Thursday, May 12, 2005

Confirmed Reservations

"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to." Bilbo Baggins

Dear Sir,

As a background to this correspondence, I was booked with a CONFIRMED reservation to stay at the Marriott Residence Inn in downtown Hartford on a trip last month:

Address:942 MAIN STREET
Telephone:860 524-5550
Rate:USD 169.00 per night
Fax:860 524-0624

I was to arrive Monday April 25th with checkout April 27th.
Imagine my surprise my wife received a call on the afternoon of Sunday the 24th, informing me that they would not be able to honor this reservation and had arranged for a room at the local Hilton.

I called and inquired as to the reason for the cancellation of my confirmed reservation.  I was informed that a group presently staying in the hotel had extended their stay.  I expressed to the young man that I did not find the Hilton arrangements as equivalent in several ways, specifically the complimentary breakfast and the free High-Speed Internet access.  He did arrange for breakfast, but there was no option for the computer access forthcoming.  According to him, and by extension the hotel/the Marriott chain/you, I was going to stay at the Hilton, period.

I realize this is a franchise operation.  I realize these things happen.
What I don't realize is what, if any logic was used to determine who got bumped.  (Yes, given what I have to say below, I believe I deserved better treatment.)  I also know he and by extension the hotel/the Marriott chain/you, have not just lost my patronage for this stay, but has caused me to review my travel choices on an on-going basis.

I have waited to write this missive, and to post the following entry to my travel/technology blog. ( Having had no satisfaction when contacting local management, as detailed below, I expected little reaction from Marriott corporate, as I assume this was a unilateral action by the local hotel.  Having this assumption confirmed, I write this letter.  With these thoughts that occurred to me when the events were fresher in my mind:

My initial anger/disgust/disappointment with the Marriot Residence Inn of Hartford's call informing me that they would not be able to honor my CONFIRMED reservation has metamorphised slightly.  Things wrapped up early at my client site and I took the opportunity to take my case in person to management of the hotel.  This particular hotel, like many, is a franchise, and has it's own business needs, independent of the overall Marriott chain.  Up until this time, that has not been an issue.  In this case it was.  This was my first attempt to stay at this particular hotel, as it didn't exist on my last trip to central CT.  As I had the time, I wanted to see the reaction of management to my questions/complaints in this matter.  The results were, to say the least, un-impressive from my perspective.  And that, ladies and gentlemen is the crux of this matter.  As I explained to the highest level of management available, the Front-Desk Manager (Ann if I remember correctly.) I have a long-standing travel pattern that has, up until this point, favored the Marriott chain.  I do this for two reasons:  One, I can accrue points in the Marriott Rewards system that I can use for future personal travel use.  This is, at a rate of approx. ten points for every dollar expended on business travel.  I have no compunction in doing this, as the rates for rooms at Marriott hotels are competitive with those of other hotels in the respective cities I visit.    To give you some idea of how this income has accrued to various Marriott affiliated hostelries, I estimate I have spent over $75,000 over the last 12+ years.   If I am going to spend multiple nights away from my home and family, I feel fully justified in receiving SOME recompense on a personal level.  It is little reward compared to events I have missed while away on business.  One such event has occurred this week.  Even as I sit in the airport in Milwaukee, typing these words, and waiting for my connecting flight to return to KC from Hartford (delayed, of course, but that's another posting...) the annual Theater Banquet is just concluding at my daughter's high school.  I will miss this 'last hurrah' for the graduating seniors.  There is always a retrospective of the year and, since many were on the trip last Summer to NYC, I feel a special connection to this graduating class.  But, given various choices, this one, like many before, I had to miss.  Ultimately as the heat of anger and disappointment gives way to the cold hard reality of logic, the true nature of this 'wrong' comes into clear focus.  At least I believe so.  Tell me if you agree:

Ultimately I choose, within certain limits imposed on me, my travel arrangements.  This includes the comfort of a wide seat (MrGadgets is a big guy.) on MidWest airlines, with the warm chocolate-chip cookie that comes on-board.  (Part of the reason for the preference of a wide seat, I begin to see a sinister plan...  ;->)  This choice also includes the choice of my hotel.  Up until this time, this has usually been a Marriott hotel.  In addition to the ability to accrue points mentioned before, I can also, given enough nights spent sleeping in Mr. Marriott's bed rather than my own, achieve certain status levels with Marriott.  Think of it as a 'frequent sleeper' program and in order to entice me to keep coming back, certain amenities are offered at full-line Marriott hotels.  These don't happen to be of much interest at the lower levels, (check cashing and the like) but at a certain point I can gain access to the Concierge lounge.  This affords me complimentary breakfast in the morning, hordourves and dessert in the evening and soft drinks/bottled water.  (I rarely made use of the cash-bar for adult beverages.)  In fact, these amenities help make the stay more pleasant, as they replace the items I would have readily at hand if I was back home.  (Hmmm, the plane is finally boarding for KC, more later)

Where was I, oh, yes, Marriott Rewards.  Ironically, with even more nights spent away from hearth and home, I would have the ability to bump a previous reservation!  (Remember, always use your power for good, never succumb to the dark side...)  My point is, like various enticements offered by air-carriers, such as upgrades to frequent-flyers, the Marriott chain recognizes the repeat customer and has specific programs/inducements to promote this behavior.

I submit that this air-travel model extends directly to the situation that the Hartford Residence INN found itself last Sunday.  They were OVERBOOKED.  This happens on a semi-regular basis with airlines, as the empty seat costs money to move to the next airport.  Better to maximize the number of bodies and compensate those willing to take a later flight when everybody actually shows up.

Here is the rub.  I was offered nothing for my in-convenience.  And since the whole reason for my 'emphasis' on Marriott as a chain IS convenience, I see little reason to continue down this path.

I am of two minds about this posting.  I will send it off the Mr. Marriott and see if their is any response at the corporate level.

More later.  Meanwhile, let the Traveller beWare...

So, there you have it.  
It is, quite frankly, enough to make one use five letter words,  like Hyatt.

It mattered-not to the Marriott Residence Inn.

Only one question remains.

Does it matter to you?

Yours disgruntledly,

Bruce Barr


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