Do you have any expectation of hotels on your birthday?

I’m in Helsinki at the moment staying at a Luxury Collection property, and one of the friends I’m traveling with is celebrating her birthday today.

I’ve done an extensive amount of travel on birthdays, and I’ve always found that for the most part hotels are pretty accommodating and try to do something special. After all, it’s the hospitality industry, and it’s the little touches that count.

However, I can’t help but be a bit surprised by how this hotel handles birthdays, and I’m not sure if I’ve just been lucky in the past or if my expectations are too high, which is why I’d like to open this up to you guys.

My friend’s husband emailed the hotel in advance to ask if there’s anything that could be done to make her birthday special. To be clear, she’s a Starwood Platinum member staying at the hotel for several nights, so in theory should be a “high value” customer. They said they’d have some flowers waiting in her room when she arrived a couple of days ago, though there were none there, and they weren’t delivered at any point during her stay. At the very least given that her husband corresponded with the hotel you’d think they could have acknowledged her birthday in some way during the stay.

Meanwhile this afternoon I asked about the possibility of having a cake delivered to her room. While I’ve always found hotels happy to offer cakes for free for birthdays, I specifically mentioned I had no problem paying for it, which I really don’t, because I don’t think a free cake is any sort of an “entitlement.” I specifically asked that they bill the cake to my room and have it delivered to hers.

Instead they have the cake delivered to her and have her sign the bill with it. Seriously?! I mean, they charged 64 Euros for a friggin’ birthday cake, so I figure the least they could do is not screw up the billing at that price


Anyway, I don’t know if my expectations are off. I think hotels (at the very least four star and above) should proactively notice if it’s a guest’s birthday. It shouldn’t be too tough to do. In the past I’ve found hotels to be generous, whether it be a free cake (which is by no means required) or at the very least a card from the hotel wishing the guest a happy birthday.

This time they didn’t deliver the flowers they said they would, and they charged me 64 Euros for a cake which they tried to have her sign for when I specifically instructed them to bill it to my room. And the hotel did nothing to acknowledge her birthday, not even a card.

Am I off base? Should one just have no expectations when a guest with a birthday is staying, or did the hotel fail? And to be clear, she’s taking it all in stride and having a great birthday, though I’m the one that’s a bit miffed by all this.

Curious to hear what you guys think!

Filed Under: Hotels, Travel
  1. I don’t have much experience with hotels on my Birthday but what is your experience with airlines? Last year I treated myself to a trip just before my birthday but my last leg of the trip in SQ Business was on my birthday. Nothing was mentioned by any agent/attendant/staff (which honestly I didn’t expect) but would have been nice. I’ve had congratulations from South African Airways when flying Y on a previous trip and it was a nice gesture. Although if you are dealing with as many passengers each day, I’m guessing it is a little less plausible to do.

  2. Definitely surprising for the finest hotel in town! Complain!

    By the way – you need a guide here, I’m happy to help.

  3. And another thing – there’s the legendary Café Fazer with pretty decent cakes opposite of your LC.

  4. So far I’ve only spent 2 of my birthdays at hotels, plus a few other special occasions. The first hotel (Emirates Wolgan Valley Resort) knew the stay was for my birthday and had a bottle of champagne in the room on arrival. A small tray of chocolate coated strawberries with ‘Happy Birthday’ written in chocolate were brought out at dinner that night.

    The other birthday was at a Hilton. I didn’t mention it although Executive Lounge staff noticed and wished me a happy birthday.

    I’ve learnt not to have too high expectations when spending special occasions at standard hotels. Although for a place the calibre (and price) of Wolgan Valley, I would expect something above the standard experience.

  5. I would certainly complain to hotel management about the bad service/multiple screw-ups.

    I am not a fan of my birthday which means that whenever I am in a hotel on my birthday they usually send up a cake. Good old “Murphy’s Law” in action.(I generally go somewhere in Asia.)

  6. First off – Happy Birthday to your friend!

    I think you erred when offering to pay for the cake. There’s no harm in simply asking for one, but saying you would pay for it, then not asking them for a price range, well, you see the result; a 64 Euro cake!

    If you ask for a cake to be delivered and they don’t respond with something like, “we’d be happy to sir. How much would you like to spend?”, then assume it’s gratis. If it shows up on a bill, then you have good reason to talk to management.

    From the sound of the hotel in general, their service and attention to detail is sorely lacking.

  7. My hubby and I really enjoy staying at hotels and taking long weekend trips for our anniversary and birthdays, and we always try to note that with our hotel, restaurants we go to, etc. Results really have varied. We just went to Arizona and stayed at the Phoenician( also luxury collection). Hubby is a plat member and he told the concierge when he was planning the trip. We were greeted at the entrance to the property, and the gatekeepers knew it was our anniversary. The first evening we got a half bottle of veuve cliquot and a fruit/ cheese platter! The concierge also got us comped dessert at one of the restaurants we went to during our stay. Awesome! A really bad experience was last year, when we stayed at the nines in Portland for my birthday ( it’s only category 4 but just as posh and nice as luxury collection). My husband asked the concierge if they could do something for my birthday when the concierge emailed to ask if there was anything we needed. When hubby responded, the concierge acknowledged the other requests but not my birthday. They never did anything for me, not even a greeting at check in or a card. So my husband complained to the hotel manager and we got comped points. But of course we would have just preferred to be acknowledged when they are such a high end hotel with a bevy of concierges in duty. Just seemed like incompetence on their part.

  8. Very disappointing on the hotels front. Irrespective of your bigger question: there has been a series of service lapses here. I would have a conversation with management about this.

    To your bigger question. Well, I tend to travel for my birthday, and have had mixed experiences. Never asked for anything. Sometimes get nothing, usually got a cake.

    The CP HK treated me best. A nice bottle of red and a cake.

  9. Sheraton Hong Kong did champagne and cake for my wife without asking. Very much appreciated. As a result of their hospitality, we took my dad there on a following trip and booked a suite for my dad plus an additional room for us. So in my mind, it paid off for them.

  10. I’ve stayed at two top-end hotels during past birthdays. The Grand Hyatt Kauai left me a note in my room, IIRC, which was nice. The Hotel Alfonso XIII, Seville had a chocolate cake with “Happy Birthday” written on it and a bottle of wine waiting for me in my room on my birthday – all free of charge. They are a Luxury Collection property, too. I don’t have many expectations which makes stuff like this a pleasant surprise. But, this is the sort of thing that distinguishes luxury properties from regular hotels.

  11. I’m generally a big SPG fan (and Lifetime Gold), but this is another example where Starwood kind of under delivers. Then again, they go over the top with some things, such as the annual gifts and the bonus for staying with all 9 brands in 2012.

    This hotel failed big time. That price is unreasonable, and then not delivering flowers, and making your friend sign for the cake is really poor taste.

    I’ve had 2 special occasions during hotel stays recently and in both cases I had gifts delivered to the room unprompted. In both cases these were Hyatt properties…

  12. The hotel failed at least three times – pre-arrival, onsite and delivery if not more (ie suggesting a local cheaper option). I’d talk w/management onsite as it seems concierge as well as room service messed up -what if your friend wasn’t so reasonable and it ruined her day? for platinum even worse no acknowledgement. A birthday in any languages is a birthday to celebrate.

    I’ve had cake on my birthday on a cruise without ordering it as I was solo they saw date in my record. Awkward to explain to table why I didn’t tell them but singing and fun.
    I get cake when it’s not my birthday – last week no status at Kimpton Vintage Plaza Portland but mentioned donuts in concierge correspondence as part of joke -my welcome was handwritten card w/two voodoo donuts. the peninsula Chicago also great welcome- no doubt they’d honor a birthday request with ease as I often pre-arrange w/concierge welcomes and special events as part of work

  13. I’m often in a hotel on my birthday. Generally, if the hotel is aware, I get a dessert. I got helium balloons and a small box of wonderful Imperial torte at Le Meridien Vienna. It was fun! But I, too, have a story about the Nines in Portland. A friend ordered a cake for my birthday for which he paid. He knew I don’t like mocha so specifically told the hotel to give me anything but that. What did they deliver? Mocha.

  14. I hope the cake was good because that would have been the only right thing they did. To me this isn’t even about birthday expectations, but just plain old customer service. Anyways, they are paying for it now 🙂

    Slightly related experience, it seems to me that resort hotels are better at this sort of stuff. When we go to one they are almost begging for me for something to celebrate, although we usually end up with a cheap bottle of bubbly regardless of the event.

  15. I received a nice birthday bouquet of flowers, handwritten note from the manager and chocolate dessert as a GP Platinum at the PH Tokyo this year. I never asked for it, but as the primary guest, I suspect the attentive agent who checked me in noticed my birthday on my passport and requested the service as a courtesy. I was impressed by this attention to detail. Though I wouldn’t expect it, especially at 3-star hotels and below, it does show a higher level of service and cannot be a particularly costly benefit to deliver.

  16. Ben – Sorry to hear about your experience.

    I would complain to the manager. Them giving the bill to your friend when you gave them specific instructions (and it was suppose to be a surprise!) is embarrassing! They should at least comp the cake for their mistake.

    I always email hotels in advance whenever I’m staying for a special occasion and most if not all if them always oblige. Even the hotels that I have no status in.

    Last November I took my partner on a multi-city trip across Europe and Asia for his birthday. We stayed at 6 different hotels (all of them I emailed in advance mentioning we were celebrating my partner’s birthday and requesting to make our stay special) and they always sent in at least a cake, if not more! Hell, we even got upgraded to a huge suite with a pool table at the Marina Bay Sands in SG!

  17. I’ve spent my last 6 birthdays in Asia (actually 1 was in Sydney…) I have always received amazing birthday perks in Asia (none in Sydney) and always a cake. Once I got 2 birthday cakes, as I changed cities/hotels that day.
    One memorable one was at the Laguna Nusa Dua Bali (Luxury collection). They delivered cake to room as we were shortly leaving for dinner. They then sent it to restaurant. We were too full to eat any so they sent it to room. Butler called restaurant to make sure everything was OK.
    We usually go to Asia for my March birthday but are in the uS or Canada for Mike’s June birthday. As expected, he gets nothing.
    Even the Conrad Maldives sent me a cake and spread flower petals on the bed for my birthday this year and was gratis, as usual.

  18. I’m pretty surprised at the expectations being placed when traveling internationally (from an American perspective). Not all countries celebrate birthday’s in the same way we expect them too. Generally, when you’re in another country the first thing you should consider is how does this country celebrate birthday’s? After spending a few minutes researching birthday traditions in Finland online, it appears they don’t put much emphasis on it which means this is a cultural difference and not something to judge them negatively for.

    Please keep this in mind in whatever country you are visiting before judging them so harshly. It’s the first thing that should come to mind when your expectations are not met and the first rule of being a good guest in someone else’s country. I think this is one of the reasons American’s are judged so harshly and why we get treated so poorly in other countries. The world does not revolve around American’s and we are usually shocked when it hits us in the face as soon as we step off a plane in another country.

    To prove my point, did anyone research what people usually do for birthday’s in Finland?

    Just my 2 cents…

  19. when i’m on vacation, I’ll put in the comments section of my reservation that my stay is for a birthday or anniversary (even if it’s not) and usually find they treat me better with suite upgrades and free cakes and amenities. I got a wonderful guava birthday cake from the Westin Maui on my gf’s (real) birthday, and several anniversary cakes from asian hotels (mostly starwood), Le Meridien Bangkok and Le Meridien Angkor to name a few. Never been charged at all.

  20. We normally travel on our anniversary or birthdays. I always email the hotel ahead of time so we can get the best room they can offer us. We appreciate any extra little gifts they give us, but not expecting them. However, that little extra gift do make a difference on our impression of the hotel. Park plaza Wangfujing in Beijing gave me a bottle of wine, a cake and a dozen roses for my birthday! We’ll definitely stay there again (of course, their service was great too).

  21. I’m always amazed when adults expect others (especially strangers) to fuss over their birthdays. I certainly never expect it to be done spontaneously, or free of charge. That being said, hotels are distinguished by their response to service requests. In this case, a specific request was made, and it was botched. Bad publicity well deserved.

  22. This story was going to be a lot more entertaining until I got to the part about…. ‘her husband’.

  23. While sometimes I’ve mentioned it’s my birthday if the front desk asks during check-in, I’ve never specifically asked for any special treatment. But you are correct, some don’t do very well in follow through even when asked.

    During my bachelor party last weekend in Las Vegas, a good friend wasn’t able to make it, so he called and asked them to send a bottle of Scotch to my room which he charged to his credit card (so that was taken care of). Not only did they not deliver it, but when he called the second day to remind them they didn’t even look to see if they still had it. I had to go down and pick it up myself on the final day of our stay.

  24. I’ve never been acknowledged on my birthday. I’ll be in a Hyatt for my birthday in a couple of weeks, so we will see if that continues. I’m not sure if hotel chains know birthdates, I looked in my Hyatt account, and couldn’t find an entry for it.

  25. Last month the JWMarriott in PVG offered me *both* the 500 MR points and food amenity, *and* sent a cake to my room. I never told them it was my birthday, so they must have noticed it on my passport when checking in. Of course with CL access (at one of the best CLs in the world), just what I needed – more food! But the thought was really appreciated.

  26. Two conditions:
    1. If it is 3.5* hotel and above,
    2. If the hotel knows (from your profile, passport, or you flat out telling them) They had better recognize the birthday.

    Below is the best welcome amenity I have ever been given, ever. This was while staying at the Savoy in London.

    -Bottle of Still Water
    -Plum Copote with Short Bread
    -Bottle of Champagne (Yes from France)
    -Birthday Cake with matches and candle

    I am having my 32nd wedding and birthday at a Hotel in Santa Monica this autumn. Let’s see if they remember 😉

  27. What Joe said. Geesh. The only thing the hotel did wrong was to ask her to sign the bill. Move on.

  28. Cakes in Europe are much better – and much more expensive – than in the US. Cheers.

  29. That is what happens when you dont take your friend to the Waffle House, I get free pancakes! 🙂

    Now what in the world is in that cake that costs 64 Euros? Imported fresh from Austria? Geez, highway robbery.

  30. Hotel Kamp was my best hotel stay this year. I did not request any special services though. Wine and Finnish chocolates waiting in the suite.

  31. No offence but it sounds like the typical level of service you get in Finland at a hotel. Finns really aren’t that good at giving good service, in bars/cafes it has improved a lot lately but still isn’t as good as in their neighbouring countries Estonia and Sweden. Been in Finland at least once a year for over 20 years now, and it still is like going back to the soviet union era. Have no idea why it is like this, my guess would be the fact that everything is so expensive that they don’t get as many tourists as Estonia and Sweden, but that is just an amateurs guess .

  32. Hilton Breckenridge gave great treatment! Room wasn’t AMAZING but it was a gigantic space with two beds and a couch/table. I had emailed in advance and called a few times because I was so excited to celebrate my birthday in the Colorado mountains. Room complete with a cake, koozies for drinks, other souvenirs, and balloons across the room. Diamond Hilton member, but still I was very impressed. It was SO thoughtful and we had a great trip… which hilton gave a great kickoff.

    Not a good thing that you didn’t receive (or your guest didn’t receive)what you had AGREED on with the hotel. Some people are courteous and some people don’t get it. I don’t EXPECT anything outstanding, but still want to be appreciated for my loyalty in the least bit. The bill issue for the cake was the most troubling. Lack of communication among hotel staff for sure.

  33. Although we got a nice suite upgrade for our honeymoon, it was a little odd to find a letter addressed to another guest welcoming him back to the hotel…..especially when they initially told us that they offer petit fours to honeymooners….

  34. I was at the Adnaz San Diego 2 years ago on my birthday traveling for work. I did not let them know, but some how they found out and sent up a cupcake and strawberries. It was a really nice surprise, and has endeared that hotel to me ever since.

  35. It is Helsinki…any chance there was just a language barrier? Maybe something lost in communication between the person who acceded to you and who actually took care of the cake?

    Either way, I get a card every year from Delta, from Hilton, from M Life, and from Amex…so I wouldn’t expect any less of a hotel, especially if I am an elite member staying at their hotel on my birthday.

  36. Seattle Pan Pacific last year upgraded us to Space Needle corner suite; two nights, two different desserts delivered to room; B-Day night personalized cake, & more. Lovely.
    This past weekend @ Tokyo ANA Intercontinental gave special Godiva chocolates w/ card. I appreciate the hospitality

  37. That seems pretty poor. We don’t expect anything, but my wife and i have definitely gotten extra perks when staying on our anniversary or one of our birthdays. I was especially impressed by The St. Regis Princeville. But I guess that’s probably the norm for all stays in that hotel.

    For my wifes birthday, they upgraded our room from govt rate mountain view to ocean view–i note that because some hotels seem to make a big deal out of the govt rate and im convinced dont give me upgrades theyre technically supposed to give as an SPG Gold or HHonors Gold–had a cake in the room the first night, ordered and delivered a special lei, and held one of the best tables in their terrace restaurant for brunch on the birthday itself. I had only asked for the lei, which I paid for, and a reservation at the restaurant. They also sent chocolate to the room on at least two other random occasions, including as an apology for the reading light not working. The bellman had noticed that problem, we would have never even used the light.

  38. Wow, how disappointing…I’ve often had cakes or other goodies such as wine or champagne come unexpectedly on birthdays, anniversaries. At the Ritz-Carlton Santiago on Mother’s Day I got cupcakes and flowers, which was really sweet because I was visiting my daughter so I guess they figured I was a mother:) Everyone who visited the club lounge that day got flowers.

    If you cannot be made to feel special when you are at a nice property something is wrong. If you request it and it still falls short, then that is inexcusable.

  39. I don’t think the issue is how/whether the hotel recognizes a birthday, but instead their complete customer service failure. You requested, paid for and were promised certain things that were not delivered.

    I think the most annoying of all the comments was the one calling you entitled and saying this is a first world problem. When someone patronizes a business gives them money and is promised something that he doesn’t receive, should he simply say oh well?

  40. I generally expected nothing unless I’m paying for it or asked specifically for it. Then again, I don’t make a big deal out of birthdays so it’s generally not a big deal. However, I took my parents off to a vacation last year and it was for a special occasion, so I notified the hotel in advance. I would have been happy to buy a cake or order something special, but the hotel proactively offered to send them a small cake (and we did ended up getting it on the second night, which was a lovely gesture). To this day, my parents thought that was such a nice touch by the hotel and my Dad was not expecting it so he was surprised.

    Generally, I don’t expect anything though. Even if you are traveling in a cruise, you can fill out a form and pay for special gifts for special occasion. Anything else is extra.

    BTW, the cake looks great! At 64 Euros, I’d expect they get it right and bill it to you room! Mistakes happen, though. Hope your friend appreciated and enjoyed it in spite of the snafu!

  41. Sheraton Libertador Buenos Aires found out at 9pm, during their ID check-in procedures, it was my birthday; They wished me a Happy Birthday and were apologetically sorry I had to be away from home, working. I thought that would be all.

    When upstairs and upon opening the door, I found out I had been assigned the Presidential suite; After coming back from dinner there was a chocolate cake and champagne waiting for me, along with a hand written card.

    Nice touch, highly professionally handled.

    Congrats to their great staff.

  42. Hilton’s check-in system is programmed to play an awful midi file of “Happy Birthday To You” when a guest checks in on their birthday. I’ve had it happen to me three times – it can be extremely embarrassing when everyone in line behind you stares and wonders what the hell is going on! 🙂

  43. Conrad Koh Samui provided me with a birthday cake, unprovoked and gratis, the night before my birthday because we were checking out the next day. It was most unexpected and much appreciated!

  44. I don’t know about birthdays, but I can tell you that the Grand Hyatt Istanbul went over and above for our Anniversary. Dinner at 34, wine in the room, and an anniversary cake to boot. Incredible!

  45. And I think you should give them that 64 euro bill back and tell them what they can do with it!

  46. I’m not sure if I ever have any expectations. Though having just come back from a birthday trip, I have to say I wasn’t surprised that the hotel did nothing, but I was shocked to be wished happy birthday by the TSA on my outbound AND return. Then today, I was wished happy belated birthday by the TSA again!! My home airport is SFO, whose TSA staff is legendarily rude/incompetent, so this was a welcome surprise.

  47. Was staying at the IC Istanbul two years ago on my birthday. Had already been upgraded to a nice suite (overlooking the now notorious Taksim Square) and been indulged by the myriad of Royal Ambassador benefits. I didn’t mention the nature of the day, but arriving back following an afternoon of sight-seeing I found a huge bouquet of exotic flowers, a small package (containing a suit carrier), some more pastries and a card wishing me a happy birthday. Very nice surprise which I acknowledged thanks about when I went up to the Club. The year before that, I happened to be staying at the Sheraton Taipei and received a birthday card, moon cake and a package of coasters.

    I had been a return guest at both hotels, and I suppose as such (and as a top tier elite in their respective programs), such things get noted on the guest profile print out of the lounge receptionist

  48. They billed her for a cake you ordered for her? That’s just BAD customer service.

    Just got back from a birthday trip to Bali. At Amankila the hotel arranged a private candlelit dinner in our villa with a private waiter. It was the hotel’s idea to do something special and they had actually approached my partner about it. They did it the night before my birthday since we were moving hotels the following day. Although Aman is known for these kinds of things, they way they went above and beyond was unexpected and very appreciated.

    On my birthday we moved to the Oberoi in Seminyak. They Oberoi delivered a complimentary cake to our room, a special flower arrangement and card.

    Lucky, on a side note, your Aman stay a few weeks ago was the impetus for our two week, three Aman hop around Bali and I can’t thank you enough for planting that crazy idea in my partner’s head. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Happy birthday to your friend! Hope you’re both having a great time.

  49. Usually, I’ve found that most hotels offer some kind of birthday service gratis… However I do remember on one occasion, I asked for a birthday cake to be sent to my parents at Le Sirenuse hotel in the amalfi coast-the hotel complied but only if I purchased a bottle of champagne would the cake be gratis.

    I had one unusual experience at the Park Hyatt Tokyo. For my brother’s birthday, they sent him an artisanal chocolate cake which was great! But they also added a bouquet of flowers! Mm… Didn’t really think they thought that one through. Nice gesture albeit a bit odd.

    Luck of the draw I guess.

  50. Emirates Hotel in Australia is a tad more than what Lucky is paying 2000.00 from per night! if I remember correctly. IMHO it’s the staff not the brand that make a good flight or stay regardless of the logo. You may also allow for the culture if it ain’t in the manual then the only way to deal with it is to ignore and hope it goes away. Take the night train to St Petersburg that’ll make up for it.

  51. Unacceptable. But, sadly, very common in Scandinavia. Service here is a hit n miss everytime. Your story does not surprise me at all. I suggest you request a 5 minutes talk to the manager, and tell him to coach him team in this matter. If you let it be, they won’t get better…

    Anyway, while in Helsinki, please do try Sis+Deli, excellent coffe shops and food place. Only good ingredients and very happy finish people working there. Enjoy!

  52. Wow – that story is worse than being stuck in a middle seat in coach.

    I stayed at The [email protected] Grand in Vegas for my 21st Birthday. I didn’t have any type of status with the property, but when I arrived into my room I had some beautifully presented chocolate truffles and a hand written note from the VP of the hotel wishing me a happy 21st birthday.

  53. Talk about ‘bad customer service’….

    I have never spent a birthday in a hotel I think. But last summer, I took the ex-gf to Santorini (Greece) for her birthday. We got upgraded to a suite and she got a nice flower arrangement.

  54. I would never expect a hotel to do this without an affirmative request. Some people, especially as they get older, really don’t want any fuss made over their birthday.

    That said, once you have requested a cake or some other special treatment, the hotel should make it happen properly. That’s the real failing of the story here.

  55. For the last 3 years, we have stayed at the Intercontinental Times Square in the Big Apple for my birthday. Always received a high floor upgrade, a small delicious cake and an acknowledgement of “my day”. This past May, I received all of the above plus a bottle of sparkling wine. a small box of chocolates and a fruit basket. For all 3 stays, we used our annual free night certificates received for renewing our PC credit cards! Looking forward to next year’s stay!!!!

  56. I have stayed in hotels abroad for the past 5 years during my birthday. Sometimes I write something on my reservation. Last year a non-chain hotel didn’t go the extra mile in any means but was bearable, though. Starwood properties have been very good to me, offering me cakes and local sparkling wine without asking anything.
    A US Starwood property was catastrophic at handling my special requests for my SO’s important birthday. This just goes to show ymmv.

  57. Even the TSA agent at PIT wished me a happy birthday. I realize he was looking at my ID, but he did it with a smile so I was suprised.

  58. The hotel definitely failed for not delivering on the flowers promised beforehand as well as for sending the bill to your friend.

    While we may not *expect* unrequested extras on our special occasions, most good brands are doing this nowadays (as is reinforced by all of the comments above). I’ll add two examples more from earlier this year:

    In April, InterContinental Hong Kong proactively noticed it was my birthday upon check-in and wished me a Happy Birthday, and then later that evening sent a delicious cake and handwritten card to our room. The amazing part is that I had the most basic status with IHG/Priority Club, it was my first logged stay, AND it was a completely free night thanks to a Best Rate Guarantee (worth almost $5.5k HKD).

    In May, Hilton Beijing Wangfujing initiated an email conversation prior to my arrival and noted I was celebrating a one-year anniversary with my girlfriend during the stay. We were upgraded to a great executive floor room on arrival (likely due to my HHonors Gold status) which was decorated with roses, rose petals, and towel-swans on the bed. On the actual day, the Executive Floor manager approached us in the lounge to give his wishes, and later that afternoon we had an unexpected delivery of two flutes of champagne, roses, and a large cake accompanied with a handwritten card from the In Room Dining supervisor. For reference, this was a points + cash stay.

  59. Agree with several posters–for whatever reason, Finland isn’t known for luxury customer service. If you flew Finnair you figured that out before arrival (and forget about the lounge, especially since they removed that fabulous spa).

    That said, if they promised flowers that were never delivered and also billed the giftee for the birthday cake, the hotel–the best in Helsinki, is it?–has CS issues that need to be addressed. As a travel professional you would not be out of line having a talk with the GM. I’m sure they have mostly international guests with high expectations.

    Finland is not a slovenly culture–just look at Finnish design–so they can get things impeccably right when they try.

    (would LOVE to be in Finland right now instead of the sauna that is NYC)

  60. @ Lucky — Wait, is this the “Andrew B contest winner” trip to Helsinki? When will the details be forthcoming? Will Andrew B. blog on the experience and keep the humor going that won him the trip? 😉

  61. tomorrow I check out of a very expensive hotel where I’ve spent 30k so fa this year, so that will be a test. Then I fly SQ J class home, and I’ve spent just shy of 100k with them this year, so we’ll see. Also, since I’m flying west ona 12 hour flight it will be my longest birthday ever.

  62. We were just in Kennebunkport for our anniversary. I had mentioned in passing while confirming the reservation that this was an anniversary trip, and the person on the phone never said a word about it. When we arrived 2 months later, there was a card and a small gift-wrapped box of handmade local chocolates waiting in the room.

    The next day, I mentioned it to the concierge while making dinner reservations and she said, “Oh, that’s the front desk staff. We’re a smaller hotel, but we think we’re nicer.” They also went out of their way to help my BF arrange for flowers to be left in the room while we were out the next day, connecting him with a local florist who worked weekends.

    If a small, non-chain hotel can manage this, there’s no excuse for a Starwood property not to accomodate their top-tier members. Just for the cake delivery alone, I’d pitch a fit. There’s no excuse for delivering her the bill for her own cake.

  63. Looks like an awful cake too! Noticed Soltatio’s comment about SQ which is more relevant to me. On my 26th Birthday, between SIN and SYD, the captain came to my (economy) seat with 2 crew, a cake alight with candles and apart from singing Happy Birthday, proudly announced that the aircraft (707) was at that moment flying at “26000 feet” – a great touch and not at all true. As you can guess, this was ages ago – i.e in the 70’s but was the highlight of in flight experiences!

  64. I’ve received free cakes and bottles if wine at high-end properties as a top-tier elite. And in casino hotels. I certainly wouldn’t expect it though.

    I don’t think I’d order anything in Scandinavia without seeing the price first.

  65. Sounds like a problem for rich, bored people. Mark that under #Whitepeopleproblems
    Seriously though, nice hotels and even regular places and people acknowledge other people’s birthday I think. Maybe they forgot about the flowers. Not that big of a deal. It is kind of a bigger thing to mess up the billing for the cake. Maybe what they really meant to do was have her sign the bill so that you know she received it, and that signature would not make much sense on something other than the bill for the cake, especially if the cake was expensive. Plus, they think you have money, so why wouldn’t they charge you? Maybe you should have had the cake delivered to you, and you could have given the cake to her. Then, she would know the cake came from you. I see your idea though that it is cooler and nicer for her, if the cake just appears without paper work. Maybe there was a language problem. Maybe they think they are in the hotel business, and not the happy birthday business. haha Maybe it is Finland. I think for your plan to have worked, you would have had to have had a connection with the person carrying it out, and they would have to see your idea.
    I wouldn’t worry about it. I think you probably have your heart in the right place, but you probably would have been miffed if they had done it correctly, and she is not your wife, not that I know anything about how you relate to her and her husband. Way too many words have been written about this already. haha

  66. I think a hotel should do something. It is a special day. It makes your whole stay special. We just stayed at the InterContinental in Hong Kong. My son and his wife met us there and it was his birthday. The Intercontinental sent him 2 cakes at 2 different times on his birthday. The staff in the lounge all came over and said have a Happy Birthday. We stayed at the Maya Ubud in Bali for my husbands birthday a few years ago and they brought flowers to the room, later on they brought a special appetizer and then when we were at dinner brought him a cake. They really went all out.

  67. Me experiences are mixed:

    Westin New York – not even a mention (although on my flight out of JFK the next day the customs officer noticed and wished me a Happy Birthday for the day before)!
    Crowne Plaza Salzburg – No mention.
    Spice Island Beach Resort Grenada – although a cake was requested and asked to be put on bill, it was provided free of charge along with a hand written card.
    White House Hotel, Istanbul – a room full of baloons and a free cake.

  68. Lucky,
    You are not off base at all! Food and beverage sales are huge for the hotel industry. While on my honeymoon in San Diego the wait staff at the buffet at the Hyatt had gotten word that it was our honeymoon and brought us a complementary breakfast congratulations cake. Quite memorable!

  69. Just wanted to let you know, from a hotel side it is very expensive to send so many amenities to everyones room. I work for a resort and spa with about 200 rooms and usually a good quarter of them or more are celebrating and to send everyone a bottle of champagne and strawberries or a cake is extremely expensive to do on a daily basis. Just keep in mind that your rate that you are paying is going to paying bills and supporting the hotel. The rates are high at nice hotels for a reason so you can enjoy the nicest features of the hotel. Until you work at a hotel at the front desk, it’s really hard to understand the other side to it. We do as many as we can and always acknowledge guests at check in and usually send a handwritten card as well at the least but it is not always possible to send up so many things to everyone.

  70. I was upgraded free to a suite and given a birthday card at Landmark hotel on my birthday.
    Hospitality at its best!!!!.

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