Do You Call Out Hotels That Fake Upgrade?

Filed Under: Hotels

Last night I drove from Tampa to West Palm Beach, which was an adventure in and of itself.

A four hour flight feels like five minutes to me, while a four hour drive feels like the Oregon Trail to me (and not the fun — at least in fourth grade — video game version).

I decided to stay at the Hilton West Palm Beach Airport for one night, because, well… it’s the only thing that was available. You know you’re in for fun when the hotel markets itself this way:

Enjoy a beach lifestyle at Hilton Palm Beach Airport, one of the more stylish hotels in West Palm Beach, Florida.

One of the more stylish hotels, you say? In that case, I’m in!

Lobby Area

I drove up to the hotel and wanted to ask the bellman about the parking situation. He was standing inside the door on the phone, I thought we made eye contact, so I figured he’d come outside when he finished his phone call. He didn’t, despite looking at me.

I went into the lobby, and the agent thanked me for being a Diamond guest. I thanked him and asked if they had any Diamond upgrades available, and he said “oh, we’ve already upgraded you to a double bed superior room.”


That’s funny, because that’s exactly what I booked.

And I told him that.

And he just pretended it never happened.


On the plus side, he gave me a voucher for a free drink, and a second voucher for a choice between a free drink, appetizer, or dessert.


So I went down to the lobby bar and sat there for about 15 minutes.

I then walked up to the bar and asked if there was any service. She said the server would be by shortly, and gave me a menu in the meantime.

I sat there for another 15 minutes without even seeing a server, at which point I just left and ordered room service instead.

Anyway, my point isn’t just to rant… instead, it’s to…

…actually, maybe it’s just to rant.

But it does bring up something which happens just about every other Hilton stay for me.

I ask about the possibility of an upgrade, and am then informed that I’ve “already been upgraded to [insert room type which I booked].”

There are a lot of things you can fake in life — Lord knows there was enough “faking” going on in the hotel room next to mine last week — but upgrades ain’t one of them!

Has anyone else faced this? Do you just smile and say “awww, thanks,” or do you call them out on it?

  1. I find it hugely irritating when hotels do this. The Sofitel San Fran does this to me almost every time. I usually book a junior suite there, and at check-in, they say, “We’ve gone ahead and upgraded you to a junior suite.” They even say it in a way that is supposed to make me feel guilty for the upgrade. And yes, I always correct them and tell them that’s what I booked.

  2. A hotel that does this is insulting your intelligence. Highly annoying, totally unprofessional and definitely worth complaining about. I would require a real upgrade to make up for it.

  3. We’ve pointed it out politely when it’s really obvious. I do get the impression that front desk clerks are just regurgitating the standard line of thank-you-for-your-loyalty patter and are often not even aware that the “upgrade” they describe is something that we’re entitled to by status or else have already paid for.

  4. Yes, been there last week in UK… at two Hilton hotels been laid to, that they do not have any rooms for HH Diamond upgrade left… but on webpage, all rooms were still avail for sale…

  5. Like you, I have generally only had this consistent level of “service” from Hilton. I’ve fought it but to no real avail. I just try to keep them out of my hotel plans–keeps me much more at ease

  6. But upgrades aren’t even a published benefit at Hilton, are they? I mean, I guess it’s fine to say “no, that’s actually what I booked,” but you shouldn’t have any expectation of an actual upgrade.

  7. Every Hilton is different. I am currently at the Lyon Hilton. 6 days before my arrival, I got an e-mail asking me if there were any special requests. As a gold, I had a choice of breakfast in the club or at the Brasserie. The hostess at the Brasserie greeted me by name and made me feel welcome.

    I have had similar experiences at the Beijing Airport Hilton (regularly get upgraded to a suite) and at one of the downtown Beijing properties near the embassy district.

    Perhaps Diamonds are a little too spoiled and full of themselves.

  8. I think this is totally deliberate, most of us are culturally ingrained to feel a little guilty about complaining and seeming like whingers.

    And yet, the way some many corporates run themselves these days nothing happens unless you do complain. The only rational behavior therefore is to do just that and complain. The reluctance to complain is essentially an emotional response and in this situation you should feel no compunction to be nice to them when they are treating you like rubbish.

  9. I don’t assume the front desk can see what I booked vs what I’ve been assigned (perhaps the back office took care of the upgrade earlier…). So when they tell me I’ve been upgraded to the room I actually booked, I just let them know that that was what I booked, and ask if anything better is available. Probably seven times out of ten there isn’t, so I sincerely thank them for looking and go to my room. I try never to be the DYKWIA that I’m so embarrassed for when I see them ranting about their elite status.

  10. I’ve stayed at that very hotel. The price is usually very reasonable compared to anything in West Palm Beach itself and especially compared to the island, and everything is only about 5 minutes away. They do give you a complete hot breakfast, everything from the buffet and will make omelets to order if you ask, so the breakfast is nice.

    There are acres and acres of self parking in front of the hotel so maybe they didn’t expect an able-bodied young man to want valet parking.

    I have to laugh about the description of it being stylish. Maybe it was stylish in the 1970’s.

    I’ve also never gotten an upgrade there. When I asked about that I learned that they have like 1 or 2 suites in the whole hotel and all the rooms are the same size. Just about the only thing that varies is 2 double beds vs. 1 king. Since the view is mainly the parking lot on one side, and the man-made lake and I-95 on the other…. really not much to offer.

    It’s totally workable if you have business or entertaining to do in the area, but you wouldn’t want to plan to hang at the hotel all day

  11. I’ve had something happen at the Highlands Inn. I used a DSU to get a townhouse suite, and then was told when I checked in that “because of my Diamond status, we’ve upgraded you to one of our townhouse suites”. I suppose it’s technically true that the upgrade was due to my status (e.g. I couldn’t have had a DSU to use were I not Diamond). However, the way it was said made it sound like it would be complimentary and that perhaps my DSU might be refunded. It wasn’t.

    Also, when he first started his “we’ve upgraded you” routine, I thought maybe they had put me into a higher caliber suite than what my DSU had already confirmed me into. Nope. Not a great aftertaste from the way I felt by their thinking they were doing me a favor.

  12. PS: I don’t think they have ever lied to me about being upgraded. At best it means the top floor or an executive room which may have nicer furniture. But they were frank that all the rooms are the same size and they don’t have suites to upgrade to.

    Think 1970’s modular architecture. And I think there’s a plaque in the building that it is owned by a redevelopment agency. The most creative design a government agency can do. Probably a bit of Florida graft involved by overpaying a developer for the land.

  13. Call them out on it. Maybe, eventually, they will stop with the lies, if enough people complain.

  14. At Intercontinental Bali now. Booked club duplex . Usually get 1 level upgrade as platinum Ambassador . Checked website 2 weeks ago which said Uluwatu suite (2 level upgrade ). At check-in today they proudly told me that upgraded me to a Balinese suite ( 1 level upgrade). I told them that was a downgrade. When I pulled out the paper from the reservation that said Uluwatu, they started making excuses but eventually gave me 2 one hour massages as goodwill gesture.

  15. @ Andrew — With Hilton upgrades are based on availability and at the hotel’s discretion. Just to clarify, my issue isn’t the lack of an update, but rather being told I was upgraded when I wasn’t. “No, we don’t have any available” would have been an acceptable answer, as I’m not technically entitled to one. Just don’t tell me I was upgraded when I wasn’t.

  16. Just curious to see if anyone has, after being “upgraded” to the room you booked, then asked whomever helped you to cancel the reservation, book a regular (cheaper) room, and then take the upgrade to the suite/better room you initially booked.

    I feel like if they’re going to take credit for “upgrading” me then i should pay a nightly rate of the room below.

    I clearly understand this is quite petty, but in some instances I’d assume it would also save a good amount of money.

  17. There is a chance that there are better rooms within the same category and maybe you were assigned one of those. Sometimes it’s renovated vs. non-renovated or nice view vs. dumpster view.

    @GEM – I work in a front office (not Hilton) and through my system I can tell what the person booked vs. what they are blocked into, I assume Hilton would use a similar system. When you get someone saying they booked a suite when infact they booked a Handicap King it helps to know what exactly they booked.

  18. Upgraded in Hilton terms can mean a higher floor, away from the elevators, etc.

    Also, if I understand it right that, at most hotels, the back of the house usually allocates rooms for elites morning-of.

    Check-in agents are probably told that elites are generally upgraded without really being aware of what was booked vs. what was delivered.

  19. Last night I was “upgraded” at a Hilton as a diamond from a king bed city view to two queen beds harbor view on a low floor. I was there for one rainy night a and the view was of a loading dock. Should’ve complained but it was one night.

  20. Driving in Florida is bad all around.
    The landscape is a little too flat for my taste.
    The turnpike is OK but anything else (interstates and byroads) are either uncomfortable to drive or have terrible traffic.
    I feel your pain.
    I used to drive Tampa to Orlando and back several times a week for a few years.

  21. Ben, I’ve stayed at that hotel multiple times for multiple days while on business. All the rooms are the same.

    Did you get a higher floor? Away from Elevator? Corner?

    Any of those are an upgrade. I always get the water/highway view rather than the parking lot – also an upgrade.

    Breakfast IS good. The hotel IS old.

    I think service has been slowish as usually the restaurant is understaffed but I kept myself busy reading on my iPad and really lost track of time. It never was busy so never a big deal.

    There are other properties nearby, but I always went back there for the predictability factor. Oddly reliable and easy in and out.

  22. Doesn’t Starwood generally put keycards for Platinums into a sleeve which has “You’ve been upgraded!” printed right on the sleeve? Even when you got exactly the room you booked?

  23. Kevin,

    DSU? I’ve used them twice and both times I was “upgraded” to a room that was less nice than what I normally get.

    I can’t complain, as during my regular business travel I’m always upgraded to a full suite. But, then I expect the DSU to get me into the giant suite with a dinning room, etc. but I end up in an executive king.

  24. “There are a lot of things you can fake in life — … but upgrades ain’t one of them!”

    Whenever I receive a key packet at a Starwood hotel that says “You’ve been upgraded!” I know I haven’t been upgraded.

  25. Tell them you want to decline the upgrade and put you in the room you booked. See what happens.

  26. I enjoy your blog when you make a stink about this kind of stuff and the hotel eventually gives in. Put on your consumer-advocate hat and demonstrate to your readers how to politely not accept being lied to about upgrades. Like you said, you are not demanding an upgrade, just demanding not to be lied to (or at least to have it explained how the room you are given is an upgrade over the room you booked).

  27. @ Paul W — And what’s unique in this case is that I do believe they were legitimately sold out, and I don’t think there were any rooms they could have upgraded me to. Of course the issue was being told I was upgraded when I wasn’t. So not sure how much further I could have taken it “on principle.”

  28. Had similar experience at Waldorf London and the only reason I was there for 8 nights was because they were all free……Your experience is indicative of what the Diamond members should expect and it is why Hilton is in my rear view mirror and will not get any more paid stays out of me while I am burning my last 500k in points………

  29. Update: Club Manager tracked me down and now gave us dinner for two at any restaurant at IntercontinentcBali plus 2 one hour massages for “downgraded” upgrade.

  30. Judging by the comments, at this specific hotel they should just say, “All of our rooms are the same but we upgraded you to a better view/location/etc.”

  31. No what you should do is to mention the hotel and location here on Boarding Area so we can all vote with our feet……bad behavior should be punished or otherwise no one ever knows the difference between right and wrong………it’s not rocket science…….use the Golden Rule with a little Hebrew justice………..but never ignore it unless you have no pulse……….

  32. Yes I absolutely call them on it. “That’s the room type I booked. Are there any upgrades available?”

    I’ve had really good experiences with Hilton upgrades. Most of my stays are international or Conrad NYC, and I think they treat elites better than domestic properties.

    ps. @Robert, there is no “Sofitel San Francisco.” The closest one is in Redwood City, 20 miles south.

  33. It happened to me once at the Mandarin Oriental in Singapore – when I pointed out that it was the same room I had booked in, I was told that I was being given a room on a higher floor with better views and it’s therefore considered an upgrade!

  34. @ Kacee. Thanks for the geography lesson. The name of the hotel is the “Sofitel San Francisco.”

  35. BBD said,

    “Tell them you want to decline the upgrade and put you in the room you booked. See what happens.”

    ^ This. Instead of getting upset just make it into a game. Nudging the clerk to perform some mental gymnastics should make for some great posts in the future.

  36. I basically avoid Hiltons whenever feasible. Kimpton Hotels would never treat you this way. As an Inner Circle member, I had a stay at a Kimpton recently where after being upgraded to a SUITE, I noticed there was the after smell of cigarettes being smoked in the room. Gross. Not only did they move me right away, they gave me a certificate for a free night in another suite.

  37. I’ve joked for over 10 years that “upgrade” at domestic HHonors properties means I’m getting a room with the new blue curtains, not the old red ones. The concept of these “fake upgrades” just doesn’t phase me anymore.

  38. Until more folks vote with their feet and walk away from Hilton they will have no incentive to change their horrible behavior…..

  39. I’ve gotten the same routine several times. For me the worst has been at Intercontinental. I seem to do ok with Hilton (can’t say 100%).

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