Story Of AMAZING Service At The Ritz-Carlton Beijing

Ritz-Carlton is famous for their amazing service philosophy, which they call their Gold Standards. Ritz-Carlton even publishes this on their website. Here’s their credo, for example:

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a place where the genuine care and comfort of our guests is our highest mission.

We pledge to provide the finest personal service and facilities for our guests who will always enjoy a warm, relaxed, yet refined ambience.

The Ritz-Carlton experience enlivens the senses, instills well-being, and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of our guests.

There are tons of amazing Ritz-Carlton service stories out there, though to some degree I can’t help but feel like it’s really tough for them to consistently deliver their above-and-beyond service:

  • Like any business that’s growing, it’s tough to scale that kind of a customer service approach; a genuine desire to go above and beyond isn’t something which can be taught.
  • When a company is known for going above and beyond then you start to expect such service… and when that’s the case, are they really exceeding your expectations anymore?

Well, a friend who is usually a Hyatt and Starwood loyalist just sent me an email about the amazing experience he had at the Ritz-Carlton Beijing after falling for one of Beijing’s most common scams.

The email is long, but you’ll want to read it, if you have the time. This story is amazing, possibly the best Ritz-Carlton customer service story I’ve ever read:

These days I wouldn’t normally invest the time to share our recent story, what with how busy we are planning a wedding and all, but with so many folks headed to Beijing, I thought it might be especially useful.

Now, if you think the Ritz-Carlton is absurdly expensive, I’m 200% with you on that.  But for some strange reason, the Ritz Beijing is ~$200/night or 30,000pts/night, which I thought is a steal.  Between the Marriott and Ritz cards I picked up with annual fees waived, I had more than enough points for the three nights we needed.

As for the experience itself, I’m embarrassed to admit that Robert and I fell victim to one of the oldest scams in the book:

Example: http://www.gonomad.com/3310-all-the-tea-in-china-the-tea-scam

We were approached by an unassuming mid-twenties lady in Tiananmen Square who I almost brushed off at first.  But she quickly clarified that she overheard us speaking English, and that she just wanted to practice her English.  I know, I know… dumb move to continue the conversation looking back.  Anyway, after some great chatting, and tons of recommendations for places we should visit later, she eventually suggested grabbing a quick cup of coffee… and thinking to ourselves that it would be great to have a cool local experience, we took her up on the offer.  Especially since we’d already come out to her, letting her know that we were planning to get married—so surely this couldn’t be some sort of sketchy money-for-sex type affair.  Long story short, the bill came to 1,990 Yuan, or $331.40 at the time.  Yes, for a quick visit to a café.  As soon as I saw the check, my heart sank because I knew the exact scam from past research, and I couldn’t believe that a supposed seasoned traveler such as myself fell to the bait… hook, line and sinker.  So dumb… so dumb.

Anyway, he’s where the story gets good.  After ruminating on our options for the rest of the day (bad, worse, and even worse), we eventually decide the following morning to tell the young concierge Figo Xu.  After hearing our story, he politely excused himself to summon the Duty Manager, Rosalie Luo.  At that moment, it was like a machine had suddenly swung into motion.  She requested that, while she calls the police, we return to our room to email her the pending credit card charges from Citibank’s website.  We were hesitant to go to the Police as we didn’t want to let the experience ruin our entire trip, since we knew that a police experience could take hours, and that day was our only chance to visit The Great Wall.  She said no problem—our car will take you to The Great Wall and back, and then you can go to the police after you return.

So sure enough we return from The Great Wall in the afternoon, and instead of sending us off to the police as she originally planned, her manager, the Director of Rooms, Roland Wang, who reports to the General Manager, had decided that he would personally drive us to the Tiananmen Square police district office in case we need translation assistance.  After having just been scammed, we asked the first question that came to mind: “Will there be a charge for this ride?” After he chuckled and said “Of course not!”, we felt especially embarrassed for even having asked the question… having realized that we just looked a gift-horse directly in the mouth.

This next part of the story is long, but let me summarize:

  • It took us 30 minutes to get to the Tiananmen Police District Office
  • The Police took us to the café, where we renegotiated the bill from $331.40 to $50 USD
  • It took 90 minutes to get back to the hotel, thanks to Beijing traffic
  • All in all, the Director of Rooms was absent from the hotel for ~3.5 hours, from 4 PM to 7:30 PM

Why is this so amazing?

  1. At 8 PM, the military government of Thailand was to arrive.  59 rooms were booked for the entourage.  Not only the GM, but the Owner himself were waiting in the lobby to personally greet them.  As you can imagine, all hands are on deck for an event like that, and yet the Director of Rooms was off gallivanting with two “no-status” guests.
  2. Our incident had absolutely nothing to do with the hotel.  100% of it took place in Tiananmen Square.  They could have washed their hands clean of it, and we wouldn’t have judged them for it.  They had no duty or responsibility to us.

But they didn’t look at it that way.  Rosalie and Roland felt a debt of personal responsibility for the entirety of our experience in Beijing, and they took ownership of making sure that every single moment of the rest of our stay was better than a perfect ten.  They virtually adopted us and treated us like family.  For example, Roland called Rosalie no less than ten separate times during our 90-minute circus drive (i.e. traffic) back to the hotel, planning out every aspect of the rest of our stay.  Of course every single phone call was in Mandarin, so it was intended to be a surprise.

By the time we had returned to the hotel, the lobby was filled with every possible staff-member awaiting the Thai delegation (again… including the GM and owner), but the majority of the staff (Roland, Rosalie, Matei, Ksenia) were all keeping us company instead, while our Uber was on the way to take us to the special dinner that they planned out for us while we were heading back from the police department.

Speaking of which, even though the Uber was shown as only 4 minutes away by distance, Rosalie insisted that I give her the phone number of the driver so she could give him directions to the hotel.  30 minutes later (yes, 30), that driver canceled due to traffic in the vicinity causing gridlock, caused by the Thai delegation.  So I requested another Uber, and then Rosalie of course called that driver as well.  This time, she negotiated a deal: If we walk one block to the driver (to save 20 minutes of insane traffic), he will wait 20 minutes before turning on the meter after picking us up!

Can you believe that Rosalie joined us in the Uber as well?!?!  She escorted us all the way to the restaurant, interpreted the entire menu for us, and placed our order for us!  Then, when she was confident that everything was taken care of, she got back into the Uber again and rode home for the night.

I had previously mentioned in passing to Roland and Rosalie that I was sooooo looking forward to enjoying the famous Ritz-Carlton Afternoon Tea, but that our flight was too early the following afternoon, making it impossible.  So of course they didn’t skip a beat— the following day, they not only opened the Lobby Café early just to prepare Afternoon Tea just for us, but they also comp’ed the entire affair and sent the GM to sit with us for half an hour to get to know us better, express his apologies for our experience in Tiananmen Square (not his fault!!!), and to let us know that he would be happy to help us out at any other Ritz in the world if ever we needed it.

As I told him in my Thank You note, I have never experienced anything like this before.  On the spectrum of service quality, there is a “0” for terrible—and a “5” for Personalized Service, where every member of the hotel staff greets you by name as you walk by.

Well, I would describe this as a 17.

It’s not even on the spectrum, and I don’t ever expect to have an experience like this ever again.  It’s all downhill from here, I guarantee it.  I just can’t imagine an entire hotel swinging into motion just for us, especially while a freakin’ government delegation is literally seconds away from arriving, with pomp and circumstance, consuming a whole floor of the hotel.

Amazing, amazing, amazing! And while I’m not usually a Marriott/Ritz guy, I’m now tempted to stay here during one of my upcoming visits to Beijing. It’s one thing when one employee goes above and beyond, but when genuinely taking care of guests comes across as a passion of the entire hotel’s staff, you can’t help but smile.

Contrast this to my experience at the W Barcelona, where my mom was robbed at the hotel. We took full responsibility for what happened, and all we wanted from the hotel was some help in figuring out what happened, given that they presumably have some security system in place. Instead we got unrivaled arrogance and indifference, including from the general manager. That’s why I found the above story about the Ritz-Carlton to be especially heartwarming.

Again, kudos to the Ritz-Carlton Beijing on this. Talk about going above and beyond and then some!

Comments

  1. That is indeed amazing. I will make a point to stay there next time I am in PEK. Not to expect any extra attention but simply because I think profit should go to exemplary properties.

    On my first visit to China years ago, I was scammed for about $600 but in a much seedier environment which I won’t go into! Needless to say, the only assistance I got were offers from some Aussie expats I later met to go back to the offending bar and beat up the owners. Not as helpful.

  2. Wow that is some service!

    I also got approached in Beijing by students that wanted to practice their english. I didn’t fall for the scam though since I had read about it before getting to Beijing!

    It’s always a good pratice to read about the local scams when you travel!

  3. Wow! I’m reading portions of this aloud to my husband, and his first response mirrors my own feelings–When we go to Beijing (plans are for 2016) I know where we’ll be staying.

    Kudos to the hotel. And thank you for the email from the young couple to let us know about this outstanding customer service. Usually one only hears complaints. This is great information and heartwarming to read.

    Thank you for passing this on, Lucky.

  4. Incredible.

    I have no desire to go to Beijing, but now I want to go just to stay at the RC there.

    Thanks for posting this.

  5. Great story! You could have negotiated the bill yourselves. We got taken by this scam, and settled for $40. It was worth every penny!

  6. That is truly amazing service. Reinforces my view of the Ritz Carlton.

    One of the best hotel experiences I have had is when staying at the Ritz Carlton in Guangzhou, China. The lounge and service is absolutely amazing on that property. You can spend a day in the lounge and not realize where the time went!

  7. That is an awesome story! I am so glad they were able to turn a bad experience around to a great one. I love luxury hotels like the RC Beijing!

  8. Very well done, R-C Beijing. I have an upcoming stay in a R-C property, and am looking forward to it even more now.

  9. I’m not likely to ever be making a return trip to Beijing but I am impressed enough that I’m going to try a few Ritz Carlton properties to see if the service is sufficiently impressive to move up a hotel grade.

  10. Of course it is amazing, because the owner of this hotel is the rich Chinese government. However,if you stay at some other chain hotels in China, especially those chained hotel owned by infamous Wanda group (lots of Hilton and SPG hotels), then you will have a totally different experience. Almost all famous chain hotel companies managed at least one Wanda property, except Marriott. I heard the reason Marriott refuses to manage Wanda properties because of they are too stingy…
    Marriott offers the China’s most consistent hotels product, so they are normally more expensive than competitors…
    Hyatt are also good,but that really depends on owner, (yes, I am talking about Changbaishan Wanda Park Hyatt).
    SPG, IHG and Hilton are okay..

  11. Fantastic story. I’ve never understood the grief that Ritz-Carlton receive amongst places like Flyer Talk. As an Amanjunkie and someone used to the top-end hotels, I’ve actually found Ritz-Carlton to be a fantastic chain with brilliant service whenever I’ve stayed with them. I too hold no status and as it’s on business trips I’m often in the lowest room category.

  12. Didn’t think I would read the whole thing but I ended up reading the whole thing. Thanks for posting this. There have been quite a few nice surprises for me in terms of service in Asia as well, while in the USA you get more uniform mass-manufactured type of services more often.

  13. I’m glad to hear this location pulled it off. I had a very different experience only a few weeks ago. To summarize:
    *The electric outlet next to the bed was broken
    *the bath tub wasn’t holding water at 10pm, after a long day at the Great Wall, changing rooms was out of the question.
    * the towels were sour!!! At a Ritz!
    * and after replacement towels arrived I noticed they were also sour. I haven’t experienced that at a Holiday Inn Express…
    * when we requested tickets from the concierge for the Great Wall through a state run bus we werent told where or how to obtain them but rather simply told it’s too dangerous – the end
    After bringing all the concerns to the manager they offered to book us for an excursion in the am instead …
    *when they took care of booking a car and guide; the next morning the car service wanted 500 dollars to take us for the day and the tour guide would be an additional 100 (the state bus was about 10USD)
    *this was a first and probably a last Ritz experience.
    Mattei from Slovakia was the guest Manager during our stay and very kind but this epic experience really impacted my perceptions about the brand. They did offer a free night to make up for everything at their location but I don’t know if I’ll actually take them up on the offer.

  14. Great story. I’ve stayed at a Ritz exactly once, and I have to say that the staff were the most consistently pleasant, upbeat and proactive I’ve ever experienced at any hotel.

  15. While I totally agree that this is simply amazing that a hotel treat their guest with such high standard, I can’t stop myself from thinking that whether this has anything to do with 1) OP not being an Asian (I am assuming), and 2) the hotel knowing about the AA mistake fare deal.

    Anyway, kudos to RC Beijing for that awesome service, and really hope what I speculating is wrong..

  16. I had a similar experience at the Four Seasons in Florence. We had $300 USD stolen from our room. Security arrived in minutes. The “rooms” manager personally apologized, the hotel even comped one night (which was more than 3x the $300USD). The staff was OUTSTANDING. I was so impressed. Would never hesitate to return nor to sing their praises.

  17. Awesome story indeed, but I don’t get the scam. If I was put in that place and the bill arrived for ~$300 USD for a cup of tee, there is no way I would hand over my credit card to pay that. It’s one thing to get robbed or pick pocketed in a foreign country, but to willingly hand over your money for something so obvious, that’s on them.

  18. While not to this level, I have had similar experiences at RC’s in Asia (Jakarta, Kyoto, Tokyo and Seoul). Customer service has always been fantastic at Ritz.

  19. I’ve stayed at this RC and the JW across the street, on both exec and regular floors. I’d pick the JW on all fronts, not out of any problems at the RC but that the quality of rooms/finishing was better at the JW, at a lower price. Service was equal (they share staff as far as I can tell anyway).

    Both are equally offended when I take a tuk-tuk or whatever they’re called vs a cab 🙂

    But for either – have the hotel arrange airport transfer on your way in – best service at any airport I’ve ever had – hand-walking you through customs, plus the separate car queue.

  20. @Luis, I hear you, it’s tough to imagine until you’re actually in a scenario like that, in a foreign country far from home, with a language barrier, getting screamed at by some very angry people and with threats of calling the police. You’d be surprised how easy it can be to acquiesce.

  21. Extraordinary.

    As much as it is a great story of customer service, it’s equally compelling as a human story; people just being nice to people.

  22. I am an Ritz-Carlton elite member. I stayed in their San Juan hotel during Feb, and I have to say Ritz’s services were unquestionable good. Also, as a Chinese, I feel very proud of what they did when their guests, especially foreign travelers, got ripped off. I wouldn’t say I will do as much as what they did if I happened to meet a case like this one. But I will definitely try my best to help as I would feel very sorry if our foreign friends got scammed. I just got back from Beijing and I saw lots of foreign travelers here and there. It is not necessary to be panic because of the tea scam story. But more cautions are really needed during traveling abroad. For example, when I was in Beijing and I wanted to go a bar in “GongTi” area, my friend (a Beijing local) told me that DO NOT drink any single bottle of beer before you get the menu with the prices clearly listed. So even Chinese from other cities could be easily scammed by bad people in Beijing. However, I wouldn’t say Beijing is a terrible place to visit. But, you know, a city with this scale must be filled with different kinds of people.

    By the way, I just called the hotel and thanked for what they did for our foreigner visitors. I also let them know that their story now is on one of the most famous travel blogs in the U.S.
    Every time I go to Beijing, I usually stay with IHG. But now, I must have to try on Ritz-Carlton next time. There are actually two Ritz hotels in Beijing. I have confirmed that the story happened in the one on Financial Street.

  23. If I was put in that place and the bill arrived for ~$300 USD for a cup of tee, there is no way I would hand over my credit card to pay that.

    I would. Then I’d call Amex or whomever and contest the charges. I’ve had to do that with various scams and they’ve always instantly credited back the money and I never heard another thing about it.

  24. Glad it worked out so well. I would have definitive fallen for the scam too.

    I was wondering, did you get a chance to look at the menu and the outrageous prices? How did the student react when you got the bill or did she sneak out beforehand?

  25. Amazing story about RC!!! HOWEVER, can someone explain me how this scam works? Do you get that crazy bill because the entire menu is in Mandarin and you don’t understand? There are no prices on the menu and you just assume it will be way cheaper? They add some crazy service fee on top of the original price? Just trying to understand how a simple coffee turns into a $300 bill.

  26. Whatever. Tried the RC in Berlin not long after it opened a few years ago. The room we reserved and paid for (overlooking Potsdamer Platz) was not the room we got and then we had to appeal to have them charge us the appropriate rate for the room we were given. Haven’t been back since. Worst chain out of a dozen we’ve experienced.

  27. Contrast at with two experiences we had at the Ritz in Vienna and the one in Montreal.

    In Montreal, we asked the front desk for some entertainment, and they suggested some cirque de soleil show. They got us tickets and wrote the address for us. So far so good. However, they wrote the wrong address and we ended up in some suburban industrial area. We called them and they apologized and gave the correct address, but we ended up missing almost half the show. I believe the tickets were about $200 apiece. We got back to the room and they left an apology letter with a box of macaroons. Uh yeah, those $5 macaroons aren’t gonna cut it.

    In Vienna, my wife wanted a mani/pedi, and they sent her to a nearby spa. 250 euros for a mani/pedi? I wonder if the concierge was in on it. Also, she said that it wasn’t good and her regular $40 mani/pedi was far better.

    Other Ritz’s we’ve stayed at have been fantastic however. I’m actually thinking about buying a pied-à-terre in a Ritz building because their service is generally top notch.

  28. The first time I went to Beijing, I fell for this scam to, not having previously heard anything about it. However, I unknowingly outwitted my scammers, because I had just arrived in Beijing and hadn’t eaten anything that day, so I was starving.

    When a young couple came up to me at Tiananmen Square to “practice English”, etc., and then eventually suggested going for some tea, I agreed because I needed something to eat. So when we got to the place, they ordered tea, and when I told them I wasn’t going to have any tea, they looked at each other in total shock, and asked why I didn’t want any tea. I told them I was hungry and only wanted food.

    After later finding out about this scam, I realized why they were so surprised that I wasn’t going to drink anything. That ruined their plan.

  29. Never “practice” English with the people there, unless you’re studying abroad and practicing with the other students in your class. I was practicing with students in the university cafe.

  30. That is truly fantastic service. It’s a shame the RC Millenia can’t learn a thing or two from this. That said, they are hardly an RC hotel in the first place.

  31. The only question I have is whether to stay at the Ritz in the Financial District or the Ritz described above. Is there a difference in the night life, tourist places, walking distance etc, quality of the hotel??

    In NY when you stay in the financial district you really are out of the way for a NY hubbub experience outside of the normal business hours. Help!!!!

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