Let me just give you a little glimpse into an interaction I had at a Hampton Inn where I recently stayed for two nights. The first night did not go well. I had access to a two room suite. In the bedroom, the headboard of the bed was on the far wall when entering the room. When lying on the bed, to the right is both the nightstand with all of the plugs and charging ports making that the natural side of the bed to sleep on. Next to the night stand was a very noisy air conditioner and above that was the only window in the room with secret black out curtains that were nearly impossible to find (I needed help to locate them).
Every 15-30 minutes the air conditioner (hardly necessary as the outside temperatures were about 30 degrees) would come on like a car starting next to your head, wake me up and stay on for about five minutes. I took video of it, went downstairs and mentioned my sleep issue. I wasn’t looking for anything for free, but rather, I drew out how they would just switch the bed to the opposite side and it would cure a bunch of the problems I (and other guests) would have experienced.
She stated that the purpose of staying in the hotel is to sleep and if I did not sleep I should not pay for that night. She had a point. I said I would take her up on it, but then remembered that my business had already pre-paid for the night. I left for a meeting. When I came back in from dinner with a client later in the evening, there was a note for the person working the desk to offer me points for my inconvenience since I would not benefit from a credit.
“Sure that would be great.” I said and walked to my room.
Not What I Expected
The front desk called in the morning to ask if I slept better, which was very sweet and I told them that I had. I was a little groggy, and I thought she said that she had already added 1500 Hilton Hhonors points to my statement. I thought nothing more of it for a moment as I hustled to get out the door, and then took out a calculator in the elevator.
The room cost $150/night, and I think the redemption was 20,000 points for this room. I wasn’t sure, it could be 15,000 points, that’s probably what she meant, or maybe even what she said, I wasn’t sure. To get the value of the points I like to use tangible examples for valuations, so this one was pretty simple.
The cost of the room ($150) divided by the points cost to replace the price of the room (20,000) gives a value of $0.0075/point (three quarters of a penny). My customer satisfaction points (1500) at a value of three quarters of a penny each would have been given me a replacement value for my $150 night of $11.25.
“Sorry, did you say fifteen hundred points or fifteen thousand points?”
Duty manager looks at me like I just asked if I could just have the hotel and she could leave the building and says with a scoff, “Fifteen hundred” then stares at me to see if I was joking.
I wasn’t joking. “That’s okay then, I will pass on the points, just credit back the $150 for the night instead.”
“It’s too late. We already put the 1500 points in your account.” She said as if that was going to make the matter disappear.
“We are going to need to roll back that change then.”
“I can’t. Once it’s done, it’s done.” She waits, seeing me unwavering. “Let me go get someone who might know how to change that.” She walked into the ‘the back’.
New manager appears. Has my bill in hand, walks over to me determined.
“Sir, once we award the points we can’t go back and change it.” Right, right, I am sure that is the same at every Hilton hotel all the way up to the Conrad, once something is in the computer nothing can ever be reversed. Just because this hotel might use a typewriter doesn’t mean the rest of the company’s IT system is irreversibly flawed. The correct answer might have been, ‘I don’t know how to do that, but let me see if I can contact someone who does’.
“Do you know how much 1500 points are worth?” I asked.
“The amount is pre-determined by Hilton, we can only award 10 points per dollar spent on the room rate, in this case that’s 1500 points.” She dodged the question with a detail that is unimportant to me.
I took out my phone and used the calculator function. “If this room usually costs $150/night” [I type 1-5-0 into my calculator] “and a redemption night costs 20,000 points” [exaggerated pressing of the division sign and numbers: 2-0-0-0-0] “then the per point value is 3/4 of a cent,” [I let her see the .0075 for a second and wait for questions] “and we times that by 1500 points to get” [pause for anticipacion of magical answer] “$11.25 value-“
She interrupts, “30,000”
“30,000 of what mam?” I asked.
“A free night here costs 30,000 points.” she said, and now it’s me that’s waiting for the punchline. She just devalued her offer to me by 50%.
“Ok” I rework the same math problem, this time, 150/30,000 to get a value of 1/2 of one cent per point and her offer is now worth $7.50.
“Let me understand this further. Yesterday, at the suggestion of your duty manager you were happy to credit me $150 in real money, which was later changed to an offer of an undetermined amount of points. Today when the amount was clarified, that offer for points is worth $7.50 cents of which I can’t even go out and spend until I am ready to redeem them.”
“You already agreed to the points.” She responded as if I was trying to change a sports wager in the middle of a game.
“You didn’t tell me how many points I would get! That’s not even a reasonable amount.”
“That’s how many you would earn for a night stay anyway, so it’s the same thing.”
“No, it’s not. I chose the ‘double points option’ so I would get 20 points per dollar, plus my bonus of 7 points per dollar for being a Gold member, that’s 27 points per dollar or 4,050 points for one night of the stay.” Then I try to simplify matters a little bit, “If I was going to give you one of some monetary unit in my pocket and I could give you one US dollar, or one British pound, or one Mexican peso would you want the peso?” I asked her.
“What do you want me to do?” This is my least favorite response from a service manager. I wanted her to explain how she can possibly see $7.50 in points and $150 are the same refund. That question she posed to me is the managerial equivalent of throwing your hands up in the air and saying, I don’t get paid enough for this. That, to me, is hilarious because the offer felt so deceptive and the lack of interest in solving the problem, even if that meant calling Hilton Hhonors support was beyond her realm of possibility.
“Take the night off the bill and keep the points, that isn’t even close to a replacement value. I would have thought 15,000-30,000 points since that’s in the range of what it would take to spend a free night here.” I was still trying to get her to understand that she had basically offered me a dollar yesterday and today changed it to a nickel. I then stared a hole through her about the size of a quarter. She didn’t get it or care and I am not sure which is worse.
“I’ll just leave the points on there and take $150 off the bill.”
“Fine.” I walked off furious because she failed to understand why I was upset. I wasn’t asking for both points and the money back, I even offered for her to take a lesser amount off the bill since she had already applied the points. I was mad because she had decided that I was trying to get away with something and that’s the way I was treated when in reality I felt it was the opposite. Had they simply said the amount of points or to be fair, if I had asked in advance we could avoided this whole issue. However, it also demonstrates that even hotel managers don’t necessarily have the foggiest idea of how the system works and what things are worth had no clue what the value was. Worse, if she did know what the value was and decided that they would just say ‘points’ instead of how many because of course I wouldn’t know, then her actions were sneaky and rude.
When I first registered my complaint it was from a legitimate issue, I could not sleep due to the noisy air conditioner arms length from my head. When I asked to speak to a manager, I genuinely did not want anything for free, I had a pen and piece of paper in hand drawing a map of the room. I am often in that area and it’s not hard to move the bed from one side of the room to the other. It would be nice to not have that experience when I come back to town which will now be nearly every other week.
It was their manager that suggested refunding the night. It was their manager that also offered ‘points’ option. But when you try to sneak something past me, or if you manage a hotel and genuinely don’t know or don’t care that you just shorted my offer from $150 to $7.50 – I am pissed and I think you are either disrespectful or disengaged from your job. For a customer satisfaction issue as this, to argue with the customer for five to ten minutes (the rage fils my eyes with blood and it’s hard to know how long in the space/time continuum the conversation actually took) is beyond me.