After BlogHer 2011 ended my daughter and I stayed in San Diego for a couple of extra days. I’d used a Travelocity voucher I’d gotten through Eversave to get a decent deal for a hotel in the city’s Gaslamp section.
The conference had been pretty tiring, so we were ready to lie down by the time we showed up for the 3 p.m. check-in. A desk clerk told us it would be another 20 minutes because our room had not been cleaned.
Twenty minutes went by. Abby, who has a chronic health condition, was so fatigued she could barely sit upright. I inquired again. Still not clean, but they’d let us know as soon as something was available.
Another 20 minutes elapsed, during which I saw the clerk have a soft drink and chat with co-workers. What he didn’t do was call housekeeping to ask about the progress of the room. Meanwhile, I was wondering just how big a bitch I needed to be to get this fixed.
Of course, I knew that being a bitch wasn’t the answer. Being a smart consumer was.
How long would we have sat there?
At 4 p.m. the employee told us he was sorry, but the hotel had been full the night before and housekeeping was running late.
Given how close the hotel is to a major convention center, I wasn’t surprised that it had been full the night before. What did surprise me was that management didn’t schedule enough staff to make sure rooms were ready for the next night’s customers.
Finally my daughter approached the counter, pleading with them to do something. If she didn’t lie down soon, she knew she’d wind up in bed for most of the next day – or, as she put it, for half of the time she had to spend with her mom.
The clerk put us in a pair of adjoining rooms with a shared bath. While I was grateful that Abby was finally able to rest — she was swaying with exhaustion – I had questions:
- Had that room been available the whole time and he just didn’t want to give it to us?
- We were the only people waiting. Couldn’t the housekeeping staff have been asked to clean our room, then work on others?
- How long would he have allowed us to sit there if we hadn’t forced the issue?
I posted the situation on my Facebook page and soon had more than a dozen comments, ranging from “This is appalling” to “This REALLY irks me. I have had similar things happen at other hotels. Unfortunately, a lot of management teams/corporate owners DON’T CARE.”
At that point I tended to agree with both statements. So I did what I’d suggest you do when faced with a service snafu: I wrote a letter.
‘We can’t change what we did’
Actually, I sent my genteelly furious note via e-mail. Then I visited the hotel’s Facebook page, where a post asked visitors what their best experiences of the summer had been thus far.
I left a comment that began along the lines of, “I can tell you what it hasn’t been: My current stay at this particular hotel.” I said I’d sent a note detailing our problem and asked that someone from the hotel chain read that e-mail and contact me as soon as possible.
The next day I got a voice-mail message from the general manager with an apology, his cell number and an offer to help make things better.
When I spoke with him he said all the right things: It shouldn’t have happened, he’d sat down with housekeeping and front-desk staff to discuss where the ball had been dropped, and they’d like to comp one night of our visit.
“We can’t change what we did,” he said, “but we can make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
I hope you never experience a customer-service snafu. But I know better than that. Mistakes happen. A smart manager knows that in the days of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp it pays to give a damn professionally, if not personally.
I once wrote an MSN Money column about how to talk to management about a poor restaurant visit. One of the experts noted that the people in charge can’t be everywhere and thus need to know about problems: “You’re doing the company a huge favor if you complain.”
So when service goes south, speak up. Complain, preferably in writing. Do it reasonably. Do it courteously. But do it.
And if it turns out management doesn’t give a rip? There’s always Facebook, Yelp and Twitter.