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My Marriott Experience

UPDATE:  Before you read this blog (which was posted on Saturday the 8th), I’d like to give an update.  I was contacted by John, the Director of Customer Advocacy at the Marriott Hotels.  He contacted me when he heard of my complaint.  He handled the situation with concern and professionalism.  He also made the matter right in the best way I think he could.  All companies make mistakes, attempting to make it right says a lot about a company.  Thanks John for your follow up.

Just yesterday I wrote about the great experience I had at the Apple Store in Southern California and now one day later I have a great example of how NOT to treat a customer.  I’ve been staying at the Marriott Desert Springs Vacation Villas in Palm Desert for the last several days.  I brought more than a dozen members of my executive management team here for a 3 day strategic planning meeting during which time we had all our meals on site, some golfed on site and some used the hotel’s spa facilities.

Checkout for the facility is at 10am (10am—how many hotel/villas have a 10am checkout!?).  OK, it doesn’t matter—I called more than an hour before checkout time and asked for an 11am checkout.  The Marriott recption desk attendant said, “Sure, if you want to pay an additional $50!”  Really? $50 more to check out at 11am?!!!  I told Melissa at the front desk that I brought more than a dozen people here for the last three days and charging me $50 to check out at 11am didn’t really seem appropriate.  She said they charge everyone—period.

Now here is where it gets really interesting.  I told her, “I brought 12 people for three nights and put them up in three – 2 bedroom villas and you won’t give me an hour later checkout?  If that is the case, I’ll never come back here again.  If you’re OK with that, I’m OK with that.”  And her answer was… wait for it… wait for it…. “Yes,” she actually said: “I’m OK with that.” 

So let’s go back to the “experience.”  This employee could have acted like she cared and maybe even asked her manager (which I requested).  But no, her answer was a “No,” end of discussion.

It wasn’t the $50 that was the big issue for me.  After spending thousands to bring my team there – $50 was not a big deal.  What really frustrated me was the fact that she didn’t seem to care if we ever came back or not.  It was not important to her.   The quality of customer service is so different from company to company and even locations within a company.  My experience here—was bad.  And Melissa should be happy to know that she has motivated me to not come back again.  Well done, Melissa.

Oh, if only Apple ran a hotel.  That would be an amazing place to stay.

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34 replies
  1. Pauline Stentaford-Till
    Pauline Stentaford-Till says:

    Excellent rant Ivan and a good example of how not to treat/retain your customers!

    I doubt if ‘Melissa’ will be receiving the Employee of the Month Award. Looks like a job for a BNI member to get in there and offer Marriotts a spot of staff training expertise.

    Reply
  2. James Ryan
    James Ryan says:

    Wow!! And if she knew what an influencer you are . . . But then again, that’s part of the point. We never know how influential that one client is in front of us. How many people they know, will tell, etc. All the more reason to treat EVERYONE like the top networker in the world.

    Reply
  3. Jim Riley (tutor2u)
    Jim Riley (tutor2u) says:

    Unbelievable. The problem for Marriott is that, with the viral power of Twitter, Melissa’s arrogance will cost the business many more times than the loss of your (substantial) repeat business,Ivan.

    Jim

    Reply
  4. Rose-Anne
    Rose-Anne says:

    Amazing. Simply amazing. Let me make sure I understand. You asked to speak to her Manager, and she said NO to that too!!! I am shocked and appalled! We had 70 members of our Mediators/Arbitrators group at our annual seminar and held it at JW Marriott in Orlando in 2010. We were very satisfied and had nothing but the best service – personalized too. Nevertheless, your experience is making me re-think ever going there again.

    Reply
  5. Tim Stockman
    Tim Stockman says:

    Ivan,
    This is the second example of poor quality at Marriot that I have heard in the past month.
    Is it possible Marriot has lost the vision that used to set them apart?
    I hope someone at Marriot reaches out to you to settle the issue and make amends.
    Otherwise – this kind of publicity can destroy a compnay.
    Tim

    Reply
  6. John Coupland
    John Coupland says:

    Sorry to hear about your experience Ivan.

    Two things come to mind when I read this sort of story.

    1. If it was Melissa’s business, I’m almost certain that she would have simply agreed with your request. Why many employees have a different mindset when it comes to customer service, is anyone’s guess, especially in these economic times.

    2. This is the power of social media and a prime example of what I tell my prospective clients – The customer is not only King, he is one King amongst other Kings and Queens in the e-World and, with Social Media, news like this spreads fast. If the hotel is ‘on board’ with social media, they will pick this banter up quickly and get on the phone to you fast to ensure that you never experience this again and win you back…Knowing that if they ‘wow’ you, you could turn this story to one that has a positive ending. I wonder what the chances of that happening are?! 😉

    John
    @networkerplus
    UK

    Reply
  7. Jules Lewin
    Jules Lewin says:

    The only way to deal with a situation like this is to call or write to the managing director and let him or her know otherwise they will be non the wiser.
    I tell them I like to know whats going on in my business see the response you get from the MD taht will show the approach of the group

    Reply
  8. Ivan Misner
    Ivan Misner says:

    Great comments everyone.

    Jules – I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I informed the manager of the situation. I even referred her to this blog.

    She responded to me with an email. Here’s the last thing she said in her email – word, for word:

    “To accommodate the 4pm check-in time, a 10 am check was put into place. We have had to significantly limit the number of late check-outs. For those that we are able to extend a late check out to, we do charge a fee.”

    Stacey Meyer
    Front Office Manager
    Marriott’s Desert Springs Villas I

    This response (above) speaks volumes. I spent thousands of dollars taking a team to their location, I request a check out at 11am and all that matters is POLICY.

    Well, bad policy leads to lousy customer service and lousy customer service leads to a loss of customers. Unless someone from Marriott makes this right – they’ve lost my business for life.

    Reply
  9. Entrepreneur Solo
    Entrepreneur Solo says:

    Truly astonishing. Not only because of the employee (Who might well soon be an ex employee) but also for the reaction to your mail. Some companies just don’t get it!

    Reply
  10. Jean Bjerke
    Jean Bjerke says:

    Business suicide for sure. And to do this to Ivan Misner with your communication reach???!!! I agree if Apple ran a hotel . . . I was just at the Apple store today. They are awesome.

    Reply
  11. David Ch...
    David Ch... says:

    I hope you changed the name of ‘Melissa’, Ivan. Her apparent bad attitude might be her own. But it might be her bosses’ demand. Or maybe there’s some other reason. Either way, why risk her job or career?

    Jules suggested you tell the MD. (That’s Managing Director, not Managing Desk.) Clearly this front office failed. The Front Office manager seems like the wrong person to change a huge company’s policy, too.

    If the MD was serving you, of course you’d expect something different. (It’s easy to get Marriott’s MD’s number.)

    Too often, big companies fear their employees’ initiative. They try to suppress employees’ human touch because that also leads to inconsistent service.

    So, what’s your suggestion to Marriott and every other big company with distributed service staff? How do you think they should get staff to do what the MD would do?

    Reply
  12. Edward Tudor
    Edward Tudor says:

    We had a similar experience at an ASK restaurant where on quite week night we held a meeting for 30 members of ecademy.

    When we went to settle our bills for the evening the manageress was very rude to those who had only bought drinks.
    Over half of the people attending had had meals but this was not enough for this young lady.

    Her rudeness cost that restaurant the ecademy meetings and there were several blogs the next day which must have damaged the business.

    We put it down to the difference between an employee and an owner.
    I haven’t been in an ASK restaurant since.
    I am sure that most of the others who attended that meeting have taken the same action.

    Reply
  13. LaurieJMFarr
    LaurieJMFarr says:

    I worked for Hilton, the competition, years ago when Marriott was famous for leading the way with their “employee empowerment” vision. Every employee was trained and Marriott based their global ad campaign on this. It was unbeatable. What happened??? Where did it go??? Your “Marriott Experience” needs to be shared with JW Marriott, Jr., Ivan, honestly, in person. A complimentary stay would be my expectation.

    Reply
  14. Dave
    Dave says:

    She should have just asked a manager if they could override the policy of the hotel for late checkouts because of your group.

    But…everyone on here shouldn’t be getting down on the girl because she was following company policy. Employees are bombarded with rules when being trained and the consequences of not following company policies at any job. This is just out of fear of consequences of not following the policy, and she probably gets this question alot from other guests because of the hotels early checkout time of 10am. So, her manager probably expects her to be strict on this policy because of this. I wouldn’t be angry with the girl, I’d be angry with the hotel’s management for setting this checkout time for 10am and then requesting their guests to pay $50 dollars for a late checkout. I’d say, this is Marriott’s fault, not the girl.

    The problem with business today is that employers say, “The customer is always right, but don’t give the whole pie away”. In the old days of business, the customer was always right. You’d give them everything they requested or needed, no cost added to what they paid for. But so many businesses money pinch today. Dollar for this, dollar for that. This is just another case of that practice.

    Reply
  15. Mary
    Mary says:

    Customer service is absolutely key. We are all indeed human which means mistakes can happen.

    It’s how a company handles a situation-gone-wrong that speaks volumes. If the response is timely and good, that company / professional may have just won some clients / customers for life because they feel like they are in good hands.

    ~Mary
    aka ReloMary

    Reply
  16. Clive
    Clive says:

    “If only Apple ran a hotel”?

    It would look good, granted. But you’d need a new key every time you went back to your room. If something needed changing, you’d need a special person with special skills to do it – even just changing the towels. If the skills weren’t immediately available, tough, you’d have to wait. You’d not be able to get Pepsi or Coke – it would have to be something made by (and charged for from) Apple.

    All access to the outside world would have to come through Apple – and you’d probably have to pay extra for it no matter what. All power sockets would be some weird 17.5V DC connection or something – and there would only be one company that sold 120/240V AC adaptors – guess who?

    If you did get a problem and you managed to get through to the manager, you’d be told in no uncertain terms excatly where to insert your key, somewhere where the sun don’t shine.

    Wrong analogy, unfortunately – I think I’d prefer one bad “apple” in the barrel, rather than one bad Apple as a company. This experience appears to have come about due to one poorly trained and incentivised employee. I’d have moved on to a different person and asked them for the manager – everything could then have been different.

    Reply
  17. Thornton Holmes
    Thornton Holmes says:

    A perfect example of how an individuals strong social media prescence could be so damaging to a company! Be aware – bad news always spreads more quickly than good and should be a lesson to all businesses that clients are our life blood!

    Reply
  18. Jim
    Jim says:

    Have you contacted Marriott? I was once “thrown out” of a Marriott after spending 3 nights and waking up with a “stomach flu”. They were overbooked and when I asked for another night they said “no”. I had my corporate travel guy call the hotel and he was told “no”. So he called our Marriott sales woman who called the hotel. She was also told “no”. I was so pissed I just left and managed to fly home with no issues. I took this matter up with Marriott corporate and ended up getting a free Platinum upgrade for all of 2010 plus 20,000 points. I’ve re-earned Platinum for 2011 and, in general, love Marriott.

    Since my one horrible experience I’ve had dozens of EXCELLENT ones (including an upgrade to a two-story room on the 45th floor in downtown Chicago — SWEET room).

    Reply
  19. John Coupland
    John Coupland says:

    Ivan – Thanks for the update and glad that the Director of Customer Advocacy at the Marriott Hotels has got in touch.

    Ref. my prior comments in #10, may I ask how he found out? Not looking for names of course, just wondered if someone had made him aware of your experience or whether the Marriott do in fact monitor noise on social media after all?!

    John
    @networkerplus
    UK

    Reply
  20. CJ
    CJ says:

    Wow, after watching an episode of Undercover Boss last night, all I could think was, it might be time for the CEO of Marriott to show up undercover and see how he is treated by Melissa. For all she knew you could have been her undercover boss, and it would be the end of the line for her.

    Reply
  21. Stacey
    Stacey says:

    OMG…this is the same thing that happened to my husband and myself on Saturday the 8th. We have been owners at the Marriott Desert Springs Villas II for 11 years. We come down at least 2 times a year, if not more. Here’s the deal: You cannot check in before 4:00 and you have to check out by 10:00 so the villas can be cleaned and readied for the next guests. Well, that does NOT give you a full week. You are actually losing a half a day. We also asked for an additional hour and were told that normally, we could get an extra hour for $50.00, but that option wasn’t even available on Saturday. They were too booked. Then we were told “You know, we have 27,000 owners!!! WHAT??? I can honestly say that Desert Springs Villas has lost not only it’s kindness to owners but have become greedy and unfair. By the way, we left an item in the villa and went back to get it. The front desk said they would send someone to get it and it would be in lost and found. They told us it would still be there because the villa hadn’t been cleaned yet. Guess what? IT WAS 12:00!!!! How insulting is that?

    Reply
  22. John Coupland
    John Coupland says:

    @Ivan, Ref. #10, #27, #28 – The power of word of mouth! 😉

    @Stacey, Ah well. Look on the bright side, thankfully it wasn’t 4pm when you found it hadn’t been cleaned yet! Then again, what’s happened, maybe 4pm doesn’t sound as daft a probability as it sounds! lol

    John
    @networkerplus
    UK

    Reply
  23. Tom Doiron
    Tom Doiron says:

    Dear Dr. Misner,

    Johnny-come-lately here. I read all 30 comments ahead of me because I found this very interesting.

    Three things came to my mind:
    1. I don’t want a business with employees.
    2. No one stays at the top forever.
    3. Corporate managment at the Mariott does not understand the power of Social Media.

    Wishing You Plenty To Live,
    Tom Doiron
    Atlanta

    Reply
  24. Shawn McCarthy
    Shawn McCarthy says:

    This kind of stuff happens all the time. I recently went to a sub shop, ordered a sandwich and told them they could leave out the onions, peppers, tomatoes, salt and pepper, other seasonings, cucumbers and alfalfa sprouts. When I let them know I’d like a couple of extra pickles, they charged me 50 cents for them! Are you kidding? Although on a different “dollar” level than Ivan’s Marriott experience, you can bet your last money I will refrain from ever going in to that sub shop again!
    As for Melissa, she was following policy (as some commenters have alluded to),however, that’s what managers are for. Similar to policies in BNI, sometimes there can be “gray” areas and common sense comes into play.
    I did hear that the golf outing was great, although Ivan got stuck in the windmill! :)

    Shawn McCarthy BNI ED Ventura County & Santa Clarita/Antelope Valleys

    Reply
  25. Norma Vargas
    Norma Vargas says:

    OMG…this is the same thing that happened to my husband and myself on Saturday the 8th. We have been owners at the Marriott Desert Springs Villas II for 11 years. We come down at least 2 times a year, if not more. Here’s the deal: You cannot check in before 4:00 and you have to check out by 10:00 so the villas can be cleaned and readied for the next guests. Well, that does NOT give you a full week. You are actually losing a half a day. We also asked for an additional hour and were told that normally, we could get an extra hour for $50.00, but that option wasn’t even available on Saturday. They were too booked. Then we were told “You know, we have 27,000 owners!!! WHAT??? I can honestly say that Desert Springs Villas has lost not only it’s kindness to owners but have become greedy and unfair. By the way, we left an item in the villa and went back to get it. The front desk said they would send someone to get it and it would be in lost and found. They told us it would still be there because the villa hadn’t been cleaned yet. Guess what? IT WAS 12:00!!!! How insulting is that?

    Reply
  26. Charles
    Charles says:

    Quote- “29.CJ Says:
    January 10th, 2011 at 4:16 pm
    Wow, after watching an episode of Undercover Boss last night, all I could think was, it might be time for the CEO of Marriott to show up undercover and see how he is treated by Melissa. For all she knew you could have been her undercover boss, and it would be the end of the line for her.”

    ————————————————————
    CJ. This is exactly why companies need to make a small investment in a program just as I offer. I do agree that she should not be held fully accountable for sticking to the policy. If a customer has a legitimate reason (especially if they have spent thousands to stay at the hotel) then the employee should find some means to compromise with the customer.

    This is where our reporting comes in. This vital information can be communicated to that particular employee to coach her how to listen to the demands of the customer and find some sort of compromise utilizing her resources available such as manager, etc.

    I can guarantee if this employee was aware of a program to get rewarded or coached from an experience of a, “Mystery shopper,” this may have ended differently.

    I like the show, “Undercover Boss.” Every company should either do it or look into our quality assurance program especially in today’s ever changing and challenging world with a huge social media presence. A business can find itself struggling with one bad experience today.

    Reply
  27. Pete Austin @marketingXD
    Pete Austin @marketingXD says:

    Poor negotiating by both sides. Sorry.

    Melissa may been inexperienced and probably she did not have the authority to waive this $50 charge.

    If you (the reader) find yourself in this position, please try something like the following:
    (1) Keep cool. Take a breath
    (2) Explain your case (I need the later checkout because I have to coordinate all these guests)
    (3) Ask the employee whether there is something that they *can* do to make the situation good.
    (4) Don’t go straight to the nuclear option of “I’ll never come back here again”

    Reply
    • Ivan Misner
      Ivan Misner says:

      Pete, I agree completely. I did each of the things you mentioned in that exact order. I was very calm in my discussion with them. Even when I made the statement about not coming back. It was more like a question than a threat. The employee didn’t care. The only thing that got a reasonable response was writing this blog and sending it to Marriott HQ. They responded appropriately.

      Reply

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