Reader problem: Hilton changes Diamond member’s award stay two days in advance

A blog reader contacted me yesterday regarding an issue he was having with an upcoming Hilton award reservation, which I found pretty interesting. Usually I try to help with these issues privately, though this is one of those extreme cases that I think deserves a mention.

A Hilton HHonors Diamond member made a booking at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe Paris for his honeymoon on July 12, and unfortunately in the meantime that hotel has been stripped of the Hilton name due to a legal battle over the management contract (Loyalty Traveler has a good post on it here). However, that seemed to happen about a month ago.

The guest assumed everything was alright with his reservation, until he received the following email from Hilton yesterday, just two days before his stay:

Dear ________,

I am contacting you on behalf of the Hilton Executive Offices regarding your stay at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe Paris,  which is scheduled for arrival September 19, 2012. Unfortunately, this property is no longer be a Hilton property, and therefore, will not be able to honor the reward stay.

We understand the inconvenience this may present. We have made alternate accommodations at the Hilton Paris La Defense. They will be more than willing to accommodate you for the amount the same terms of your original reservation.

Should you have any additional questions, or discover there is something you and I have not covered, please let me know. I will be more than happy to offer further assistance.

 

Thank you and have a great day!

Sincerely,
XXXXX
Guest Assistance/Advance Purchase Assistant Supervisor

So Hilton contacts him two days before his stay and books him at what most consider an inferior property. I think we can all agree that letting him know just two days in advance is unacceptable, when they could have known this weeks before.

That being said, what should Hilton’s obligations be here? To pay for his stay at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe, to offer him points as compensation, or something else?

He responded to the person that emailed him stating this was unacceptable, though hasn’t heard back yet.

In my opinion given the circumstances (the fact that he was notified two days in advance, had a confirmed reservation, is being moved to a hotel considered by most to be inferior, and is a Diamond member on his honeymoon), I think it’s only fair that Hilton comp the stay, or offer him some serious points as compensation.

What do you guys think? Am I off base? Is Hilton being reasonable? What would you consider “fair?”

Comments

  1. I think a nice upgrade to their best available suit is a minimum, and a nice dinner at the hotel restaurent. Also, since La Defence is very distant from pretty much anywhere in Paris, 150 Euro for cabfare would not be asking too much.

  2. Well, for starters, not waiting 2 days before his arrival to notify him. Either comp him for his scheduled stay at the Hilton Arc De Triomphe, or comp him the best suite (if they have them) at Hilton Paris La Defense along with all food bills.

  3. Yeah this probably isn’t entirely Hilton fault. If a hotel leaves the system suddenly (which I imagine is what happened here), Hilton can’t really do anything to prevent it. However, given that the properties arent really comparable other than that they are in Paris, I think they should probably comp the stay at the La Defense or provide some sort of upgrade to make it worth your while.

  4. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is. The customer has a confirmed reservation that should be honored (even if it will cost Hilton hard cash instead of the pennies they are going to pay to La Defence).

    I will look at it as a walk situation. Provide comparable accommodation (in the same area and the same class of service) and do not charge for the first night.

    Waiting two days prior to the stay to inform the customer about the change basically negate any possibility for finding suitable alternatives by the customer and I would put the onus on Hilton to come up with something better.

  5. They should pay for his stay at the hotel he was confirmed in, or pay for equal-quality accommodations at another local property (regardless if it’s a Hilton or not), as well as comp his breakfast and other Diamond-like benefit charges he incurs.

  6. It’s one of those sad opportunities missed by a company because of its size. The Assistant Supervisor should have recognized the situation and called it to the attention of someone who could have effected more change. This was one of those opportunities to create a WOW experience for the customer, one that created a customer for life, instead it sounds like Hilton putzed the whole thing and now they have a top tier elite probably questioning his loyalty to Hilton. Boo Hilton!

  7. I would suggest he ask for the Waldorf Astoria Trianon Palace Versailles. It’s kinda far, but definitely worth a one-night stay.

  8. BTW, a call from Hilton with a sincere apology, choice of Hotel in Paris a very nicely upgraded room and perhaps a special thoughtful amenity thrown in with the compliments of Hilton. How much would that have actually cost Hilton to put together.

  9. “This property is no longer be a Hilton property”? They should explain it a little better than that. If it’s no longer a Hilton, you’d think they would have known that was coming more than a couple days in advance. If the property is currently closed (did a quick online search and it doesn’t appear to be taking reservations), obviously they can’t put him up there. Maybe the La Defense is the best option, but they should certainly offer to comp a night or return some portion of his points as a goodwill gesture. They should give him multiple options if possible.

    Personally I would not be satisfied with a suite upgrade, although maybe they could offer that to him as an option. To me location is more important than a huge room, particularly when visiting a city like Paris. Who wants to spend all day in a hotel when there’s a whole city to explore? (Perhaps this is more true of me because I tend to travel solo.)

  10. I got a call the night before we were due to arrive at a nice property in Seattle (not Hilton and paying not points) I immediately posted on the hotel’s Facebook page and trip adviser. A room appeared (actually a suite!)

    In this case the lovely couple should get free stay at the former Hilton

  11. I don’t understand the “comp his the stay at Hilton Arc de Triomphe” argument. If they find a way to get him his room in that hotel, why shouldn’t they deduct the points from his HHonors account? Maybe worth a free night or a few restaurant meals, but wanting the whole stay comped is like ordering a TV online, being told the company ran out of inventory before fulfilling the order, and so wanting that TV for free because of it.

    I completely sympathize, however, if he is forced to go to the inferior Hilton or somewhere else. In that case, Hilton should definitely do something substantial (e.g. free stay) to compensate.

  12. I’m in the same boat. I’m supposed to check in 19 sept and got an email less than 48 hours before check in saying I have been moved to La Defense. I called the ADT directly and they say they will still honor my stay but with no Hilton Gold benefits. Needless to say I am beyond irate over Hilton’s poor customer service. I will be requesting some compensation for loss of Gold benefits and late notice. Hilton really screwed up this one

  13. I think the stronger argument is location – La Defense is further out from the center of town. I guess he is lucky they didn’t switch him to the CDG Hilton 🙂

    I had a paid Hilton stay in BOM when Hilton management was dropped and I was never notified.

    Hilton needs to step up and make this right.

  14. We have a seven night award stay scheduled for October 1. Hilton was completely unprepared with a response and various representatives have provided very different responses. I am trying to get a resolution and see if I have to seek alternative arrangements.

  15. Friends stayed at the Hilton ADT a couple of years ago, said it was a “new” Hilton property at the time. It was apparently a good 15 minute walk from the Arc. I got the impression they found it just okay. Guess that didn’t work out so well.

  16. Go cheap on my award stays, and I’ll go cheap on my paid stays. Fair is fair.

    Translation: Hilton can do whatever they want with whatever justification they want, but don’t expect me to go out of my way to hand you real $ stays if I’m not happy on my “free” stays.

  17. Refund the points along with a boatload of comped points. It’s the least they should do.

    What a nice way to treat your best customers.

  18. Again this post shows a lack of understanding of how the world works. It is not Hilton that is problem it is the indvidual hotel. The hotel has chosen to not be a part of Hhonors and the Hilton franchise. The hotel has decided not to accept the award reservation. Hilton here is a victim in the same way the guest is. What is Hilton supposed to do, they can’t force the hotel to accept the booking. Hilton made the best of a bad situation and that’s really all they can do.

  19. Basically, what they said was, “We’re sorry we can’t honor your confirmed reservations at our location on Central Park East near some of the world’s finest museums and restaurants, but we have generously moved you across the river to our not-quite-as-nice location in Newark, New Jersey, at no additional expense to you. Have a nice honeymoon!”

    Just for fun, I went to the hotel web site. The reservations number was the toll-free world wide Hilton reservations number. I called and talked to “Max”, who had a strong Indian (I think) accent. “Max” was very, very polite, but had never heard of the Hilton Arc de Triomphe. In fact, he had never heard of the arch itself. After I spelled the name several times he triumphantly located the hotel and confirmed the the street address (which he did two more times during our conversation). He assured me that it was part of the Hilton hotel system and enthusiastically offered to make reservations for me. I was so tempted, but said I’d call back. Poor “Max”. He was so nice and helpful.

    Please stay on top of this story. Did the couple spend their honeymoon at Hilton La Defense? Ah, La Defense on a weekend. That’s where the action is. Tout le Paris shows up for the parks, museums, and the nightlife.

    Charlie (above) is, of course, correct in saying it is not all Hilton’s fault. The real problem was their “solution”. They missed a great opportunity to make lemonade. Or perhaps they didn’t. Tell us the end of the story!

    As to what the best solution would be, well, the Presidential Suite at the George V would be nice, but I think DBest (above) had d’best practical solution, although, as DBest suggested, that’s not exactly in downtown Paris. At least Versailles is a little more romantic than La Defense.

  20. The only point I take issue on it not being their fault is that this did not drop from the sky. There have been ongoing lawsuits and we have constantly been reassured that our reservations will be honored. Now it appears that they do not have a response prepared. I cannot even get a response from the one guy handling this issue. Yes, apparently, it is one guy.

  21. As James mentions, previously guests had been told their reservations would be honored, and now when the hotel officially leaves an abrupt about-face. The split had been rather acrimonious, with lawsuits etc. One side or the other made some last-minute changes and now everyone is scrambling. I’d tend to suspect the hotel, but it could be either. I imagine they made the break and immediately cut loose award reservations they had previously said they would honor. Hilton took the path of least resistance and offered up their own property first.

  22. As you can tell from my earlier post, I am not one of those “give me give me” entitled fools, but Hilton has to take responsibility for this situation, even if its caused by the actions of the individual hotel.

    Who should be bearing the risk of the individual hotel’s bad behavior in this situation?

    1) Hilton who used to have a business relationship with the hotel, offered the hotel on its website, confirmed a reservation at this hotel and has access to infinitely more information

    2) Customer who simply just gave Hilton its business and without any attempt to deceive or good against the spirit of a promotion (e.g. not taking advantage of price mistake or abusing loophole in a system)

    Hilton needs to make this right.

  23. So far, the only information I am able to uncover is that there is one man handling the relocations and he “only works nights.”

    This is mind boggling to me.

  24. “La Defense” is a business district. It is like staying in a hotel in Jersey City or Hoboken (NJ) instead of staying in Manhattan. For the honeymoon, this is unacceptable.

  25. of course this is NOT acceptable. Hilton is notorous in ignoring customers. In July 2012, Hilton Double Tree Niagara Falls in Canada surcharged me USD$100 and I argued with double tree and hilton. Hilton’s two reps told me that they gave the hotel 3 business days to solve this issue. Then, Hilton kept silent and never responded to me even after I asked them to give me an answer. So far, it is over 2 months and Hilton never got back to me.

    I am a Hilton diamond member as well as Platinum members of Marriott and Starwood. So, I am considering dropping hilton diamond status (I alreay earned Gold status this year) and, going forward, simply keep a hilton gold status. Considering the promotion values Marriott and Starwood provide, I think Hilton does not deserve me 60 nights a year. For example, Marriott gave one free night certificate for two stays. Starwood gave triple bonus for 3-night stay. Hilton’s triple point bonus is less valuable unless when I combine the triple bonus with triple mile promotion together at a few quite limited hilton hotels.

    Anybody has more comments on the comparison of hilton, marriott and starwood? Would be very interested in hearing.

  26. If the hotel is no longer managed by Hilton there is no way for them to “make” another hotel that is not theirs give HHonors benefits. There was no way of Hilton to know when the hotel would terminate the relationship after the courts ruling so I cant blame them on this one. Some sort of compensation should be made but I would not go as far as to expect a full free stay….

  27. @ colpuck — So pray tell what you think they “owe” him!

    @ marZ — While the entire communication sucked, that sounds like a pretty fair outcome. Hope he can enjoy the rest of his trip.

  28. I’m a little late to this discussion but the same thing happened to me with a little different end result. Had booked Hilton ADT with points and prepaid Hilton Park Lane in London a part of a month long 40th anniversary tour of Europe. I never received the Hilton email but was aware of the situation because of this blog. We get to ADT and tried to check in. The front desk gave me the story and told me about te alternate Hilton. The hotel offered me an Executive Floor room with all Gold privileges for 350£ per night. Not a bad discount. We took the room and immediately called Hilton reservations to swap the prepaid London room for points. I was on the phone fr 45 minutes ( thank you MajicJack fr iPad ) and the customer service team out of Texas called the London hotel, explained the situation and we had our prepaid room switched to an award stay. With the current exchange rates the cost was a wash. We got to stay at the former ADT with full Gold priiveledges ad no disruption to or trip, which started at te beginning of September.

    Pardon any spelling bt the iPad is tough on typing

  29. I received a similar email today, 25 September for the same property, for a prepaid stay 3 weeks from now. When contacting reservations, they could not tell me if I had a reservation, who the operator of the property was, or if I had a reservation at the unknown hotel if it would be honored. As this was a prepaid reservation, no change, refunds are permitted. Hilton stated they can be of no assistance to me. I am welcome to contact the hotel directly at my expense. No alternate bookings were offered.I am fully aware that a prepaid reservation cannot be changed or refunded. However, Hilton breached….not me. The only recourse I guess I have is to file an elongated and perhaps futile credit card dispute.

  30. My wife and I had a rewards stay scheduled for the night of September 24th. We did not receive an email prior to our arrival (come to find out they had left a voicemail on September 20th on my cell phone but since we were in Europe since September 10th and I did not want to incur international roaming the voicemail was not received until returning to the US September 25th) but did receive an email sent on the 24th at 10pm (5am Paris time) letting us know about the issue.

    I have placed my first call this morning to HH Rewards to which the lady pretty much apologized that I was not available to receive the phone call they placed and that an email should have been sent before the 24th notifying me of the change as well. She is going to do some research to verify if in fact the email was sent (she at first tried to blame it on my spam filter). As of yet, there has been no offer to either refund us any rewards points or compensate us for the 120 Euro spent on taxis to and from the CDG airport (we ended up staying at the CDG Hilton that night as we a flight out the next afternoon and the Hilton La Defense was too far out of the city and away from the airport to justify staying at).

    To say the least, this experience has left a very bitter taste towards Hilton from this Gold (former Diamond for sevearl years) HH member.

    Will post an update once I hear back from them.

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