Leaving New York

This morning, I decided against writing a post about an unpleasant exchange that took place at my hotel in New York last weekend. Just then, R.E.M.'s Leaving New York started to play and changed my mind.

I arrived at the hotel and was surprised to hear that the specific room I'd reserved was not available. I'd confirmed it was warm and waiting mere days earlier. The girl at the desk called over a colleague and advised him of the situation briefly.

The gentleman didn't bother to look up at me but rather, went to work on his computer and said Let me check and see if there's any other rooms that's available. I asked him why if my reservation had been confirmed was it no longer available. He looked up and said:

You know what? When you make a reservation, there's no guarantees. Like what if the hotel burned down? We wouldn't be able to give you the room you reserved you know?

And did the hotel burn down?

You're getting sarcastic with me.

Yes, you're offering an example that while true makes no sense in this situation. If you can explain why you're rescinding my reservation and if you have an alternative or option you can tell me about, I'll be more understanding.

Now you're just trying to get something and that's not going to work.

I asked him for his name and he gave me his card which identified him as the VIP/Events Co-ordinator.

Are you sure this is your card? I find it hard to believe that the title is correct considering the way you're talking to me.

Although I could tell he wanted to, the one part of his customer service training that stayed with him stopped him from punching me in the face.

There's another room I can show you and it's upgraded and that's all that's available. I followed him, he showed me the room and I told him it was lovely and would be fine.

As soon as I said this, he said it'll be an extra $300 because of the upgrades.

I won't be paying for upgrades based on a mistake your hotel made.

Well, I'll check on that and let you know.

I got a call within minutes saying that I could have the room without additional charges and later, a letter of profuse apology was slipped under the door with vouchers for free meals in the hotel restaurant.

On the flight home, I read an article in the New York magazine I'd picked up of at all places, the hotel. It dealt with the finer points of hospitality delivered by restaurant owner Danny Meyer.
Following a reservation mishap involving the restaurant the interview took place in, Meyer had this to say:

That's a service error, not to honor the commitment of a reservation. Hospitality could have overcome that. It's an important distinction. Service is delivering on your promise. Hospitality is making people feel good while you're delivering on your promise. I would want our team to say it sounds like we made a mistake.

What if he knew they didn't, if the customer was simply a crackpot?

I would still say it sounds like we may have dropped the ball on your reservation.

I've now torn the article from the magazine and put it in an envelope addressed to my favourite VIP coordinator. I'm not convinced he can read but maybe someone can explain it to him. That doesn't make me too much of a crackpot I hope.


lulu said...

First of all,the song Leaving New York always makes me cry.

Second, my BFF Jane, who travels for business constantly, and who has to deal with people confrontationally all the time, is really good at getting service people on her side. She is very calm, very direct and no nonsense, and she says "How are *we* (emphasis mine) going to solve this problem?" Invariably the customer service asshole becomes part of Team Jane and and helps find a resolution. That being said, it sounds like this guy was a real dick. I hope you wrote not only the GM of the hotel, but the customer service department of the hotel chain.

Mob said...

Wow, I'm impressed with your handling of things, and I actually had to call the wife in and let her read this post, as it completely sounds like something she and I would encounter, "hey, we screwed up, and here's how you're going to pay for it."

Bonus points for not losing it when he went off on his Towering Inferno ramble, and then accused you of sarcasm.

Hope you enjoyed your nice, upgraded stay.

Old Lady said...

I have worked in hotles for 20 years and this is the most aggregious encounter I have ever, ever heard in my entire career. This is what you do.

Cut and paste what you wrote to your document software. Find out where the corporate headquarters for this hotel is and who the CEO is. Send him a letter detailing the incident entirely.
Do give him the name of the employee.

1. That person should have never spoken to you in that manner and should be fired, period.

2. You should have been put in an up-graded room with seamless ease and no mention of cost at the same rate, as well as free breakfast coupons.

3. If they sold your room and had no space they have to provide you with another room at a comparable hotel and you only pay the tax.

4. Hotels will play a Russian rouletter due to the amount to no-shows they receive on a daily basis. If you do not have a guaranteed LATE ARRIVAL, then they can sell the room after the check-in time. But if you do arrive 1-3 still apply.

5. Always guarantee your room for LATE ARRIVAL.

6. Always report rudeness, it is best to ask for the General Manager.

7. Anything stupid like that that happens to you again, you let me know, I can find out hotel info cuz I know the lingo!

A. Estella Sassypants said...

Most awesome story-about-a-douchebag ever. Stuff like this never happens to me (which is good because I'd probably be arrested for doing something violent to whomever decided to be a douchebag to me).

Anonymous said...

Danny Meyer? Weird stuff, I didn't know my son owned a resturant...

mellowlee said...

Very good idea, sending him the article :) I love it.

chelene said...

Let me guess...this was not the Michelangelo.

You dealt with the rude guy too long, Dale. The minute he cracked wise I would have asked for the Front Desk Manager and refused to discuss the situation with the jackass any longer.

Write the GM. You'll get a free room voucher out of it, I'm sure of it. :)

Dale said...

The song has a powerful effect Lulu. Your friend's a smart one. My job causes me to be more diplomatic than I'd like to be sometimes and I'm generally quite good at defusing a situation so I'm thinking this reject just had a really bad day.

It was a great stay Mob although after the experience, I wouldn't give them any more of my money on principle. My face was pretty red while I thought of all the things I didn't say to him.

Good tips all Old Lady. I was ahead of the game and earlier than the usual check in time. The girl at the desk told me later that the person who was in the room had decided to extend their stay and this is why it became mysteriously unavailable.

Then I'm glad it happened to me? Ms. Sassypants I don't need you in any more trouble than you get in already.

He sounds like a great guy Bluez! He knows his hospitality, that's for sure.

Thanks Ms. MellowLee, I thought it would be funny to do.

It wasn't the Michelangelo Chelene but a place that ought to have known better. There won't be a next time, they'll have to make a go of it without me the bastards!

Anomie-Atlanta said...

So hard to find good help these days! ;) Please tell me the hotel was not the Parker Meridan...

Old Lady said...

I fergot about the extended stay overs, but still 1-3 apply.

Anonymous said...

Oh the humanity!

See, that's why you should never have gone to New York in the first place, and just stayed here with us, in our unfinished basement. I can be as rude as anyone if you'd like that treatment.

Now my trip to Las Vegas is ruined, I hope you're happy!

anne altman said...

why oh why does everyone have to be an a-hole all the time?

people suck.

justacoolcat said...

Sounds like a good time and things worked out nicely. I think you should stay there again. This dink probably isn't the future of the type of place you cared enough about to request a specific room with, and if you want you can always be known as that guy that mailed the magazine article.

I can assure you that is a hospitality gold mine.

Coaster Punchman said...

Well, whatever you did worked because you did get the upgrade at no additional charge. Which is more than ever happens to me. I am regularly abused and degraded by customer service people, to the point where I've been beaten so far down that I don't even fight anymore.

Berry said...


I once had a run-in with an unbelievably arrogant airline check-in punk. I snapped a picture of him, wrote on the back "This guy is costing you money...", and included it with my letter of complaint to the head office.

I'm incredibly easy to deal with when something goes wrong, so for me to get to the letter-writing point, things have to elevate to "Holy crap this did NOT just happen!" level.

Bravo for sending the article!

A. Estella Sassypants said...

Miss Sassypants. I love it. Such a nice ring. It's a good alias I say.

Chris said...

I think you have to cut the poor guy a little slack: after all, his hotel had just burned down.

Tumuli said...

I love "Leaving New York"! It's so somber and memorable.

As for the hotel situation: you handled it wonderfully. Had it been me, I might have lost my temper and resorted to invoking the manners of my "urban upbringing."

Dale said...

Nope, not that one either Anomie A so you're still safe!

Yes they do Old Lady.

It's why I should never have come back from NY you mean Tanya. Give me all your money so I can just buy a place there. Quit burying all that money in your fake basement reno.

Is that what we're calling them now Anne? Anne-hole? Jeez, why is it always about you?

Usually I try out new places each time because I'm so damned picky. I usually like places that lunkheads are not in charge of so I'm running out of good joints.

You're making me sad CP. Next time I go, you're invited to watch me in action as I put the reverse smackdown on unsuspecting service types.

No, you're the brilliant one Berry! Smooth moves, where we going next?

Is it really an alias or is it more a way of life Miss Sassypants?

By cutting him a little slack, do you mean that tendon just above the heel? I can do that.

Somber and memorable is a good way to describe it Tumuli. You must enlighten us all sometime when you get out of control as to what your urban upbringing can teach us.

X. Dell said...

Well, you know New Yorkers aren't know for their hospitality.

I wish you would have shot me an e-mail, or something. I could have shown you some really cool places to drink--or whatever.

Dale said...

When you stay at a schmancy hotel though they should cut you a bit of slack shouldn't they X?

I'll have to get a list of recommendations for next time, I'm not a big drinker but I love whatever!