Check out my suite upgrade!

I checked into a Westin this afternoon (curious to see how many of you can figure out which it is based on the above picture), and decided to follow the advice of the majority. A couple of weeks ago I asked you guys whether you carry around your elite cards, and whether you present them when checking into a hotel. I did for the reasons outlined in that post, though I decided not to today.

The conversation at check-in went something like this:

Agent: “I have your Starwood Preferred Guest membership on file.”
Me: “Great, do you by chance have any room upgrades available today?
Agent: “Yes, we have you in a king deluxe room.”
Me: “I appreciate it, but do you have any suite upgrades?”
Agent: “That is a suite.”

Okay, I assume she knows more about the hotel she works at than I do, so I wasn’t about to argue with her. For what it’s worth there at least a dozen suites left for sale on the hotel’s website, so I had no reason to believe she wasn’t being honest about the upgrade.

But I went to the room only to find the deluxe room pictured above. For what it’s worth she also didn’t offer me a Platinum amenity, so I said “and could I also get the continental breakfast as the Platinum amenity, please?” She responded with “well you do get free high speed internet access, but yeah, you could get that too,” as if I was somehow asking for a favor. Interestingly even though they had the Platinum key cards visible on the desk, she gave me a regular one.

At Starwood hotels I’m usually lied to about the availability of suites, and not whether or not I was assigned one.

This is a case where I should have called her out on it but at the end of the day I’m staying alone and had a schedule to keep up with this afternoon, and didn’t want to waste more time. Blogging about it is a whole different story, of course. šŸ˜‰

Has anyone else ever been lied to about being assigned a suite? Still not sure whether it’s because she didn’t think I was a Platinum or what…

Filed Under: Hotels, Starwood Preferred Guest
  1. It seems quite common that Starwood hotels deny the suite upgrade despite availability. Maybe it’s time for SPG to either clarify the benefit further or just admit that the benefit doesn’t exist. It’s frustrating having to fight for it!

  2. I’m not in your league with travel!! But had a funny/sweet incident last night with a Hilton Diamond upgrade. I don’t usually bother asking for upgrades, since I’m often just staying 1 night and wouldn’t have time to enjoy it. So last night I did my usual web-checkin for what turned out to be a not very busy Homewood Suites. When I arrived, the clerk apologized and said, “I see you’ve already checked in, but I’d like to upgrade you to our biggest suite. Would that be ok?” šŸ™‚ I said of course. I ended up with 4 beds, 5 phones, 3 rooms…. Nice kid at that front desk.

  3. Who wants to tweet SPG, then have to change rooms every time they visit an SPG property?

    I was thinking about trying to work on status with SPG but Ben’s posts are making me question the value. Maybe it’s a skewed view but it sure seems like every time he stays in one of their properties they deny him the benefits. So, what’s the point? (startpoints I guess!)

  4. Niagara Fallsview Marriott a few days ago. I’m platinum. Paid for deluxe fall view on high floor. Asked about upgrade upon check-in and was told that I could upgrade to a suite for $40. I reworded and asked about a complimentary upgrade and the check-in agent said, “oh, we don’t have any upgrades available.” I asked what about the room you just offered for $40 and he made up some story about how the room would be a couple of floors lower, blah, blah, blah.

  5. I agree with the others – Westin Bellevue. That looks like the corner room. Even they have put me there before, and I don’t have any status with SPG. Hope you got a quiet floor, weekend could be quite a party there..

  6. @ Brett — As much as I pick on Starwood, if I could only be loyal to one hotel chain it would be them.

    I find Hyatt does a better job of managing expectations and find their Diamond benefits better, though they just don’t have enough hotels yet to make them a primary chain, in my opinion.

    Platinum qualification for Starwood is among the easiest top tier qualifications, especially if you have both Starwood AmEx cards, as that gets you four stays and 10 nights towards status just for having the cards.

    And while they don’t always deliver on all their benefits, on the whole I love their hotels, they have confirmed suite upgrades five days out for hitting 50 nights, and in Asia elite recognition is typically excellent.

  7. Here’s my question about situations where you’re dealing with spg upgrade issues. Why don’t you just say “okay we could just do this now or I could tweet to spg and come back in 20 minutes and get the upgrade”? It seems pointless to go through putting your stuff down, making a trip back to the desk, etc. If they know they’re going to be getting a call from spg in 10 minutes they might just cave. Of course it’s ridiculous that you have to do this at all but given the tools available, this seems like the most painless route.

  8. I stayed at JW Marriott in DC in August, one night on the government rate ($169). I am Platinum. During check-in I asked if there are any suites available. The guy first said there is a fee to upgrade to the suite, but I replied that for Platinum members it was supposed to be a benefit. Then he looked at his computer and said that he needs to check something. He left for 10 minutes and when he came back he said “I worked my magic, here is your room key”. When I walked in to this suite (Washington), my jaw has dropped and the only thing I could say was “wow”. It turns out that he gave us a Presidential suite with access to the roof, etc, etc. It seems that the night in this suite goes to $5K-$7K/night. It was really memorable. I think they didn’t expect any CEO that night and the guy on the check-in had a really good day, since I don’t understand why he did it. Unfortunately, I didn’t record his name – I wanted to send a “thank you” e-mail to hotel’s manager.

  9. @ Nat Arem — Well in this case I assumed the agent was being honest. I’ve been denied suite upgrades when they were available, but never have I been told that I’ve been upgraded to a suite when it in fact wasn’t. But yeah, otherwise definitely not worth going to room first.

  10. I’ll have to take a closer look! I just started consulting again so I’m trying to figure out my strategy. Since it’s late in the year I figure I can think on it till the new year. But I think in the near term I could get Priority Club Platinum and I’m hoping to get SPG gold by swapping between two Starwood properties each day for a couple weeks…

  11. I don’t know why you have this problem Lucky. Granted i have had a Starwood ambassador since it was a pilot program, but i never have to fight for suite upgrades, i am usually pre-booked into a suite on the day of arrival and see it on the SPG app before i even arrive. It is mostly franchised properties not managed by Starwood where i find the benefits lacking.

    But even before having an ambassador who looks after me, i really never had a problem. I generally find Starwood to be very proactive in offering their elite benefits at check-in.

  12. If that is the Bellevue westin, I’ve had nothing but great service ad have gotten upgrades to the balcony rooms which are like jr suites or the corner suites which are one big room but one of my favorite I’ve stayed in due to the view, bathroom and space. Much better than the suites at the westin Seattle.

  13. So, going back to your original test … do you think you would have been treated any differently by this agent if you would have presented your card? Doesn’t sound that way to me.

  14. Not a suite upgrade, but a couple of weeks back, I was checked into a Westin by a very friendly front desk agent. She assigned me to a room, but when I reached upstairs, I found that none of the lights worked. Totally dark. So I went back to the front desk and another rather reluctant lady “assisted” me. When I told her the situation, she refused to believe me, as if I were lying about the room being completely dark. Finally the first agent who had been serving another guest swung by, recognized me by name, and asked me what was wrong. At that point, the other agent began to pay more attention and got around to assign me another room. Not as egregious as some of the other horror stories but quite rude just the same.

  15. On multiple occassions at different SPG properties, we have experienced both issues you pointed out:
    1) stating that we have been upgraded when in fact it appears just like a regular room.
    2) claiming that upgrades are not available when in fact they are

    This appears to be the rule rather than the exception. The reasons why SPG gets away with it are because people really like some of their brands and are too tired/frustrated to argue with someone at the front desk.

  16. If that is the Westin Bellevue and the Hyatt is nearby then I have a good story about the Hyatt in Bellevue. My wife likes to have the beds on the left side of the room and they really don’t know which rooms have that so the agent took me up to multiple floors and we looked at 5 rooms before we found one with beds on the left. He just kept opening rooms that he knew weren’t occupied. I do have Diamond status but I got the impression that he would have done it for anyone that asked. He didn’t offer any suites or tell me that my regular room was a suite, thankfully. Hope that is in Bellevue and we get you up here in the Pacific Northwest soon.

  17. Booked a deluxe ocean view room at the westin Maui for my honeymoon last year. When I checked in they said they upgraded my room… To a deluxe ocean view room. When I asked why I didn’t get upgraded, and that this was the room I booked, they said it was an upgrade as it was a better “version” of the room. Not the way I wanted to kick off my honeymoon as a spg platinum member

  18. I would say the hotel clerk truly did not know which rooms were the suites or she following that hotel’s protocol, so that she would not lose her job and livelihood.

    It does not sound too sinister to me.

  19. I take/show my card as of this year – it made a huge difference! Not just with room upgrades, but with ammemities, I hate having to ask for breakfast vouchers or Club levels.

    It makes me wonder if their system even shows what your level is…

    This also helps if you have to pull rank on a crowded desk with long lines.

  20. Interesting. I guess I’ll have to start carrying my card for Starwood stays. Hyatt/Hilton/IHG have never failed to recognize my status without a card, but Starwood failed to earlier this week — as evidenced by the key card holder. Perhaps their system doesn’t show it on the primary screen… Hard to imagine, but possible.

  21. I am only a gold SPG but have often gotten suite upgrades, or at worst, really nice rooms– even when booking with points. I wonder if there is any bias (in favor of) upgrading women? When I travel for biz I don’t do anything special, just ask if they have something “nice” available and it usually works, and I’ll even get a suite about a third of the time. When I travel to Europe for vacation with my boyfriend (I always use points for these stays) I sometimes post on their FB wall and mention I am looking forward to my upcoming stay on x date. They must note it somewhere because I’ve gotten some crazy nice rooms/suites even when booking the lowest category with points.

  22. Sheraton, Seattle. I was travelling with family and lots of luggage. I had reserved an oversized/corner room. Far from getting an upgrade (SPG Gold), I was given the smallest room with the rate for over sized one. When I called the front desk, the gentleman insisted that I was in the correct room; I politely asked for a supervisor, who confirmed that I was indeed given a standard (wrong) room. She then asked me if I would like to have the room that I had reserved. Duh! No offer for any points for the hassle. Later in the evening I talked to a different supervisor, who gave 2000 points.

  23. My favorite is the Caesars Group. Under you name on the reservation they will put a line :
    Nothing like having to look at that when you check in; and settle up your folio. But, casino weekend suite upgrades are much more complicated than hotel reward programs.

  24. The misrepresentation or misinterpretation of elite benefits by the properties is why Starwood is fast becoming my least favorite chain. Hope SPG has lurkers who monitor your blog and realize the immense illwill these properties are generating.

  25. This is my problem with SPG, this happens to me more often than not – and I get tired of having to fight for what should be a provided loyalty benefit.

    That is why I now give my business to Hyatt (where I am a Diamond), and when there is no Hyatt, I go with Marriott, which by the way I find better treatment as a Gold at Marriott than a Plat at SPG.

  26. did you tweet spg? i think we still need to use all the resources available to keep the hotel honest, even more for the chain loyal and so most profitable customers.

  27. Happens all the time with me. SPG platinum too. Westin I believe are notorious for being rude. In the 7-8 westin stays this year, I am yet to have a nice one. Sheratons on the other hand are usually nice.
    Had an incident at Westin Chicago Mag mile where they refused to let me use milk for my cereal in their continental breakfast area saying that only X dollars of food was allowed. I was like WTF??

  28. As a quick follow up, SPG Tweeted me last night and said they forwarded me feedback to the hotel, and 10 minutes later I got a call from the front desk manager.

    At first it seemed like he didn’t really “get it.” He explained I had already received a double upgrade, though I explained to him that the benefit was to receive an upgrade to the best available room upon availability, including standard suites.

    He offered to move me to a suite, which was appreciated.

    More than anything else I learned the usual lesson — SPG’s Twitter folks ROCK.

  29. @Erik-not really. She sleeps on the left side of the bed and likes to be away from the window, if possible. Maybe there is a little OCC there…:).

  30. Platinum and NEVER get upgraded to a suite. I don’t get upset about it anymore because I don’t think its an attainable benefit..not something that is truly offered unless you are willing to spend hours fighting for it.

  31. 1) Westin Bayshore(?) Vancouver
    2) I can’t believe I’m in PHL now, haha.
    3) That hotel (in my experience) is TERRIBLE with upgrades (suite or otherwise). Mainly, because the agents are trained to tell guests that “all our rooms are suites.” Obviously that’s not the case, but in my two or three attempt I have yet to win a battle. Oh well… C’est la vie.

  32. 150 nights at Hyatt and Spg so far this year. 2/3 SPG. Hyatt has been great at upgrades and suites. I am oh for over 100 nights at SPG since I became plat last year. I even paid for a suite in London and got a room with a hallway they called a second room…if Hyatt had more convenient properties thy could have all my business. I got an upgrade at a Marriott with only 12 nights stayed with no status… sPG doing what they can to not earn my business.

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