Do You Give Honest Feedback When Checking Out Of Hotels?

I was at CVS yesterday picking up some stuff, and when I went to pay, the associate at the register asked if I found everything alright. In the past I’ve always instinctively said “yes,” though this time I decided to be honest.

“No, actually.”
“Sorry about that. What couldn’t you find?”
“Well, I was looking for [name of toothpaste].”
“Oh, we didn’t have that?”
“Nope.”
“Sorry about that.”
“And I was looking for travel sized shaving cream.”
“Oh we should have had that in stock.”
“I looked over in the travel section, and it wasn’t there.”
“Sorry about that.”

And that was only two of the four items I couldn’t find. šŸ˜‰ After that interaction I was reminded why I usually lie and just say “yes.”

And that brings me to hotels.

“How was your stay?”

That seems to be a pretty common question when checking out of hotels. But does the front office associate really care how your stay was? And more importantly, what can they do about it?

It’s very rare that I complain directly to a hotel. Living in hotels full time, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve complained at a hotel this year. I’ll almost always mention negative aspects of hotels in my reviews, but that’s simply to give a balanced review, and often they’re very minor points, and not things I’d actually complain about.

Aside from that, I tend to think that:

  • Staff issues (friendliness, professionalism, etc.) need to be taken up with the front office manager at a minimum, and ideally with the general manager
  • Issues with processes/procedures (no elite check-in line, bad club lounge hours, etc.) should be taken up with the general manager
  • Non-service issues that can immediately be fixed are what I’ll take up with a front office associate (dirty room, noisy room, etc.) — I’ll typically address them when they happen so that the hotel can make things right, as opposed to at check-out

As a result, when I’m asked at check-out how my stay was, I’ll typically just say “good.” Because in most cases I view it as the front office associate simply going through the motions. I guess you could say that the way I interpret the question is whether there’s anything the front office associate can do to improve my experience before leaving, as opposed to whether everything was actually good. Feedback like “I’d recommend tearing the entire place down, firing everyone, and starting from scratch,” probably wouldn’t be especially constructive. šŸ˜‰

Anyway, I stayed at the SLS Beverly Hills last week and was jetlagged. I went to bed at a reasonable hour, and woke up at around midnight to the sound of music. Really, really loud music.

SLS-Beverly-Hills

It’s clear it wasn’t coming from another room, and at the same time I wasn’t going to switch rooms as I had unpacked and it was the middle of the night, so I wouldn’t have complained about it. Instead I stayed up till 2AM and got some work done.

But when I checked out at 6AM the friendly associate asked how everything was. I said “great, at least after 2AM, since it was really loud all night.” She explained that they were having some party at the hotel, apologized profusely, and asked if she could maybe credit some Starpoints to my account.

SLS-Beverly-Hills

It was a really nice gesture, as I wasn’t expecting anything and wouldn’t have complained.

I’m curious, how do you answer when asked at check-out how everything with your stay was? Are you honest and provide all kinds of feedback, or do you just say “good?” And if you do provide feedback, what response have you received from the associate?

Comments

  1. I avoid the standard ‘yes’ in favor of being honest. If it’s a big issue, I ask for the GM’s email and layout the nature of the problem(s) and my suggested solution(s).

  2. I think you’re not giving enough credit to front desk agents. I guess it depends on the hotel, but being in the hospitality industry and having a few ambitious front desk agent friends, I know that when they ask they mean it cause they see it as an opportunity to impress either their higher ups (improving something in the hotel that led to a complaint), or as a last-ditch opportunity to avoid a bad review (something GMs hammer into agents). I read somewhere that people often remember a, say, 10-day trip depending on how the last day or last few hours of the trip went. Same goes for the hotel experience.

    In any case, I do often give feedback and it has resulted in apologies or points. It’s also resulted in complete indifference. Depends on the hotel, as I said.

  3. Must be honest. If guests don’t give honest feedback then the hotel gets a false impression that things are perfectly done when in reality there are problems.

  4. I usually address the issue, when it happens, with the appropriate person. Front desk clerks/cashiers do not have the power/authority to rectify a problem so I don’t like to beat up on them as it’s rarely their fault.

  5. I try to address stuff as it happens, rather than laying a giant list of stuff down at checkout. If it’s super annoying stuff – fighting for upgrades, etc – then I ask for a manager. And every once in a while, if it’s not resolved during the stay, I’ll email the SPG Platinum concierge.

    But yes, honesty always.

  6. Lucky I think what really happened:
    ā€œNo, actually.ā€
    ā€œSorry about that. What couldnā€™t you find?ā€
    ā€œWell, I was looking for Vanilla Reloadsā€
    ā€œOh, we didnā€™t have that?ā€
    ā€œNope.ā€
    ā€œSorry about that.ā€
    ā€œAnd I was looking for paypal cardsā€
    ā€œOh we should have had that in stock.ā€
    ā€œI looked over in the gift cards section, and it wasnā€™t there.ā€
    ā€œSorry about that.ā€

  7. If the hotel takes customer satisfaction seriously you are just helping them by being honest and let them know if something did not meet your expectations.

  8. My mom worked for a hotel management company, and a few years ago, my sister and I stayed in a new hotel because we had too much family in town for Christmas. The stay was a disaster and we tried to get problems fixed multiple times when the front desk. Afterward, we filled out the GSS Survey honestly since no one seemed to care if they worked out the kinks. A week later, my mom got called into mgmt’s office. The GM was PISSED because he wasn’t going to make his GSS bonus because of the survey and he traced the reservation back. Long story short, I believe in trying to let properties resolve issues at the time, but I also believe in being honest so people (hopefully) improve. Those GSS surveys are generally no joke to the guys upstairs…

  9. Glad you got points. But I am a bit weary of the canned, scripted, “customer service mumbo jumbo” I increasingly get when I articulate a concern.

    Many have likely heard it, where a concern is articulated, often in response to a general inquiry as to how your stay was. Seems whatever the concern is, folks are trained to say. Well thank you [look to screen to verify guest’s name] Mr. Jfhscott. We know that is something which is important to all of our guests and especially you. And your feedback is very important to us in helping us know of areas of concern, as it ensures that in the future we can meet your expectations.

    I’m weary of these canned responses which desk agents and others are trained to provide. The training should be about how to tailor a response for each guest, not how to recite an obviously scripted response. I just makes me wonder if feedback is taken to account at all.

  10. I always say “yes” when they ask if I had a nice stay, and at supermarkets/retail stores I always say “yes” when they ask if I found everything I was looking for. My reasoning is that I assume that this is the answer the front desk agent or cashier is hoping to hear, and that they really don’t want to hear me say that the bathroom smelled like Calcutta in July or that I couldn’t find the Double-Stuf Oreos. But maybe, as someone said above, I’m not giving people enough credit. Part of it is that I hate confrontation, and I find it uncomfortable to complain about things.

  11. At the U.S. Department of Citizenship and Immigration Services last month. Fat sloth of a woman who has made my life a misery finally finishes my paperwork and picks up a customer comment card that is supposed to be filled in by me.

    Her: “Would joo say ma service was outstandin?”
    Me: [desperate to get out, knowing she wields the power to make my life hell] “Umm… I guess?”
    [she ticks a box on the card]
    Her: “Would joo say the time it took was outstandin?”
    Me: [it took hours] “Umm, sure…”
    Her: [ticking another box] “Would joo rate you overall esperience wit me outstandin?”
    Me: “Yeah, fine.”
    Her: [ticks another box, hands me my paperwork and the customer comment card] “Drop dis card in da box on you way out or you come back see me ‘kay?”

    And that was my experience with, no doubt, the highest-rated employee at the Department of Immigration. God bless America.

  12. I’ve had better luck getting some sort of resolution on the surveys they send after a stay. I think the managers tend to see those more and I’m guessing their performance is based on them. The one time I had an awful stay at a hotel, I filled out the survey and the GM followed up with an offer of two free nights at the hotel. The issues were very minor, but I was very impressed with the his responsivness.

  13. Well this one is right up my alley! Please give honest feedback, it’s the only way we know what’s going on with service and our product.

    There is nothing more frustrating then asking a guest “how was your stay?” and they respond with “good” or “great” and then 5 days later you see their satisfaction survey come through and they give a horrible score. At that point the Front Desk agent who checked the guest out gets to have a chat with management about why we didn’t find this out then and find a solution.

    I don’t build rocket ships or perform surgeries, my job is to try and make guests happy and if I, my team or the hotel is failing at it, I want to know.

    Of course there is that 5% of people who look for things to complain about because they want free things but there is also 5% of FD agents that don’t care you had a bad stay.

  14. As a business traveler, I’m usually trying to get out and get to where I’m going ASAP, and if I’m having to interact with the desk clerk, it means they didn’t slip a bill under my door, or there was something wrong with it…in the latter case I’m pissed and will tell them, and in the former probably annoyed but not enough to complain. But what makes me kinda sad is if there has been something wrong and I complain and they offer to do something like take a parking charge off–which should be nice, but is something I would’ve expensed anyway! (I did say that once and she was able to give me a free coffee from the lobby Starbucks instead…)

  15. I am honest with them when checking out, although timing of when I raise issues depends largely on the length of my stay. If it’s a one night stay and the shower doesn’t drain, I’ll tell them when I check out. If it’s a three night stay, I’ll tell them on my way out for the day and expect that they fix it by the time I’m back (not waiting and living with it until checkout). I’ve mentioned noise, smells, leaky faucets, slow drains, dirty irons, etc. I actually just got a new iron a couple nights ago at my current hotel, although steaming my shirts while showering has worked pretty well.

  16. I agree, Lucky.

    1) If everything was just fine, I keep it short and sweet in my answer.
    2) If there was something remarkable, good OR bad, I mention it BRIEFLY to the checkout host. I have been proactively (given w/o requesting anything) compensated with dollar or points credit, e.g. HVAC wasn’t working properly.

    Then, I follow up the good OR bad point, that was worth pointing out enough to me, by emailing the hotel manager, or the general hotel email if I do not know the manager.

    For hotels I frequent, I keep the GM (and reservations MGR) contact info in my contacts. If I need something special before arriving, I let them know. If an employee deserves special recognition, I let them know.

    At the end of the day, this practice makes my stays more enjoyable, as it should be, IMO.

    ~palmerlaw
    (aka TravelBlawg)

  17. I won’t wait until being asked that question to try to communicate/complain about anything, mostly because check-outs are usually a rush, there’re people waiting at reception, front desk agent don’t really care, etc. Instead I have found that if there’s any major issue, just email the hotel and someone with the authorization to solve issue can handle it directly, and I usually gets fair solution/compensation this way. If there’re minor issues, I’d save the time of feedbacks for things more meaningful.

  18. I don’t like a bill under the door, its just not how I expect to complete a high starred stay

    If its a cheapy okay fair enough, but I like to close out a stay properly otherwise.

    Recently stay at the Brussels Pullman, Complained about the fact they have a banging pipe you can hear from a floor at regular intervals during the night, didn’t expect anything and without asking they tried to credit my F&B bill – not just one meal, but three nights worth.

    Just for the fact the gesture was so good I declined and said it wasn’t necessary (and I was on expense so not actually my money as such and my expense department would question the missing expense (yes really)).

    We get a great corporate rate in any case…they wouldn’t have made much out of me had they credited the F&B.

    And you know what – Its now my default hotel in the city.

  19. I just recently wrote about the same thing. I would much rather confront the hotel about something that is bothering me when I check in that spend the next four days stewing about it. Case in point, my stay last month at the Park Hyatt Paris. They escorted me to a tiny room that I knew would not work well for two people. I told the dude who escorted me that I was not happy with the room size and they moved me. I didn’t get a huge upgrade, but I have stayed at the hotel about 15 or more times – maybe more like 20 and the last three times we’ve not gotten great rooms.

    If my room change could not be accommodated, then I would have at least said my peace, fumed for a bit and then realized I was in a beautiful city and get over it.

    See something, say something – my new policy.

  20. I didn’t know people still checked out of hotels. I can’t remember the last time I did. I just leave the keys on the desk and hit the road. Folio arrives via email and I’m good to go.

  21. I tried to provide feedback both at the local level as well as upper levels as well. If it is a really bad experience, then I do address either before or upon checkout in order to give the hotel a chance to rectify the situation (I did this with the Hilton Seychelles — the stay wasn’t going great so I emailed them and let them know and I got an email back from the Manager and we got together over coffee to discuss the issues and they were resolved and I got a free tour of the island plus points). Letting the hotel know about situation is also another test of the attention to customer-service because if they do nothing even after I have brought it to their attention, it displays their detail (or lack thereof) to customer service and I can note this when providing a more detailed feedback to the upper lever management.

  22. Unless something really bad happened (like in your case the noise at 12 am), then I will address it. If it was a normal stay and nothing worth reporting I will say ‘fine’. It also depends on how they ask, sometimes you get staff who are really concerned and are able to address or at least forward the issue.

  23. I had a similar experience as @Andy. Last week, we spent the Thanksgiving week in Vienna staying at the new Park Hyatt Vienna. Overall, the hotel was just outstanding with one minor complaint. During one of the mornings that we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant, I ordered coffee as we sat down at our table. We proceeded to eat breakfast and the coffee never came.

    This week I received the standard survey from Hyatt about my recent stay at the Park Hyatt Vienna. I completed the survey honestly. I gave them excellent reviews except for the service at the restaurant. Well, today, I received an e-mail from the GM of the Park Hyatt Vienna…see below.

    “Thank you so much for your stay at Park Hyatt Vienna and for your feedback which you forwarded to us via our electronic survey – your feedback is very much appreciated.

    I am delighted that you generally enjoyed your stay at our lovely house and that you felt comfortable with the check-in, your guestroom and the hotel facilities.

    That is why I truly regret and apology that the coffee service at breakfast has not been up to Park Hyatt standard this time. I have already forwarded your feedback to our F&B director and discussed with him about the experience you made. Corrective action has to be taken immediately in order to optimize our service at the breakfast buffet.

    For the inconvenience caused I would like to offer you a complimentary dinner at our restaurant The
    Bank for your next Park Hyatt Vienna stay.

    I really hope that you will give us a second chance – it would be a pleasure to welcoming you back to our house in the not too distant future.”

    So, it was nice of her to send me this e-mail.

  24. I normally do not check out like Rob above unless there is a problem to report. I would expect at check in for the front desk to say if you have any problem, concern or question during your stay please let us know…

  25. If something bad enough to have an impact happened, I usually proactively ask for a reasonable number of goodwill points to be posted to my account. A meaningful gesture that hotels are more willing to grant than a discount off the bill.

  26. I try my best to deal with issues on site prior to checking out. If I can’t resolve them at checkout I will ask for the Manager’s card to contact him/her by email. I’ve had very good and very bad follow-up with managers over the years. Surprisingly, the after stay surveys have yielded quick response to issues. I do take into account the severity of the issues experienced and whether or not I’m being overly picky or if my business traveler would notice too.

  27. Hi Ben:

    Had a similar story in a Starwood property. Due to their hardware issue, my stay was far from pleasant, and when a GM asked about my experience during check-out I honestly told him the issue. He then asked ‘Do you want some Starpoints?’ ‘How many do you want?’ Quite amused by the second question…

    Is it because that GM is less experienced with giving points that he asked how many I would like? Do you have some benchmarks off the top of your head?

  28. @ Terence — I don’t think it’s that he didn’t have experience with Starpoints, but rather that he wanted to make sure you left happy, so wanted to give you the choice. As a general rule of thumb I think enough points for half a night free stay is enough for a minor issue, or if it’s a serious issue, enough points for a free night.

  29. Thanks Ben! I am using my data point to confirm what the GM offered was exactly at your benchmark level. Will bear it in mind when ‘negotiating’ in the future šŸ™‚

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