Reader Niko left an interesting comment on my review of the Sheraton Lake Como:
@Lucky I wish you would be a less passive in pushing for service recovery when things don’t turn out great. Of course things go wrong in travel, but when a major hotel chain doesn’t send a pre-booked car, I think you should call them out on it. Then your readers can make a better judgement on the hotel/flight or whatever, when we see if the organisation does make an effort to do some service recovery or whether they just shrug and reveal contempt to their paying customers.
In a 2 star Ibis I wouldn’t expect anything more than a ‘sorry’, but in the 4 and 5 stars hotels you stay at, mostly they can, and should do better.
This was in reference to arranging a car through the hotel, though them forgetting to send it:
I had arranged a car from the airport to the hotel directly with the hotel prior to our stay. The cost for this was marginally less the cost of a car service if booked at the airport, and it’s always nice to have someone waiting in the arrivals area for you, to expedite everything.
Even though I had confirmed this by email, the hotel forgot to actually arrange it. When we arrived we spent 20 minutes looking around the arrivals area for someone with a sign with my name on it (since it’s Italy, I figured there was a chance they were running late). Then we went to the food court to eat (since we were hungry after our service-less TAP flight), and then I called the hotel.
The associate said he’d call me right back after investigating. He called me back 15 minutes later and said “we forgot to arrange it… sorry.” So we arranged a car through the airport taxi desk. Hotels make mistakes, but what disappointed me was that the hotel didn’t make any effort to apologize when we arrived. I wasn’t expecting compensation, or anything, but an acknowledgement like “I’m so sorry about that,” or an email from the lady who had confirmed my car reservation, would have gone a long way. But no one said anything.
I think this is a topic that’s interesting to write about in general, and not just specific to the above situation. I’ll admit that I’m passive when it comes to complaining at hotels.
If I have a specific issue that can be fixed, and where there’s a chance for service recovery, I’ll let the hotel know, because that’s only fair.
But it’s everything else that I struggle with, really. I don’t want to spend my time at hotels complaining and escalating situations, especially when there’s nothing that can be done to directly fix them. At the same time, I realize the challenge is that I blog about hotels, so when I write about it here, it almost seems a bit passive aggressive to mention it here but not in person.
Take the above situation, for example, where the hotel forgot to send the pre-arranged car. It wasn’t a huge deal, though it did waste some of my time, and I think someone at the hotel at least acknowledging they screwed that up at check-in would have been nice. But I also realize this is largely a conference hotel, and attention to detail isn’t their specialty.
So was I disappointed by their lack of any sort of acknowledgement? Yes. But at the same time I would have felt even weirder asking for a manager and demanding an apology for this, when there’s nothing I specifically wanted out of it.
For the last half of our time at Lake Como we stayed at Il Sereno, which is a true five star hotel. The hotel is gorgeous, but service was comically bad for a hotel of this caliber. The problem is that it wasn’t that there was one specific actionable issue, but rather service was just consistently clumsy. Over a dozen service issues happened over three days, ranging from them screwing up reservations to getting a room service order completely wrong to not managing expectations well.
Individually none of those things were that bad, so I didn’t really view many of the issues as “actionable.” The service was just really lackluster all around.
This is what makes complaining at hotels awkward for me. When you check out of a hotel and they ask “how was everything?” I’d feel dumb saying “fine, except I arranged an airport transfer and no one ever apologized to me,” or “the hotel is lovely, but there were over a dozen minor service issues, none of which individually are a big deal, but when you add them all…”
I know hotels would rather you give them an opportunity to fix things while on property. However, most of the issues I experience at hotels aren’t actually “fixable,” but rather just represent a lack of attention to detail.
What’s your approach to complaining about service issues at hotels? Do you only bring issues to a hotel’s attention if they’re serious and actionable, or do you think it’s worth sharing feedback beyond that?