The above quote was what the very stressed out front desk clerk said to me when I again went to see if our room was ready. This was after nearly 2 hours of waiting and 6 hours after our supposed check-in time. If we weren't so tired, and it wasn't so late, the hotel's inefficiency would almost be comical. Keep reading for more great quotes and to understand your recourse in these situations.
The kids were off for President's Week so we took the opportunity to tour SoCal colleges. We pulled into the Sheraton Universal Hotel exhausted after back to back campus tours and a long drive in LA traffic. This was midway through our road trip so we had planned to stay near Universal Studios for a day off before our final 3 tours. We stepped into a packed, noisy lobby a bit before 8pm. With a smug look on my face, I walked past the lines and up to the Elite counter and started my spiel, specifying what type of room I'd like for my upgrade, where's the lounge, etc., but was informed there was no room ready and there was no lounge access left...what? I decided I'd deal with the lounge issue later so went to the bar area to get us some food and drink for our estimated 40-minute wait.
I did a bit of browsing on what my rights were and found you can tweet @spgassist for immediate help. After the forecasted 40-minutes had come and gone, along with my Manhattan and bourbon, I tried the Twitter escalation path. Their response time left something to be desired, so another 30-40 minutes passed with no resolution. I dragged myself back to the counter and was greeted with the quote at the beginning of this post, "I'm sorry. Someone just passed out on me." A guest was literally so stressed about the room situation she passed out...pro tactic. The clerk then physically went to check with the cleaning staff on how rooms were coming along. Another clerk asked if I needed help and I explained the situation. She said she had heard from SPG Assist but they still had no rooms. She was very pleasant and apologetic and sat there hitting refresh on her system in hopes a maid would clear a room. I took this opportunity to do a bit of probing.
- "Did something happen today?" No.
- "Why wouldn't my pre-paid (with points of course) room be ready?" People use 4pm late checkout and most maids are off by 4pm…only 2-3 maids are available to clean now.
- "I didn't have a chance to do a mobile check-in, would that have helped?" No. People who did mobile check-in didn't get rooms either.
Wow...this is a normal occurrence. I almost felt more sorry for the front desk staff than myself. There were many people in the lobby who traveled internationally to visit Universal Studios, I can only imagine how tired and frustrated they were. The hotel is very convenient to the park, but I would rather deal with the infamous LA traffic than stay there again. There is a Hilton Universal City that is even closer to the park, and comes highly recommended, if you don't like my LA traffic option.
I committed myself to not leaving the front desk until I had a room. The clerk hitting refresh beat the clerk who came back sweating after checking progress with each of the maids. My complaint is not with the staff but the management. We finally got a room (no upgrade) at 10pm. I did negotiate a waiver for 3 days parking ($30/day) and 2k SPG points. SPG Assist had the Director of Guest Relations get back to me, two days later, with apologies and politically evasive answers to my direct questions. I never did get lounge access, which saves quite a bit of money for a family of 4...their buffet was $30 per person, yikes!
What are Your Rights
So we know what the hotel should have done, but what do they have to do? The SPG (Sheraton is part of SPG) site says only Platinum status guarantees your room availability. The check-in policy states a 4pm check-in time, but I could not find a documented policy on what happens if a room is not ready at check-in time. My confirmation email did state, If you fail to check in on time, all payments will be forfeited. If you think you may be late, please contact the hotel directly to arrange for late arrival, if available. but it did not state what 'on time' meant. In hindsight I should have called.
FindLaw.com breaks out the definition of a confirmed reservation and a guaranteed (prepaid) reservation and the hotels obligation. A confirmed reservation may have stipulations such as arriving by a certain time. In my case, I had a guaranteed reservation, so they must provide a room, even if it means getting me a room at another, more expensive, hotel. Unfortunately, they also say nothing about how long they have to provide a room.
Unfortunately, things like this happen when you travel. Don't let it ruin your trip. Be assertive but polite to the front desk personel. Ask to speak to a manager if the clerks are not resolving to your satisfaction. While you may not get your perfect outcome, hotel staff have some flexibility to offer upgrades, points, lounge access, waived parking etc., but you typically need to ask and make it very clear how you were impacted. Consider the pro tactic of passing out or have your kids start crying or running around the lobby screaming and playing tag...whatever works ;-)
Please share any similar stories or laws/policies protecting us from these type of events in the Comments section below. If you liked this post, please join and contribute to the Analytical Traveler community. Feel free to send me a message or find out who is this mysterious Analytical Traveler.