(This is the continuation of a mistake prone journey that begin with a great hotel stay and went downhill quickly following. If you haven’t read the rest, I suggest you start from the beginning.)
I should clarify from my title for those that might misunderstand what I am staying. I want there to be absolute certainty around this property. The Sheraton Lima Convention Center in downtown Lima (not the Sheraton Four Points at Miraflores) actually smells quite awful. It was not a random day, a single bad occurrence but rather it smelled awful every single day we were there for four straight days, and it was clear this was not a new experience.
Here’s the heart breaker, we almost didn’t stay there at all – but we did.
Mistake Count: 6
Though I lived with a family during a summer exchange program in High School, I never bothered to familiarize myself with the hotels, because of course I had no use for them. It was no different than any other cities we visit and I saw no need to trouble my friends in Lima because there were several reputable brands, among them the Sheraton.
Our final choices had narrowed to Starwood Preferred Guest properties (SPG) because we thought it was the best use of our points and cash and Hyatt still doesn’t have a property in the city of over eight million people.
Though I didn’t capture the prices and screenshots at the time, we had a few choices. The nicest property in town appears to be the waterfront (Miraflores) property of JW Marriott. We had a chance to secure this room for $220/night, but at 4 nights and without any points to spend and no desire to have a fourth hotel loyalty program, $880 nights was too much money even though it may have been a great deal. It’s worth noting as well that we would arrive on the first night late (10:30PM) and leave early on the morning of departure (left hotel at 5:30AM), that seemed that like a waste of money but there is no way to get around it.
Then there was the ClubCarlson option as well which now seems like a steal since my wife and I both had enough points to stay all four nights for just 38,000 points each.
Though these prices look wildly different now, at the time of booking they were just a few dollars apart, every hotel in the $160s or $170s/night. The Sheraton indeed looked to be the best deal, cash and points for just $55/night + 3,500 SPG points was a bargain. Some may state that I should have known better by how few points it cost for a full service hotel, however, one of my favorite hotels in the whole world is the Le Meridien Bangkok. That property costs the same amount of points and even cheaper for cash typically.
All of those are reasons for which I believed that we had made the right choice, but on a trip of mistakes, I should have known what to expect.
Sometimes I contact a member of staff at a hotel to see if there is anything specific I should cover. There may be a great dessert at a restaurant I will want to try it and pass it on to the readers, or a feature that makes the property particularly unique. At the suggestion of a manager at the Hong Kong Sha Tin I tried a traditional local sweet bread that we quite liked. I hadn’t tried it in any of the previous three visits to the property though it’s widely publicized. Coincidentally, the person I reached out to for this trip was the Public Relations director for the property.
I received no reply to my initial email which looked as though it went to a general inbox where other managers might also have seen it.
I mentioned at check-in that I was hoping to meet Wilma (PR Manager) because I had some specific questions about the hotel, she was apparently on property when we got there at 11PM and I was told that I could come meet her now (after a long day I had already gotten ready for bed). I got back out of bed and made myself appropriate. I headed for the door and the phone rang again. The caller said that actually I should try someone else in the morning, I wrote down the name and went back to bed.
I didn’t call in the morning because I figured maybe Google could help. How long has the building been there? How did they acquire the location (right downtown across from an historic square and the center for Justice)? How many rooms… like I said, Google type questions. Who knew that I wouldn’t even bother to include those details because the experience was so bad.
To be fair to them, meeting the PR representative or a manager was a disservice to someone who has an important job to do, and doesn’t have time for answering questions I can look up on the internet, but usually there is something unique to learn, like there was with Mr. Chan at the Grand Hyatt Macau.
I was able to meet up with Wilma after some persistence on her side.
I asked some basic questions at first, and then realized that both of our time is valuable and I only really want to know one thing. Instead of simply asking and have her dispute that the scent exists, I figure we should go to the rooms and let it soak into her clothes.
“Would you take a walk with me?” I asked her.
“Is this about the smell?” She said before I had even mentioned a word. I acknowledged that it was.
To this point I had not mentioned to anyone on the property that there was an issue so this is obviously not the first time that it has come up. She walked with me anyway to the hall, and I know I am not doing justice to this massive cavernous space where the rooms were (separate from the lobby) so here it is in picture form.
We get into the space and she starts to explain why they think there is a “little smell”.
“It’s from the sea.” She said, looking me straight in the eyes. I thought there might be a mis-translation because in this instance she spoke in English as we were speaking both Spanish and English as it suited our purposes (or where we struggled with the other language).
This had to be an error.
I then asked so that I knew we were on the same page, “¿Del Mar?” or ‘from the sea’? She nodded and said that it was because of their coastal climate the hotel smelled. I was clear that I did not think it was from the sea and that it did not smell of the sea (neither fish nor salt water), she maintained this is what they (assumed to be the collective thought of hotel management) believed to be the cause and we parted ways at that point. There was no use in furthering a conversation where she was going to try to convince me that the scent of mildew and rotting carpet was from the ocean in a property that resides a considerable distance from the Pacific.
Here is a map of where the hotel is in relation to the city and the coast (courtesy of Google Maps).
In case anyone might still be considering a stay at this hotel, let me cover the finer points. The smell of the lobby was lovely, overly so. In fact it was clear that they were compensating. I stand 5’7” tall and drive an F-150, trust me, I know when someone is compensating.
The room was basic. There were some standard Sheraton charm, laurels on a high quality duvet, same on the shower curtain and decent stocked shower supplies. The bathroom also featured a bidet, usually a plus, unless of course you put the extra toilet paper in it. It’s pretty disgusting when you need the second roll of toilet paper and you have to decide how bad you need it because you have to grab it from inside the bidet.
An okay start.
For business, the hotel is located in an old part of downtown away from most of the new office buildings but in an historic district that was once downtown. There is a mall next door which is handy and the beautiful Hall of Justice opposite the hotel. We had a terrific view and a balcony, and if you are in Lima for architecture, you will love the view. If you are in town for the following this is not the hotel for you:
- To visit friends or family living anywhere but the very center of Lima
- Business (that’s farther away)
- Embassy work
- Anything else
Sometimes hotels get tired, but this one was downright exhausted. Probably… because of the sea.
Follow-up From Starwood
I did get a follow-up to my stay from Wilma who manages PR for just the one Starwood-owned property (this Sheraton) but only after I reached out to SPG’s twitter team with this. She said she would forward it on to a manager, who must already know if this issue, and if nothing has stirred them to action before this encounter, I doubt that a tweet from me will change that. It has been two months since our stay and I have had no further word from anyone locally at the hotel, nor from SPG corporate to dispute my claims nor offer any remedies.
In following up with SPG they credited my account with 2,000 SPG points without really delving into the issue, but it seems like a poor excuse for compensation for what was a miserable experience and I could not have made any clearer. It was a “go away” hand out, and I didn’t appreciate it.
I think charging 14,000 points and $220 (plus some taxes) to dwell in rotting mildew for four days and then acknowledging that something is wrong but choosing to do nothing about it until I whine to SPG is just garbage customer service at every level. How did they arrive at the number of 2,000 points? What would be done in future if we returned to Lima, would the property be cleaner next time?
Annoyed and appalled by the total lack of interest in this disgusting smell that permeated everything outside of the lobby, and by the total lack of effort in response from the brand, I am doing two things. First, my wife cancelled her SPG AMEX. It wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction, they had given her an embarrassing and unusably low credit limit when she got the card and if this is where we will be staying on the points, it’s not worth continuing with the card. I will be canceling mine when it’s renewal comes up. Secondly, the 2,000 points to basically shut up and go away are insulting and I don’t want them. It feels like hush money to act like the problem was solved. It was not solved and I didn’t ask for the points – I also intend to not shut up regarding the matter.
So I am giving them away – 2,000 points to my readers, assuming some stipulations.
Follow me on twitter, tag this post about either your worst hotel stay from a major program, your worst compensation for a poor experience or what you thought if you have actually stayed at this property; I will spend the 2,000 points booking a random commenter a night at any category 1 SPG property or cash and points for a Level 2 property if you want to pay the cash.
Or you can have these really cool Sheraton coasters from Lima instead (shipping included). These were also a gift from Wilma after our meeting.
If you decide to stay in Lima, stay somewhere else, you know, because “the sea”.