How Passive Are You When It Comes To Hotel Service Issues?

Filed Under: Hotels

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?

  1. You didn’t complain because you knew they couldn’t fix it. A word sorry is meaningless without heart and sincerety. Rather than having a compensation you subconciously realised that it is better to write it on your blog. Let others making the establishment suffer for their mistake.

  2. What strikes me most is that you’ve recently been to 3 hotels in Italy and had some kind of problems in all of them.
    I know it’s just a drop in the bucket, but your reviews are a testimony to the fact that my country is steadily losing tourists to other more organized countries…

  3. I learned a long time ago to never do a car hire airport pickup from a hotel. It’s usually the BIL of someone who works there (not a professional driver) and worst, they have no parking privileges so you get to take a hike to the parking structure after a long flight. And they never seem to show up on time and are super hard to find. At least with a taxi one doesn’t have to go on a search mission to locate the driver and a forced march to the hinterlands to their vehicle location. I tend to taxi out of airports and Uber in.
    If hotel service is terrible, I usually decide to never stay there again rather than complain. And if it’s horrendous service then I write it up on TripAdvisor.

  4. Different people have different level of tolerance. I am a bit similar to you when it comes to this.

  5. Something sort of similar happened to me at the Rome Caveleri.

    They have a free shuttle that goes to town every hour or something. Great!

    Girlfriend and I get there early, chat with some other shuttle folks. As we are walking out, I hold the door for an old couple. As it turns out, the old couple directly ahead of me were last on the bus. The ones I held the door for!

    There was no waitlist, no line, no indication that this was a last-to-the-bus-is-a-rotten-egg situation.

    We were given a shrug. Literally just a shrug and told to wait another hour. Ok, no big deal, the concierge will fix it (this is a 5* hotel after all…). I’m convinced the concierge actually looked at me with pure disdain and hatred when I told him what happened. I was assured there was “nothing” he could do.

    The taxi to town is like $5. I was shocked a five star hotel wouldn’t eat that cost to make a customer happy.

    I got super pissed when the concierge was mean, and said basically “oh really? There is NOTHING that could make this better?” And went and talked to the lady who checked us in and basically told her under no uncertain terms that they would buy us a cab down there.

    She fully understood, and told the concierge to pay for our cab, which was a victory in terms of being petty and smug. I was on low sleep from a redeye. And basically just was like “no. You have to get us down there.”

  6. Hotels can and do make mistakes and whether compensation is warranted depends on the situation and personal expectations. What made my blood boil reading your account was their total lack of remorse over their failure to provide a very basic service (eg, an airport transfer).

  7. @lucky as a hotel manager for an intentionally branded hotel I am seeing this from a different perspective and I am very disappointed.
    We coach and train our staff to offer solutions when mistakes are made. It’s okay to make mistakes, but it’s not okay to leave a guest in the lurch and make them sort their own transfer out. If you make a transfer booking with my hotel, we need to take ownership of that booking (even if we subcontract the transfer to another company, which most do) and ensure it’s done. If it’s stuffed up, then a refund on the taxi fare you paid, or a complimentary transfer back to the airport would be an appropriate gesture.
    I know you didn’t expect compensation for this error but the point is the hotel *should* have proactively offered it.
    The fact that they then didn’t offer even an on-property apology (a card from the FOM with a bowl of fruit offering to make it right for example) is further reason to raise the issue up. This also shows me that internally the mistake was never raised to management and was probably kept quiet, in the hope you didn’t complain. If even the Duty Manager had been informed of the error I would like to hope action would have been taken.
    No one wants to spend their whole holiday complaining about the arrival experience, but a quick 3 min chat to the Duty Manager explaining that the stuff up has happened and that you’re disappointed about how it was handled should get something happening.
    I hope they have reached out to you by now to apologise, as there is no excuse for them not seeing your feedback!

  8. Just had an interesting situation in Dubai, Sofitel The Palm. My partner and I had snacks in the club lounge and suddenly my partner felt a splinter in his throat from the chicken skewer. I notified the staff and paramedic was called immediately and the duty manager came and appologized and then the splinter was removed. We were happy and satisfied, but the hotel went well above the expectations… we were offered comped dinner, fruit basket and chocolates. It was an issue, but it was handled in a superb manner…

  9. In general, I’d agree with you that complaints at the hotel are best for when there is something concrete the hotel can do to fix the issue or restore happiness. More general issues (eg, the clumsiness issue you mentioned) I’d save for the inevitable “give us your feedback” email that comes after the visit. Where I’d disagree is that I feel that forgetting to arrange an airport transfer is a bad mess up that is actionable.

    Think about ordering at a restaurant: if the meal comes and something is missing, you’d tell the waiter and s/he’d have the kitchen expedite it. If the restaurant is of a certain caliber, I’d expect the missing item to be comped. The hotel should have both figured out a way to arrange a last-minute airport transfer and made sure you didn’t have to pay; I’d have complained if this didn’t happen.

  10. @Marcello, my wife and I had a great hotel/service experience when we went to Rome. We stayed at the Hotel Majestic Roma (It was a Boscolo property at the time). Our service there was consistently good. We plan to go back.

    @Lucky you are seeing this the wrong way. It’s not about you. You aren’t complaining to get an apology. You are telling the hotel about inadequate service so that they can fix the issue and it doesn’t happen to the next guest. And giving the hotel the opportunity to win your business the next time. When you don’t tell them about the problems, they lose an opportunity to make their product and service better.

  11. Here’s why I think you should be more vocal about addressing service issues:

    1 – As the reader it’s good for us to know how they addressed a situation. I’d be curious to know if this was a one-off mistake or if this was indicative of a hotel with service issues.

    2 – As the proprietor of a hotel/restaurant, i’d want the opportunity to ‘make it right’ then to piss off a customer. I’d much rather be out a $20 bottle of wine then have someone criticize my establishment online (regardless of if its on a highly popular travel blog or via a yelp/tripadvisor post).

    Not complaining about this hotel to the management is (in my opinion) the equivalent of going to a restaurant, ordering a medium steak, getting a rare steak, not saying anything to the waiter about it, eating the steak, then going home and complaining online about the restaurant.

  12. Michaelhotelguy and Eric have it right. It’s not always about you, it’s about the next guy. More important than an apology to you (which I do feel is important), is helping the plight of all the future guests.

    That was a serious issue you had. Rather than give the hotel manager a heads up, you didn’t bother, and then proceeded to give bad publicity for the hotel to about a hundred thousand people (congrats on being a well read blog by the way).

    Did you think the manager wouldn’t care either? Maybe that’s a fair assumption given the pervasiveness of service issues, but it’s one I wouldn’t make.

  13. I consider it immoral to complain about everything, fishing for an unwarranted discount, but Ill see myself horse whipped before I get swindled out of my hard earned vacation time and money.
    A hotel lies to me about an offer and gives me no apologetic response when I arrive? I’m going off snap, crackle, pop. It goes without saying Mom-and-Pop affairs busting their behind to serve are not comparable to major hotels with layers of management and staff. So you adjust expectations, but sincere apologies are appropriate from anyone. Losing time and rest on vacation defeats the purpose. No need to scream over little stuff. I’ve simply said in a calm voice, “I’m sorry but this is unacceptable and I won’t be staying with you.” Document names and times. Negotiate the same price (or close) across the street. Or leave the next day. I’ve saved a couple trips that way. Nobody puts Baby in a corner.

  14. I’m in sicily at Hilton Naxos, next to Catania. I don’t think any employee would notice if I drop dead in front of reception desk or in the restaurant or anywhere of the property. I feel invisible no matter where I am or what time it is. May be it’s italy/ sicily with this problem. I seriously get more notice, A Hello, or how was your day? etc in a Hampton Inn in the US than here with 1000$+ a night rooms.

  15. I think you are wrong in not addressing it. I had an issue with my bill at the Fairmont in DC. Not only was it wrong, when the employee at the desk fixed it, she still got it wrong and she was so slow I had to take a cab to the airport instead of the subway. When I emailed the hotel they did not get back to me the first time. So I emailed a second time. They offered to comp me to the Gold Floor my next time in DC, even if it was in 2018. I always address service issues whether it be hotel, tour, restaurant, cruise or flight. At the least, I am owed an apology, and I have gotten better results than that.

  16. as people have already stated… you need to make the hote aware of these issues… even if you get nothing in return, they can try and make sure it doesn’t happen to other guests in the future! Most hotel staff would want to know at the time, rather than later read about it online.

    and yes anon I couldn’t agree more! waiting for an hourly shuttle bus when there is a $5 cab – hilarious.

    but then i also think spending my evenings in a hotel lounge when I could be exploring a different country is also hilariously sad…

  17. I consider it immoral to complain about everything, fishing for an unwarranted discount, but Ill see myself horse whipped before I get swindled out of my hard earned vacation time and money. Also, saying nothing means you consider it acceptable to happen again and also to the next traveler.
    A hotel lies to me about an offer and gives me no apologetic response when I arrive? I’m going off snap, crackle, pop if they don’t plot a reasonable resolution, like paying for my next ride. We’re not discussing Mom-and-Pop affairs, but major hotels with layers of management and staff. But either way, sincere apologies are appropriate from anyone! Losing time and rest on vacation defeats the purpose. No need to scream over little stuff. If serious levels of bad service are detected, or filthy rooms, I’ve simply said in a calm voice, “I’m sorry but this is unacceptable and I won’t be staying with you.” Document names and times. Negotiate the same price (or close) across the street. Or leave the next day. I’ve saved a couple trips that way.

  18. I think in the specific instance there was not much more the hotel could do except refund the money you paid for the airport transfer and make up any difference in price between the car you took and their price (although I imagine your car was probably cheaper than theirs. You probably would have been more inconvenienced had you waited for them to send a car than just arranging one yourself.

    That’s my approach to service issues, if it’s an issue where the hotel solving the problem would inconvenience me more than resolving it myself, all I need is a sincere acknowledgement of their error. If it’s something that the hotel can and should fix. I’m not going to be satisfied unless they take care of it.

  19. Customer service in Italy was horrible in Catania and Rome for us. Great experience in Florence though. Nice France had an atrocious Airbnb owner. My only bad experience in 35 stays in the past couple years. She was delusional and rude.

  20. I agree with most of the posters here that some issues need to be brought up right away especially so it doesn’t happen to the next person – I’d consider an airport transfer to definitely be one of these. Just imagine a naive traveller who doesn’t speak the language expecting the transfer and then they’re left wandering around a foreign airport vulnerable to all the scam taxis that operate in some places. They paid a significant mark-up for their hotel to handle this – being met with a shrug is not acceptable. I realize of course that Milan isn’t exactly Mogadishu but fouling up a transfer is far worse than low pressure in the shower or a worn out desk.

  21. When lack of attention to detail is the problem in a premium hotel, especially when it is a property of a chained brand, I mention it when checking out. Typically, the front desk in these situations also lack attention to detail, so that’s an extra reason to file a complaint afterwards. For instance, I was not happy about the lousy service in a DoubleTree hotel I India, but not a single fact was worth complaining about by itself. When complaining about the service in general at HHonors, I got a bunch of points as a “service recovery”. My experience is that hotel chains do care about service not being up to international standards.

  22. I’m not a big complainer or raise a big commotion over things but I will relay my issues with hotels or airlines. Often via email, or if they send a survey (as most hotels do now).

    Here are a couple of recent issues:

    1. AA with a 6 hour 20 minute flight delay (mechanical) that delayed my flight departure time from ~530PM to 11:50PM (arrived at my hotel in AZ around 2AM their time, 5 AM my time, nearly a 24 hr day). I sent them a note and ended up with 15,000 miles (good? bad? I honestly don’t know).

    2. Due to the growing delay of the flight above, I made several calls to my destination hotel informing them that I was going to be late, and then also asking to place my girlfriend on the reservation so she could check in without me being there. Somehow (despite dealing with the hotel directly) they still did not place my GF’s name on the reservation. They did eventually let her check in since she had my confirmation # and other information. In this case they also gave me a few miles.

    If a hotel did not provide prearranged transportation I would bring it up directly with the manager and also via any online surveys and, possibly, trip advisor. Usually that kind of transportation is not cheap and screwing it up completely is just not acceptable barring extreme events (e.g., snow storm).

    Back to the hotel issue I had, when I went to speak to the manager the next morning, I was informed no managers were on duty due to some internal meetings. They would be available after 11AM. I’m not in the business but I would have thought there would always be a manager on duty, especially during normal business days.

  23. @ Corey Sacken – Thirty-five stays over approximately 2 years is still not enough to make any generalizations about places for good and bad customer service. All it means is that you’ve been in enough places to run into a fair number of a-holes which can be found in any corner of the globe.

  24. I think you’re missing the mark, a bit, Lucky. I wouldn’t “demand an apology” but simply express disappointment at the service failure or let down. Maybe they would comp a meal or offer some points to your account. Part of what your blog does for me is help me decide where I might like to go one day. But if I don’t know how they deal with service failures when they have one, it really isn’t a helpful review except to steer me away from the property. We are human–we all screw up–but how we respond once we are made away of the goof really tells the true story. For the Il Sereno, when they asked you at check-out how your stay was, simply state there were several service mishaps and that you expected better at such a lovely property…none of them were serious enough to call management at the time but there were so many you are mentioning it now. Simple. Then that can blow you off, apologize, smile and nod, or whatever…but then you can report to your readership how it all played out. I would appreciate it if you would start addressing these issues with your stays. Thanks!

  25. In Europe right now. No issues with hotels but a disaster with car rentals in two places with Hertz and Sixt. I am a top elite member on both and my status was basically ignored. At Hertz in Italy the car I reserved was not available and I was given an inferior car. It had such a bad dent in the rear door that it was difficult to close it. The local Hertz could not care less and basically told me take it or leave it. Got in touch with Hertz on twitter and next day got a call offering to change the car, got a 60% discount on the rate and points for 2 free rentals. On Sixt in Greece the car I reserved had a problem in the rear door and once opened it could not be closed again. I was told I could get a new car but it would cost me more. I took it just so I would not waste time on my vacation but will contact Sixt later to complain. Customer service has become a rare word.

  26. Service is not only about getting it right but also about fixing it (i.e. service recovery) after the fact. Complaining or mentioning a service miss is perfectly appropriate, especially because you permit a hotel (or airline) to recover. Not complaining nor ever mentioning the mishap during your stay or experience precludes the hotel or organizer from any recovery…and also precludes the hotel fro, recognizing it may have a problem it needs to address or fix

    Most people are sheep and never complain…but then whine or complain to everyone after the fact. These people deserve the poor service or experiences they endure becuase they never allow anyone to improve. They also compound the problems by never identifying those in the first place!

    You can complain or mention a problem in a civil, appropriate way. You don’t need to constantly complain. But never complaining is an excuse for the passive aggressive that enables bad behavior and allows that bad behavior to endure. No one benefits from that.

    There’s a reason why reviews have power. But it would be so much more powerful (and enjoyable) if you inform your hotel of a mistake and allow them to rectify that mistake. That also makes it less likely that mistake happens again…or less likely that anyone needs to bother ever staying again at that hotel.

  27. @Lucky, Thank you for such a detailed and thoughtful response to my comment. I wasn’t expecting that!
    I think reader @Pauls98 sums it up well, “Part of what your blog does for me is help me decide where I might like to go one day. But if I don’t know how they deal with service failures when they have one, it really isn’t a helpful review except to steer me away from the property.”
    What I wrote about the Sheraton Como experience wasn’t meant as a criticism of you, I read your blog every day and love it, but rather a way that reviews can be more meaningful and powerful for your readers.

  28. If something’s not a big enough deal for me to raise a problem on my own, then I don’t bother. But if asked, even in a rhetorical “how was your stay?” way, then I will raise it. If the service provider doesn’t want an honest answer to that question, then it shouldn’t be asked. Applied to your scenario WRT the missing driver, I would have responded, “the stay itself was fine, but the driver I booked through your property never showed up. I booked through [insert name] and never really got an explanation or apology from anyone.” At that point, you’ve said your peace.

  29. Depends on what the issue is. Some dust on the nightstand or desk? Not a big deal. I probably wouldn’t bother bringing something like that up unless there’s a pattern of poor housekeeping. But screwing up an airport transfer? That’s a VERY big deal, especially from the perspective of an inexperienced traveler who might have no clue how to deal with such a situation in a foreign country where they don’t speak the language. I absolutely would have made it known that was unacceptable on the spot.

  30. There seems to be an assumption that complaining about service issues will make things better for the next guest – that management wants to get it right. I stay mostly in large tourist cities in Europe where the attitude is that the guest is a “one and done” stay and so this perpetuates lax attitudes about service. The only empowerment I feel after bad events is to never return and to hurt them with a bad online review.

  31. The “hard” product is more important and more objective. First and foremost, peace and quiet is the priority. Noise is the more problematic issue more often than not. Hot environments result in issues with noise and vibration associated with the HVAC units, both units associated with the room and units associated with the hotel. Ultimately the issue is maintenance , or lack of maintenance. End result I do not hesitate to change rooms or change hotels. One Holiday Inn Express was located next to an industrial plant and the vibrations were problematic with no resolution. One Holiday inn hosted a large wedding party and quickly realized the error of booking the teenage girls in the adjacent room resulting in a quick move.

  32. Generally I’m pretty direct in getting something resolved.

    For example, I was staying at a hotel in Milan and the wifi in my room was unusable and I needed to work. I showed the front desk the speed test results from the lobby (great) and my room (less than 1MB)… the hotel then walked me to the 6-7 rooms that were available that night. We ended up having the best up/down speed in the room directly above the lobby. I considered that to be an excellent service recovery.

  33. It shouldn’t be about receiving an apology. It should be about genuine customer service and the assumption that they actually care when things go wrong. If asked, I absolutely would mention the car service issue and, at the other hotel, the multiple minor issues which all served to negatively impact the stay overall. If they comp you something, great. If not, that’s fine, too. Since front-line folks don’t always have the time to jot these notes down, I also tend to email the property directly if I deem the issue big enough (and yes, not booking a pre-arranged car serviecs is big enough) to ensure that hotel management is aware of it.

    That having been said, I think culture plays a HUGE part in how these things are handled. I’ve found that the American concept of “service” just does not apply in many parts of Italy. I don’t know if it’s just the general lack of concern or if it’s a reaction to Americans. What I do know is that our experiences in many touristy and less-touristy parts of Italy have just been sub-par and it’s difficult to get the front-line employees to care.

  34. As you might guess from my screen name I spend a lot of time in hotels. Things do go wrong and I very rarely receive compensation for that but most of the time its not warranted. Here is my opinion:

    If the issue is significant (like forgetting to arrange transportation and then not apologizing or doing anything else to make it right) then I’m going to ask to speak to the GM or failing that the manager on duty and ask for some form of compensation if none is offered. As a general rule I don’t address service issues of any kind with front desk personnel because from what I’ve seen they will tell you they are sorry and that’s the end of that. I feel like most of time complaining to the front desk isn’t worth my time.

    If its a series of issues or something else that I think the hotel needs to be made aware of I will again try to speak to the GM. I often make the point to him that these issues are “canaries in the coal mine” that should be telling him that he possibly has not just an isolated problem but a systemic one or possibly a personnel one. Case in point I checked into the Hilton JFK on my own dime and was upgraded to an Executive floor room as a result of my Gold status. That night I was called multiple times in the middle of the night because someone felt the need to confirm which room I was in. The next morning I spoke about it with the GM and pointed out that the thing to do is not to keep calling a guest in the middle of the night and that the fact they did possibly pointed to a bigger problem. He was apologetic and promised to look into it. Please note I did not ask for any compensation. A few days later I got an email with an apology and to inform me that he had refunded the cost of my stay.

    So yes you need to address service issues with hotels. A.) So that the hotel has a chance to make it right, B.) for the sake of your readers who want to know how the hotel handles it, and C.) For yourself and future guests at the hotel who might have a better experience because you said something.

  35. “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.”

    Based on your statement, I’m not sure if Il Sereno can truly be considered a five star hotel. Five stars is more than just about great location and high quality hardware. Excellent and consistent service is an integral component of a five star designation. These days, I’ve noticed the distinction between a room at a three star hotel and five star hotel is getting smaller and smaller. The key differentiator is service.

    From Forbes travel guide:

    What is the difference between a Five Star, Four Star and Recommended property?

    Forbes Travel Guide’s Star Rating system is made up of the following award categories:

    Five Star Properties: These are outstanding, often iconic properties with virtually flawless service and amazing facilities.

    Four Star Properties: These are exceptional properties, offering high levels of service and quality of facility to match.

  36. I agree with a previous comment that everyone’s tolerance level is different. I also tend to be too passive when it’s all said and done.

    What gets me is that I have friends who will complain about the smallest of things at a hotel such as maybe there is a little bit of mold in the corner of the shower or maybe there are fingerprints on the window, etc. etc. Granted, I know hard-earned money is spent on staying in a hotel but let me tell you, I’ve seen and been in their homes before and the fact that they complain about small items such as this is hilarious given that their homes are dirty and look like pig pins!! I’m not kidding! I guess it’s all relative in some for or fashion.

  37. For me, complaining about the slightest thing requires TIME and ENERGY which I much rather spend on something else while travelling; If I start to call and complain, and talk to the Manager, etc. I feel like I´ve wasted my time and at the end, I end up getting angrier and frustrated. So while on vacation, I try to focus on the positive and ignore the mishaps.

  38. @CJS unless you are staying in a Motel 6, or such, a little bit of mold in the corner of the shower is completely unacceptable.

  39. Youre just too nice and sometimes it bites you in the butt. Next time try to speak up and point out their mistakes and how it made you feel so that they can both improve their service and the next guest will have a better experience.

    Stop being so nice and speak up!!!!!


  40. This makes little sense: “However, most of the issues I experience at hotels aren’t actually “fixable,” but rather just represent a lack of attention to detail.”

    “Lack of attention to detail” in most jobs is a “fixable” or “actionable” issue. The GM simply has to insist that employees pay attention to detail to ensure customer satisfaction or they will be penalized or even fired!!!!

    So, the correct answer is that one needs to lodge a complaint with the hotel or GM whether or not one stands to gain from it personally during THAT stay. The benefit could be that after multiple guest complaints on some aspect of the service, the hotel would catch on and change for the better (by holding employees responsible for laxes).

  41. I still don’t know how Lucky can say what happened wasn’t a “huge” deal. I’m sure if he was older and less technologically savvy he would feel different. I know my father in his late 60s wouldn’t have known how to use his phone to find a taxi. And what if the taxi went to wrong city or the wrong hotel? I’ve had that happen to me even in London with the famed Black Cabs, where a driver was confused by a hotel brand with multiple properties in the same area of London. I think not being picked up is a HUGE deal. Much more so than getting a queen-sized bed or two twi! Beds.

  42. Ironic, as I read this I am about to have a sit down and absolutely own a hotel GM of a Four Seasons here!

  43. @ Lucky – “especially when there’s nothing that can be done to directly fix them”

    This one sentence in the article drew my attention. You value reward points. You value discounts. You value upgrades. You value experiences. I know it from reading your other posts. This is simply not true.

    1. It depends who in the hotel you talk with. You need to talk with someone in decision making power. As someone else said, you are not staying at low end hotels, like a Motel 6.

    2. They do have the power at the hotel level to give you bonus points and you could earn quite considerably, as well as the fact that they could give you upgrades or other hotel perks in lieu.

    This doesn’t just apply to hotels, but also to airlines, too, such as if dealing with bag fees or other problems that occur (e.g. sometimes these days for premium economy one pays for the exact seats they chose).

    Sure, these things do not make up for what happened, but at least you are properly compensated.

    I will tell you a brief story.

    I once gave up my seat on a flight. An exit row. Then, I would have to change planes and not have an exit seat. The agent said $600. I requested $1000 – it was ten minutes before boarding. She had no other volunteers. I requested business class. I argued in the origin when I had to change planes anyway they offered $600. She dealt with it. I had a choice of routes. I chose. I got business class. Then, a problem occurred with the second flight being oversold (and was not part of the same alliance) and had to change planes again with a long connection time and finally my luggage did not accompany me at the final destination so I had to go back to the airport later to reclaim my bags. I ended up getting about 60k bonus points in smaller increments. I won’t share how exactly it transpired in public and it did take work, but I was compensated. Email me or message me and I’ll share the details.

  44. I’m like Lucky, in that I don’t like to complain about things that can’t be rectified. However, I also have a belief/attitude that the staff members at hotels want to do things correctly. So, here’s what I would have done when checking in… I would have acted like they really should know that this happened, since “I’m sure they wouldn’t want it to happen again.” I’d go on to try to get the person checking me in to agree that this wasn’t the way the hotel normally conducted business. I’d ask if I could leave a message for the manager… or speak with them directly. My aim would be to let it be known that this was not acceptable practice. But, you need to know that I’m in my 60s, have traveled and lived internationally with my children (earliest flight was with our daughter, two weeks old, Denver to Jakarta…), and view any hotel as my however-temporary home and any employee as a member of the family…

  45. Ben I would have done the same thing. It feels small-minded to dwell on it and demand an apology, particularly after the fact. Same goes for the other Como hotel that was a series of small errors. If they send you a satisfaction survey via email though, that’s definitely the time to (constructively) let it rip though.

  46. Just this past week I for the first time notified a hotel brand of lackluster service at one of its licensed locations. I wasn’t even expecting all that much, but it was a business class hotel with an international brand’s name on the marquee so you I figured there was a certain baseline of service. No hot water, no internet (wireless or no), an A/C stuck at 58 degrees (pleasantly brisk upon walking into the room, downright chilly 10 minutes on!), and spectacularly bitchy desk staff all combined to be a bit more than I was willing to tolerate. One or two of these, sure. All? No.

    I wrote in to the loyalty program detailing the issues and within a few days quietly received quite a few points added to my account. No correspondence back, just points dropped in. I guess it’s a win? I’m in the Manhattan neighborhood of this hotel at least once a month, thank goodness there are plentiful other options. Points or no points, I have no desire to face down the desk staff at the first place!

  47. @Daniel I cracked up when I read your post. The Calaveri is NOTORIOUS for its overloaded shuttle and they clearly don’t give a sh*t, although a taxi into Rome is more like 12-14 Euros, not $5. We knew when we arrived that the shuttle was a problem and we rushed one night to catch the last shuttle back to the hotel only to find it over capacity. We decided never again — and took taxis too and from town, gladly adding about 60 euros per day to our stay, but increasing our enjoyment immensely.

    Meanwhile the concierge will smile and send you to overpriced tourist traps that they are paid to support. After being told one night that there were no restaurants near our destination, we went online and found a wonderful restaurant that clearly did not cater to tourists that treated us fabulously, including giving my wife a bottle of wine as a birthday gift on the way out.

    On the other hand the property is beautiful, the breakfast (included for diamonds) is incredible, most of the staff are very nice and the grounds are a wonderful respite from Rome in the summer (my wife was a teacher – so that’s when we traveled – like it or not).

    So, I groused and let it be. Like @Lucky, I have better things to do than complain unless it’s awful

  48. I have been working for seven years with three of the global five stars, this is a hick up that cannot happen. Who knows what purpose you are traveling for? Time constraints? Hotel should take this more serious. In general I am more similar about complaints, if it doesn’t change the situation, no need top make a big deal, but as a professional in the industry it is an alarm about something very wrong. Average Joe does not book hotel cars, the people who do has higher expectations that can damage the brand image as well as put the guest in a bad situation.

  49. “Matt says:
    July 24, 2017 at 6:44 pm
    Ironic, as I read this I am about to have a sit down and absolutely own a hotel GM of a Four Seasons here!”

    @matt. Update us please how it went. Thnx

  50. Always try to have the issue addressed at the property as that is the best and easiest way to do recovery. Upgrade is one way (and cost the lowest, as it is harder to sell a nice expensive suite last min – which will go empty if unsold), else complimentary transfer to the airport (esp if there are hotel cars – which may once again not be in use), comp wines, free spa treatment, etc (stuff which they charge high, but are in fact low in cost)
    Once u are out of the property, the stay experience is completed. It is harder to make it up, and most of the time it has to involve some cash, since they can no longer perform any service for u.

    So i would try my best to let the hotel showcase their recovery, and if the junior staff cannot make decision, i may ask to speak to a manager. If it all fails, then we can consider recovery to be addressed after the stay.

  51. Generally speaking, based on my experience, hotel chains are better in terms of service recovery, than individual hotels. Individual hotels often take the position “we always did it like that”. No/poor internet: Twenty years ago you didn’t have internet at all. Poor bed: Your problem if you are spoiled. Etc.

    I recently had an argument with a very senior destination manager in Europe, telling me that chains drive up cost and drive down revenues … and that basically I’m acting irresponsibly by advocating chains. Needless to say, I’m glad to advocate chains here and now!

  52. Me thinks Lucky is one of those people who don’t complain because they avoid conflict and verbal conversations. I’ve seen a couple of other people comment that they’d rather send an email. It’s also much easier to blog at 2 a.m. about a hotel than it is to speak with the general manager.

  53. Ben,

    By all means it does not mean complain about every little thing.

    But so many travelers let things go, hotel, airlines, car services, taxi’s don’t improve and service only goes downward when travelers just grumble and move forward.

    Even if there is no recovery, if we all just let it go, nothing will improve. Of course as one guest said above, in 4 and 5 stars, there should be a recovery, if not compensation, but even something nice takes the sting out.

    Perhaps that experience years ago from our boat 10 miles out, with a failed engine, failed radio and only 2 life jackets, taught us a valuable lesson. After that event, the entire island, all boats had to be certified with the proper working equipment and one life jacket for each passenger. We certainly made a big complaint to the government and they took action.

    For all those other travelers after us, at least they received safe boats. Pay it forward? I don’t know, its just our policy, what we can do, we should try to do it.

    After this place we’re all gonna go someplace and it certainly will be nice to have done some good here.


  54. …and Ben
    Certainly for you in your position as a full time traveler, you should be an advocate for all travelers including those in your blogs, and insist on corrections and not let travel wrongs go by.

  55. @Eric – you’re probably right. I should probably speak up on items such as mold in a shower.

  56. Lucky, you’re absolutely correct. It’s totally passive aggressive to complain about it on the blog. Apart from a few strange sorts, no one likes to complain. However, the least they could have done is knock off the price of the taxi hire from your bill, or reimburse the same to you in cash.
    However if you don’t complain on check in, it’s no point going passive aggro on the blog. Unless it’s your strategy to get page interactions.

  57. @CJS mold in a shower is a health issue. And what else is not clean if the cleaning staff is letting that slide?

    Last week, my family and I traveled home after 2 weeks in Europe. We flew Delta One on the AMS-DTW route. This is normally a great route. The planes are in good condition and the FA’s are professional and very friendly. Unfortunately, the IFE in both my daughter’s seats was acting up. The sound system was making a quite loud, repetitive clicking noise. To the point where you could not watch a movie and enjoy it. Let the Purser know. She swapped out headsets, reset the IFE, etc. Checked herself to see what was happening. When she couldn’t fix the problem, she apologized profusely to my daughters and then gave them each 15K miles in their Delta accounts. And wrote it up for the maintenance crew to fix.

    If I didn’t say anything about it, then no one would know those IFE’s have a problem and need to be fixed.

  58. I’m not sure how long in advance you book a hotel, but as someone who works in travel business, we always “reconfirm” with the hotel within 72hrs of the guests’ check-in date to make sure all arrangements are settled, especially if transfers are involved.

  59. I worked in customer service my whole career and you are not doing any hospitality business a favor by not complaining!
    I always asked my clients to tell me about issues they had immediately. If it was “fixable” like you pointed out, the service provider can make up for it.
    But even when it wasn’t “fixable”, I always wanted to know, so we can make changes to prevent it from happening again. We are all human and make mistakes, but good businesses (or smart people) don’t make the same mistake twice! By telling a business about a mistake, you help them to prevent making it twice.

  60. Well, I gotta say, your blogging about Italy has made me want to go there marginally less. I don’t consider myself picky by any means, but I have zero patience for people in the service industry screwing up so spectacularly that they forget to send you something you paid for.

    But yes, I agree with the other commenters, Ben – it would be awesome if you bring more service issues to properties’ attention, because we want to see how they deal with them. In your particular case, I’d expect a reimbursement of the taxi fare, for example. The entire experience cost you time and money and frustration and potentially anxiety, and this was both a vacation and an anniversary – it’s important for a hotel to make it right somehow.

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