Hotel reservation fiasco that lost guests forever

Imagine this scenario:

A reservation is made at the hotel for two queen-queen rooms, two people in each room. The hotel staff, finding themselves in a difficult situation on room types, has changed the reservation to be for two king bed rooms. They reason that with only two people for each room, a king bed would suffice. Throughout the day, the hotel gives away all the queen-queen rooms to reservations with more than two people per room. The guests arrive with their confirmation that says two rooms, two queen-size beds in each room, two people in each room. But there are eight guests checking in — four persons per room. Clearly, a king size bed will not satisfy the guests’ needs. What should the front office staff do?

What are the options?

The hotel staff quickly reviewed their options:

  1. They could insist that the guests remain in the two king rooms since the reservation stated only two people per room. But each king room contains room for only one rollaway.
  2. They could force the guests to take one or two more king rooms. The hotel could either make the guests pay for the rooms, offer a discount, or offer them at no cost.
  3. They could find for the guests two queen-queen rooms at another hotel. The hotel could either make the guests pay for the rooms or handle the situation as they would a walk, with every courtesy, including complimentary rooms, transportation, and if the guests were planning to stay multiple days, they should be given a VIP return status the next day to upgraded rooms.

The right thing to do:

The right thing for the hotel to do would be to make every effort to please the guests. The guests’ had arrived at the hotel counting on the expense for two rooms, four people per room, two queen or double beds in each. Even though the reservation was confirmed for only two people per room, the confirmation also promised two queen beds per room. It is the hotel’s responsibility to provide two queen/queen rooms. Since the hotel is sold out of this room type, the staff cannot meet this request and is defaulting on the reservation. The right thing to do is to discuss various options with the guests and try to meet their expectations.

What really happened

The guests did not want to pay for a third room, preferring to stay at another hotel with two queen/queen rooms available. The hotel staff did call local competitors and found rooms to meet the guests’ needs. However, the rates were higher than the errant hotel’s, and management decided they would not pay for walking the guests. Therefore, the guests felt they had to make the two king rooms work, using a combination of rollaways and pillows on the floor. Of course, the front desk clerk apologized profusely, and arranged to move the guests to two queen/queen rooms the following day. Still, the guests were miserable.

End of story?

No! This was not the end of the story. The manager’s choice to not walk the guests was compounded by also not offering to offer a third king room for free. Over one month later, at a restaurant nearly 75 miles away, the manager of the errant hotel was dining. He overheard a table of six people relating the entire story, naming his hotel, and stating for all to hear that they would never go to that hotel again.

This, unfortunately, is based on a true story. It’s a fluke that the general manager actually heard in action the old adage that unhappy guests spread bad news like a ripple on a lake. He discovered too late that the most economical choice would have been to keep the guests happy.

Based on an article published May 1998 by Aleta Nitschke, veteran rooms division executive, author and founder of The Rooms Chronicle.

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