Falls hilton hotel for over a week. They were so stubborn and rude. So, I wrote to Hilton HQ to complain and threaten I would stop my Diamond Hilton status (I have Platinum status ith Marriott and Starwood so that I do not really need a 3rd elite status with Hilton). Hilton HQ replied their policy was to give 3 business days for the hotel to solve it. So far, it is a week now. I will write to Hilton HQ again next Monday if I still don’t receive any response.

    Anyone has any advice or experience to deal with a hotel that claimed I damaged their wall paper (after I checked out and left)?

  51. Hampton Inn & Suites Newport News (Oyster Point)
    link opens in a new tab.

    12251 Jefferson Ave., Newport News, Virginia, 23602, USA +1-757-249-0001

    Cold coffee in the mornings, not friendly staff at all.
    The amenities shown on the site must be some other hotel, our brunch was served on a folding table paper bowls and plastic forks only. Food was set out like you were would feed your pets. Want a drink, bowl of ice and open up your own 2-liter bottle of choice: coke or coke!
    More but too much to list.

    Horrible place to stay would never recommend this to a friend.

  52. Hampton Inn & Suites Newport News (Oyster Point)
    link opens in a new tab.

    12251 Jefferson Ave., Newport News, Virginia, 23602, USA +1-757-249-0001

    Bad place to stay.

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