The Starwood Platinum Chronicles, Part 2

Checking into Starwood hotels seems to be an adventure almost every time, hence this new series of blog posts. Every time I check into a Starwood hotel I’ll post my experience of the upgrade “process,” be it good, bad, simple, or complicated.

For those of you that have no clue what the hell I’m talking about, this is because I recently became a Starwood Platinum member, and one of the benefits of being a Starwood Platinum member is the best available room upon check-in, up to a standard suite. In practice that often means one has to fight tooth and nail for those benefits, though it’s all in good fun for me.

At the Schloss Fuschl in Salzburg I was told that because I was on an award stay the hotel had the discretion of how far they wanted to upgrade me. I would have taken “our suites are full” as an answer and dropped it, though the fact that they discriminated against me as an award customer, which violates their terms and conditions, irked me. One tweet and 15 minutes later I received the upgrade I had hoped for.

This installment of the Starwood Platinum Chronicles takes us to the Sheraton Arabellapark in Munich, Germany.

The agent at check-in couldn’t have been nicer and advised me I had been upgraded to a studio room with club access. I hadn’t recalled seeing a “studio” room listed on the hotel’s booking page, so was curious if that translated to a junior suite or just a standard room. I asked the agent whether they had any suite upgrades available, to which she advised me that my room had been especially allocated for me and she didn’t think any suites were available. Okay, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Sure enough it was quite literally a standard room. Once in the room I opened up my laptop, went online, and made a “dummy” booking on spg.com for the  nights I was staying. Sure enough they had both junior suites and executive suites available. Not only that, but they were selling at least nine more of each room type!

I went down to the front desk with my laptop and nicely mentioned to the agent in German that I saw they were still selling several suites for the night, and mentioned that I thought that was a Platinum benefit.

Unlike at the Schloss Fuschl the agent was incredibly apologetic, and after glaring at her computer for about a minute called over the front desk manager. The front desk manager advised her to assign me an executive suite, and within a few minutes I was given a nice suite.

So in the end I had “argue” for my suite at both the Schloss Fuschl and the Sheraton. The difference was the attitude of the front desk agents — they were genuinely apologetic at the Sheraton and more than happy to oblige.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — it’s so awkward to ask for an upgrade and I wish it were automatic, but I guess given the circumstances it’s actually fun practice of my negotiating skills for when I go to markets in China/Thailand to buy cheap stuff (“special deal just for you, my friend…”).

On a completely, entirely unrelated note, I nominate this hotel for having the strangest club lounge ever. Anyone want to guess what time of day they served this in the club lounge?

Comments

  1. I’m enjoying this Ben … please keep doing it.

    Starwood over-promises and under-delivers and it’s the only chain where they expect their top customers to be their loyalty and brand-standard enforcement unit.

    -David

  2. Thanks for the stories Ben. Keep it up. Maybe your exposure will change things…I’m with you, I hate having to ask for an upgrade that is supposed to be automatic.

  3. It sounds like Starwood should take this out of the hands of the hotel agents and put it in the hands of either the reservation system or corporate.

  4. Great idea Ben, I’m currently SPG Gold and considering going for platinum so this series of blog posts will be very useful for me

  5. You are now living and breathing exactly what Platinums go through at least 1/2 the time at most properties around the world. It is so frustrating but at the same time it’s fun to WIN THE GAME! At first my wife was embarrassed to stand there while I quite literally reiterated what the Platinum upgrade policy was to front desk person after front desk person, hotel after hotel. But after seeing the reward for five minutes of conversation, it now all makes sense to her.

  6. As a new platinum this is not something I want to have to deal with. I just completed my first stay as a platinum and was given an *upgrade* (which was sub par to rooms I’d received at the same hotel on previous stays) Unfortunate that I’m going to have to beg for the benefit I thought I was getting as a loyal customer. I hope the lurker reads your blog Lucky!

  7. I went through the same experience last week at the Sheraton Arabellapark and also the Westin Arabellapark. The Sheraton upgraded me without having to negotiate to a suite, but the Westin – on both stays – refused. They told me that the influx of guests from Saudi Arabia meant that no suites were available. Though they upgraded me to a nice club level room it was not a suite, and I know that rooms were available but they wouldn’t honor it. Very frustrating. As you said in Asia you get a much better reception from SPG hotels.

  8. Dude…how the heck are we supposed to guess what time of day that buffet was served, when near as I can tell from your travel itineraries, with the hours you keep you might be part cyborg, part vampire??

  9. I have a feeling @StarwoodBuzz is going to see this post, look up your records, and start calling in advance to hotels you have a reservation for to ensure no more bad PR. At least, that’s what they should do if they’re doing their job well.

  10. @Pegasus I guess the rest of us will have to mail our travel plans to Lucky, for him to post them so Starwood notices :S 🙂

  11. At the Westin Munich I was told, that Platinums are never upgraded to a suite at this hotel. They also told me that they know that this is against the terms and agreements. Call SPG, they are going to answer: “all hotels are independently owned and operated” …

  12. My experience with SPG has been unencouraging as well. Have been gold for many years. Have had many opportunities to check into hotels and not even been put on an SPG floor. SPG seems to be really stingy on anything extra that they don’t think they would be caught out on. Too bad…lots of bad press here and undoubtedly more to come.

  13. And this is why I have stopped giving significant business to Starwood. I’m much happier now booking the room types I want at any chain. Recently, I booked a junior suite at the Westin Harbour Castle and upon check-in was told I was “upgraded” to a junior suite. The expression on the clerk’s face was priceless when I told him that was exactly the room category I had booked so I hadn’t been upgraded at all!

  14. Ben – You’re doing a great justice in sharing your experiences. Great brands differentiate themselves by ensuring absolute consistency, and it’s clear that the SPG affinity program is lacking in this area. As a person who benefits from my wife’s SPG Gold status my expectations are not that high. Now that I know how Platinums are treated I have no desire to alter our bookings to reach that level unless there is a notable shift in culture.

  15. I just checked into Hotel Kamp in Helsinki, and was given the amazing Presidential Suite. I’m Platinum, arrived late at night and was given a very warm welcome. I haven’t been as fortunate in Germany, although have had great experiences at Starwood in England, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Japan as well. Hotel Kamp is gorgeous.

  16. Those hotels that are part of the SPG program are bound by the terms and conditions. They have the ability to opt out of the program, as many of the hotels in Dubai have done. But those that participate are not supposed to cherry pick the T&Cs that they do not like.

    Would seem to me if they are not honoring the T&Cs, SPG should involuntarily discontinue their participation. But ultimately, as another poster suggested, SPG reservations needs to take control of this procedure, similar to what they have field tested in places like the Westin Grande in Bangkok.

  17. I’m Starwood Gold and I’ve been offered a Platinum status challenge. 15 nights in 90 days. I was gonna commit to Starwood and do it, but having read all this and everyone’s comments about having to argue and fight for benefits, I’ve changed my mind.

    I too have been told I’ve been upgraded and also heard them tell people checking in next to me “sir we have upgraded you” when in fact it is the room that has been booked!!

    Let’s all take our business elsewhere

  18. I have to echo Lucky’s experiences with SPG Platinum. I’ve had to do the same (look up suite reservations with my phone to prove a point) many, many times. The reservations desk always tries the same tactics: (1) they tell you that you’ve been upgraded (but you haven’t–they just mean that you got on a higher floor); then, if you press them, (2) they tell you that there are no more suites available (which I can always disprove by looking up availability on my phone). Last couple of times I called them out, I received some really crazy and appalling responses. From the Westin LAX, the front desk clerk claimed that since hubby and I were staying for 5 nights, they did not have to upgrade us as they were entitled to hold on to the suites in order to try to sell them (despite the fact that we were there over Xmas and the ENTIRE hotel was empty). When I called out the US Grant in San Diego about suite availability, the front desk clerk explained that, yes, they had suites still available, but since I booked using a government rate, they were saving the rooms for others who had paid more (never mind that it was 11 PM and the “others” hadn’t yet checked in/shown up). Like Lucky, my only good experience was in Asia (Le Meridien, Bangkok) where the hotel automatically upgraded us, comped us breakfast, and gave us unlimited refreshments in the evening. But the bad experiences were bad enough that I decided not to requalify this year. Am now looking for a new chain to call home.

  19. I’ve had similar experiences being a Platinum member for the past three years. Most hotels in the USA upgrade me at check-in but a few a totally disregard this unless I push the issue. I do enjoy the benefits of free internet and free breakfast food at many locations. Many too have nice lounges to hang out. I saved a ton of money on beer in Tel Aviv since it was free in the member lounge. My best upgrade experience was in Barcelona, where the front desk clerk got us their Presidential suite after requesting an upgrade at check-in. I highly recommend this suite if you can get it for its 360 degree room views of the city. But to get this we had to push and have her take a look at my long term record with Starwood.

  20. I have had no problems so far. However, I have a concierge agent that handles all of my travels. I email her all my dates and she makes sure everything is taking care of. There have been times that my upgrade was not available, but she lets me know before I arrive and sometimes a suite pops up. I have been Elite with other chains, this by far is a better fit for me. If you do not have a gal that you work with, let me know, I might share her.lol

  21. This is typical starwood and very hit or miss. Unfortunately its becoming more miss than hit and as a result I am shopping for a new hotel chain. I have been plat since 2004 and requalified for this year so will status match someplace else. Good reporting.

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