By Paul Peavy
To start with I have to own my part of the mistake. We had gotten in the habit of leaving hotels without checking out and checking the final bill. A lot of hotels give you that express checkout bill that appears that the checkout fairy slips out under your door your last night of sleep.
Even at the few hotels that did not that we were cruising out without cruising by the desk. First lesson to hotels is to please consider adding this feature if you do already do so. (Or how about going high tech and emailing, texting or adding an app for this?)
At sports events, athletes and their families are often checking out and trying to get to their last day of competition. Also, if everybody is leaving to head back home at the same time, the check out line can get pretty long. As triathletes we are loaded down with gear and bikes on a rack. As a swim parent we are headed for an early morning swim session or we have to get back to Tallahassee for an afternoon swim practice. Either way, it’s a time crunch.
Now, for what I consider the hotel’s problem. Two days after we left, a roughly $120 charge was on our credit card. We had used points and a “Gold Level” membership (or something like that) to pay for our complete stay at this very nice, very reputable hotel chain. A part of the membership included “No Resort Charges.”
When I called to check out these charges someone who admitted that he was new answered the phone (We’ll call him Carlos because, well, that might actually be his name). He was extraordinarily polite and concerned. He said from what he could see it seemed like one of those charges that hotels sometimes put on a credit card but never actually charge. He said he would forward this to his manager and the manager would call me back when he returned from lunch. This was a Friday.
When no one called by Monday, I called back. The same gentleman answered the phone and he remembered me and apologized for no one calling me back. He talked to the manager while I could hear him and the manager confirmed it was just a “Resort Charge” that would come off and never be charged.
Well, that Wednesday the charge hit my bank account. I called back and got “Carlos” again. He apologized profusely and told me once again he would give the message to the manager. No returned call. When I called back the next day the “Carlos” apologized and said if I did not get a call back he suggested I call corporate customer care. I thanked him.
I called corporate and they said they would have to check with the hotel itself to get their interpretation of the events. The corporate office called me back and told me that “Just like the manager told you, you were charged an extra day because you were in your room until after 3 p.m.” I nearly jumped through the phone!
I had gotten my daughter to swim practice by 3 p.m., that day in Tallahassee, four hours away. I could pull up a gas receipt and a late stop at Subway if I needed to prove anything. I could have my daughter’s swim coach verify that we dropped our daughter off at practice at 3 p.m. if I needed to.
But that was not the most insulting part, I told the assistant manager when I called back the hotel. The most insulting part was the, “Just like the manager told you…” part. Oh, my gosh! Do not lie to me. The only words I heard from the manager were when I overheard him talking to Carlos as he told him that those were just “Resort Charges” that would never be charged. The assistant manager was not apologetic at all and said she would check with housekeeping that afternoon to see if I had indeed checked out or not.
No returned call that day. I called back and got a very, very apologetic Carlos (He is such a hero to me by this part of the story that I am dropping the secret identity quotation marks.).
He said it looked like on his computer the charges had been taken back, but it might take a 5-7 business days for the credit to appear. He said he would transfer me to the assistant manager to make sure everything was as he saw it. It was almost as if the assistant manager was smacking her gum and twirling her gum like an old Carol Burnett skit, my paraphrase of her quote goes like this, “Yeah, ya gettin’ ya money back, what’s the big deal?” What’s the big deal?”
The big deal is that you are “borrowing” $120 from me without asking and, in fact, lying about how you have handled it. I hung up and fired off an email to corporate admitting I had made the original mistake of not going to the front counter to check out and giving great credit to Carlos for being an individual that seemed concerned about my problem and the hotel’s reputation.
I then explained that the manager had lied to me. If he had looked at the problem closely when I first called or addressed it with me as a late check out. It would have never gotten to the point that it was taken out of my bank account at all, much less the possibility of me being $120 short for possibly 5-7 business days. Now to be honest, it only took two more business days but that still three business days and a weekend too long.
The following Monday I got a very apologetic email from Regina in charge of group sales. She was desperate to save her hotel’s reputation with ours and other swim teams. She did everything right including apologizing profusely, asking about my daughter’s swimming, and asking what she could do to compensate for my troubles and restore their good name. I have to admit, I wish she had made the specific offer of compensation first. (I once saw a man wink at his friend when he was trying to get some freebies from DisneyWorld when he felt he was slighted and say, “See you can always get free stuff if you complain loud enough.” I never want to be that guy.)
Regina gave us enough points for two free nights at the next swim meet. That, plus her personal concern and admitting the whole situation was handled incorrectly, saved the day for this hotel in my eyes.
The moral of the story for you, the sports event coordinator is this. Get to know your area hotel operators. Let them know what a great economic boon your event is to them. Especially get to know their group coordinators and managers. A part of your events’ reputation and the desire for an athlete to return to your event is the total hotel, restaurant, retail, and tourism experience.
Also remember the old axiom that the first and most long lasting impression may be given by the person who answers the phone. Make sure your organization also has a “Carlos” who answers the phone. It’s not important that that person has all the right answers. It is tremendously important that this person has the right attitude.