Welcome! How May We Gouge You??

It was a rainy morning in Chicago. I had flown in early, taken the train downtown, and gotten pretty well soaked on the walk to the hotel – but, I was here. Ready for a great few days of networking and SOBCon.

I’d booked the conference hotel (Hotel 71) months ago for the duration of SOBCon but needed a place for one night, so I had gone on-line and reserved a room at a relatively nearby place, which will remain unnamed at the moment.

Dripping my way into the lobby at about 10 am local time, I was flabbergasted by the following exchange:

Tom: “We have a room ready for you, Mr Woodruff, but there will be a $35 early check-in fee.”

Me: ???????????????????????

OK, let me get this straight. A room is sitting there ready, I arrive early (terrible sin!) – and now you want to ding me for an extra $35? In 25 years of business travel, I’ve NEVER run into this gouging maneuver (have you? If so, enlighten me – please!)

This, after mentioning that, no, I don’t recall ever staying here before. What a nice welcome for a new guest!

I described this red carpet treatment on Twitter and apparently others agree with me.

I’ll try to communicate my displeasure privately and see where that goes, which is why I’m not mentioning the property by name at this point. But if you’re in the hospitality business, take away this lesson – when your first encounter with the customer is a grab deeper into their pocket – for no good reason – you’re really not likely to build repeat business.

Not. Likely. At. All.

ADDED BONUS: no e-mail address, no electronic message capability on website, and no Twitter! Free Wi-Fi, though….

UPDATE: I confirmed with a second desk person that this is indeed a policy of the small chain (though I think it is presented as a reserved red-eye early check-in on some document I see in the room here – I was a walk-up). That person gave me the name and e-mail address of the Customer Service Manager, whom I e-mailed, and who kindly got right back to me with an offer to waive the charge. That was (in my opinion) the right thing to do – and I respect the two desk personnel who actually did what they had to do – enforce policy (even if it was uncomfortable).

I will continue to leave the name of the hotel unmentioned and simply suggest that they forward this post up the chain of command so that an internal decision can be made about the wisdom of said policy.

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

11 Responses to Welcome! How May We Gouge You??

  1. I think you should definitely name the hotel chain… like I did after my customer service debacle… http://bit.ly/eoWX7t

  2. and we must add $15 Mr. Wood-rough, It’s our dripping on our lobby fee. Dripping is not permissible at this property.

  3. I would have laughed in his face! I am impressed by the fact that you are not calling them out (yet), but I do believe they deserve it. And if this was the hotel of choice for SOBcon? They should know too…

  4. Wow! Pretty amazing that you’re not calling them out. Another good example of bad business. I went to see a big double bill rock show at a major sports stadium the other day and all the concessions were cash only. 15,000 people (in the mood to spend money on drinks and novelties), one ATM (ran out of cash 40 minutes into the show)…are you kidding?

    I’m sure the UIC Pavilion is an example of many places like it.

  5. good update. one thing people need to keep in mind… the employee’s are oft just carrying out their mgmt’s policies. no reason to hassle them. great handling of this situation Steve and amazingly such a quick response from their customer service folks.

    • Stephen – that’s the real point. Someone up the food chain, somewhere, for some reason, thought that this was a good idea – and I actually see where in some instances it would be fine (if you made a conscious red-eye reservation). I just don’t think such a policy works well in the case of a registered guest who happens to arrive early. And those who create such policies need to see how they might impact customers on the ground. Hence the post.

  6. Oh do your readers a service and publish the name of the hotel. This is just another example of the decline of service in the so-called service industry.

    • Nope – not going to do it. There are times for that, but there are also times to respect existing communication channels. The people here are trying to play with the hand they’ve been dealt. Maybe I can provide them with some ammunition to make a case for change. No need for a public scolding with names attached.

  7. Joseph Ruiz says:

    Steve, if there are no twitter accounts and no electronic email addresses one has to wonder what “calling them out” here would even accomplish. Kind of like if a tree falls in a forest and no one is there…..

    I think you are on to something in your approach. It is the fixings for a great customer experience case study by great i mean a “don’t be this guy” study.

    Thanks for sharing.

  8. Tom Martin says:

    Laughing to hard to comment…. oiyyyy

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