When things don't work in your hotel...

Here I am, on an extended roadtrip, trading off between camping and hotels, and I’m getting a bit testy when things don’t work, or when advertised amenities aren’t available. When the hot tub is out of commision, or the exercise equipment is broken, when the drain is so slow that the tub nearly fills up when taking a shower, when the fire sensor has a dead battery and chirps every two minutes…what recourse do I have other than checking out?

Anyone in the lodging business out there? What kind of comp or discount might I reasonably expect if such things occur? Usually, i get an apology, if that. My attitude is that I’m paying good money for things to be as advertised. Do hoteliers just figure that people will just let this kind of thing slide?

I’ve never had much luck getting a break on price when things don’t work either. There is probably a disclaimer somewhere in the literature. Have you tried demanding to see the hotel manager? The only folks I’ve seen with any luck on this are the ones in Las Vegas. They WANT you to be happy with your room so you’ll spend all that loot.

I have received discounts on room rate and free bathrobes when I’ve had trouble! The bathrobes rocked!

I always go higher up the food chain when I complain, though. There is nothing a $5 an hour employee can or will do for you.

It depends. It generally is a good idea to give the management of the hotel an opportunity to fix the problem. If my maintainance man is still here I can send him up. If I have another room available I can switch rooms. If you are a business traveler you might be better off asking for a free meal at the hotel restaurant since if your company is paying for your room a discount on your current stay puts nothing in your pocket. Waiting until check out limits the hotels options to make you happy.

Addressing these items separately, both should be called immediately to the attention of Housekeeping, or the manager on duty, or the front desk if all fails. Both can and should be addressed, the former with a plunger or other drain opener, the latter with a battery replacement. The latter is also a safety hazard, and leaving the sensor inoperative is probably a violation of a local fire law.

For the others, assuming also that the management knows about them and did not tell you when you checked in, and that you did mention it when you noticed the problem: At or before the time you check out, politely tell them you are dissatisfied. Tell them that one of the reasons you chose their hotel was the advertised amenities, and that had you known they did not actually have them you would have chosen differently. Request a rate reduction. They will generally, assuming it’s a nice hotel, give you at least a partial rate cut. I have on occasion gotten an entirely free night at a hotel because of continual problems that they could not fix.

Excellent advice from **audit 1 ** and ** MLS. **

The key really is politeness. When I was a desk clerk at a chain hotel, I would bend over backwards to try to help out an unhappy, but civil, guest.

I was allowed to give up to 50% off of the room rate without even asking the manager. (Any higher than that, I had to okay with him first.) I often upgraded rooms for the guest if they were available, or at least offered something comparable. If it were something relatively simple, such as a burned out light, I would take care of it myself.

The sooner a guest let me know there’s a problem, the sooner I could get it fixed. For example, I might have been able to switch them to another room if a guest had complained when they checked in at 6 PM, but if they complained at 8 PM, all of the unreserved rooms might be sold.

** yawndave, ** was the fire sensor just like the ones you would have in your home? If so, that’s different than what I’m used to. In my hotel, the alarms didn’t have individual batteries-- they were hardwired to a computerized system. The system alerted the desk what zone the fire was located in, and alerted the whole hotel. It seems dangerous to have a home-type alarm which only sounds in the room.

Lissa My hotel has both the hardwire zone system and the indivdual room units. This way if the hotel loses power you have some backup if you also have a fire.

yawndave take all the above advice and run with it. Please, please, please, tell the hotel of your dissatisfaction before you check out. They cannot fix what they do not know about. In most cases, they will be happy to offer some type of consideration: anything from a free meal to a free future stay. And listen to Lissa, be nice about it. There is no better way to be dismissed by everyone than by comming off as a screaming, raving lunatic who will not be happy no matter what they offer.

As a former Marriott GM:

The things you mention should be found out and avoided by a PM (preventative maintenance) program. This is person (or crew) who deep cleans the curtains, bedspreads and the rest of the room and also ensures all the fixtures work and that safety equipment is functional.

The troubles you mention should DEFINITELY be caught in a PM program and EVERY major chain and EVERY management company has requirements that PMs be conducted.

The best thing is to go straight to the manager and tell him the problems. If you get no satisfaction, the next few sentences will get you fixed…first of all, hotel employees work either for the brand (Marriott, Motel 6, Comfort Inn etc) or a management company that operated franchised hotels.

"Do you work for Marriott (or whatever brand) or for a management company?

Can I have the name and phone number of the person you report to at (brand HQ or management company)? I want to tell him about how poorly the preventative maintenance program is functioning here."

You will get action.

I worked for a management company so I could care less if you called Marriott to complain. But if you were to call my boss, I may shit my pants.

PM programs are a pain in the ass and are easy to let slide. But upper management really believes in them. Mention it and you will get a response.

Also. if it is a chain hotel and all else fails, contact the franchise headquarters, they can intervene. They can put pressure on the individual hotel or can issure a credit to you direct. (assuming you paid by credit card, if you paid cash you have restricted your options.

That chirping alarm should be reported IMMEDIATELY for safety reasons. I’m scared to death of getting caught up in a hotel fire. I’ve asked management to change my room a couple times. No problem there. But I would definitely not return to a hotel if they didn’t make any effort to compensate me for stuff. And I’d write a nasty letter, too.

I’ve only had two instances where I had problems with hotel service, but I got discounts in both cases. I did this by not asking for a discount but detailing my grievance and letting them know how unhappy I was when I checked out. In both cases, a manager standing nearby whispered to the clerk to comp the room. The two cases where this occurred were very different chains - one a fairly low-end discount motel and another a high-end luxury conference hotel, so I think its success depends mostly on whether or not the staff on hand cares whether they get your future business.

While this strategy may not work all the time since you rarely get what you don’t ask for, I think it makes several things clear. First, the fact that I’m not demanding a discount but still letting them know how unhappy I am makes it clear that I’m not exaggerating my claims to nickel and dime them. Second, my civil but unsatisfied attitude implies that I don’t have time for this kind of nonsense. Any decent service-industry worker is likely to translate that into lost future sales. BTW, this wasn’t really a calculated strategy but merely a reaction to being unhappy but hurried; I probably couldn’t pull it off as an act.

Thanks all for your feedback. Re: the tub/drain problem, a bit tough to mention before checkout, as I was showering immediately before leaving that morning. I’ll use your advice the next time I find myself dissatisfied. Since I’m on the road for another 2 weeks at least, I’m sure the chance will come up. I’ll let you know what happens…

Incidently, I once had a fire alarm go off due to steam, believe it or not, and this was at 5:00 AM. The office was closed, and that dang thing wailed for 15 minutes before I could move a dresser and stand up on it to pull the battery out of the detector. Woke up several people in the rooms next door to me.

It’s not a fool-proof system, though.

In the hotel in which I worked, we had a very nasty assistant manager. This woman could be astonishingly rude. Unfortunately, our GM was a very passive person, and instead of firing her, would just try to control the damage.

Many times, customers reported her to the 1-800 number. Our GM would respond to the case with soothing lies, and the matter would be dropped. Of over 10 valid cases that I can remember, we were only “charged” with one of them, having to give the customer a $25 credit. The others were dismissed.

I got a room comped once when I complained upon checking out about several items. First, we discovered at bedtime that we were next to some sort of plumbing pipes and every time someone flushed in the room above us, it sounded like Niagara Falls. Not much to do at that point, since we were already in bed and such.

THEN we realize there is some kind of high school group staying on our floor. All manner of loudness ensues. We call and complain, and the noise continues.

We finally got to sleep, got up in the morning, and we treated to a shower that was unreal. When you turned the single handle fixture toward hot, you got SCALDING HOT water. I don’t mean “ouch”, I mean melt the flesh from your bones hot. Holy shit! I couldn’t even get the temperature low enough to shower, even on cold!

So as we checked out, I was polite to the desk person, and when the manager came I informed them that there was no way I was paying for that room- I didn’t get to sleep or shower, and isn’t that what a hotel is for? After he argued with me for a few minutes, I mentioned the shower again and asked what the legal temperature limit is on something like that. No WAY could that be a safe temperature- someone could have really been hurt and filed a LAWSUIT.

He comped me right away and shoved me out the door. I reported them for the water temp issue anyway- it was a safety hazzard, without a doubt.