Bad hotel experience? Why you should never start with a TripAdvisor rant!

We all have bad experiences with hotels from time to time. Even when you turn up to a hotel with high expectations based on brand image, reviews or previous experience, sometimes things can go wrong. Whether it’s the quality of the room, the level of service, miscommunication or something else, nowadays the instinctive response can be to exert ‘revenge’/release frustration with a harsh TripAdvisor review. Whilst TripAdvisor is great, and this practice can be helpful to warn others, it’s not always the best place to start in terms of resolving your issue and getting the fairest deal. If you don’t feel that the room, or the service, matched what you paid, and the hotel didn’t address your concerns, then having a rant on TripAdvisor usually won’t do anything to solve this.

Most larger hotel chains have whole teams employed to resolve complaints, they know that negative reviews and unhappy customers can hurt their brand and therefore they dedicate resources to help them minimise these. With this in mind, if you really want to resolve your concern, you should take that TripAdvisor rant you’ve drafted and copy and paste it to the customer service/loyalty/feedback team email address first. More often than not, the most effective tool that these teams will have at their disposal (other than apologetic words) is the ability to compensate you, primarily with loyalty points. And assuming your complaints are factual and legitimate, this seems like a fair deal – if you didn’t get what you paid for (with points or cash), you should challenge this. Here are two recent examples of my experience following poor stays.

Example One: Hilton Bournemouth

In my experience Hilton’s customer service has always been fantastic, whether in person or by email/phone. Generally I find that they do live up to their ‘Make it Right’ promise. I also find that their email response time is pretty impressive, I’ve emailed outside of standard office hours on a couple of occasions and received a response within 15 minutes.

This summer I used 50,000 points to book a £200 a night room for me and my wife at Hilton Bournemouth. This was a smart, modern hotel, but it just turned into one of those stays where we’d picked the wrong night. The hotel has a separate roof top bar and downstairs restaurant and bar, both were busy and on this day communication was poor. This just led to constant frustration – for example on arrival we wanted something to eat, reception directed us to the rooftop bar, but this was closed for a private booking. The guest information in the room said that the downstairs bar sold food, but it didn’t. They then suggested we go to the restaurant, but it was fully booked. After going out for food elsewhere we then returned to the hotel for a drink on the rooftop – the bar was understaffed and chaotic, the outside roof terrace was littered with cigarette butts and empty bottles (and looked nothing like the image below!!) and we were then incorrectly charged for the already expensive drinks. To cut a long story short, it wasn’t a £200 a room hotel experience.

On my return home I detailed this in an email to Hilton Honors. Less than an hour later, I received an email confirming that a 30,000 service bonus would be posted to my account. At the 0.4p per point rate I got for the booking, that was a swift £120 refund which I felt was more than sufficient – especially as the remainder of the stay, including the room and breakfast, was very good. It was worth my time sending an email, and I suddenly felt less frustrated about the whole thing (and ready to plan another night with the points!).

Example Two: Best Western Mornington (Hyde Park)

Recently I had a trip to London and needed to stay somewhere near Paddington Station. My budget was relatively tight, and availability wasn’t great. I noted that Best Western Mornington, near Hyde Park, had rooms available and that they offered a fairly simple status match scheme. So I quickly secured Diamond Status as a match for my Hilton Gold, and booked a room for £120. Despite reservations, I figured it was worth trying them out as a Diamond member, and was looking forward to receiving my free gifts, drinks voucher and the possibility of an upgrade.

What I discovered was that, at least in this hotel, Diamond Status was pretty much useless. I was allocated what must have been the worst room in the hotel (see the picture below of my ‘view’!) and they were pretty much out of all the complimentary items – with the exception of a photocopied welcome letter telling me the things I was entitled to, but that they didn’t actually have! I queried this at reception and there wasn’t much they could do, so I left feeling that there was absolutely nothing at all ‘diamond’ about my experience. I’d have probably been a lot more frustrated if I’d have earned that Diamond status with stays, but nonetheless I booked the room on the basis of the non-existent perks and I felt a bit duped!

On my return home I contacted the team who’d organised the status match and explained this. I queried why they’d allocate such a poor room to a diamond tier member (or anyone paying full rate!) and asked what the point of the status was if they didn’t honour the perks. I sent images of the issues with the room and listed my concerns.

Shortly after, I received a response apologising for my experience and saying that 2000 points had been posted to my account. The next day, the hotel followed up with an offer of 25% off a future stay there.

In comparison to the Hilton example, this wasn’t quite so generous. That said, the general expectations and price were lower, and the points equate to about a 10% refund (£12). If TripAdvisor offered that for a review, we’d all be queuing up to take advantage! (see my post about the lengths I went to for points from reviews: A Step Too Far?) The point is, that even where the customer service is less impressive, this approach is still worth trying before you submit an external review. If you want more tips, Loyalty Lobby publish a weekly Compensation Clinic which is often worth a read!

Of course, once you’ve tried this route, you can then reflect on whether you also feel a TripAdvisor review is necessary (factoring in the way your concerns were managed). You’ll do this knowing that you’ve raised the concerns directly though, and created the potential for a points refund to use for future travel.

And no, in end I didn’t put either of these on TripAdvisor.

If you have any experiences or tips to share about dealing with bad hotel experiences, then let us know in the comments.

You can also contact us via takemetothepoints(at)gmail.com with any enquiries or if you’d like an American Express referral code.

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