Strong-Arming Hotels Into Honoring Guaranteed Benefits…

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Hyatt Gold Passport and Starwood Preferred Guest are the two hotel chains I’m most loyal to. Part of what I like about them is that they do a good job offering guaranteed benefits. Both chains offer guaranteed 4PM check-out to top tier elite members, Hyatt offers confirmed Diamond Suite Upgrade Awards which can be used at the time of booking, etc.

In hundreds of stays I’ve almost never had issues with getting guaranteed 4PM check-out honored. After all, it’s a guaranteed benefit, at least at non-resort properties. They ask you at check-in when you want to check-out, and if you say 4PM then that’s that. There’s no “negotiation” needed.

Anyway, I’ve had two interesting data points recently which make me wonder if there’s more than one definition of “guaranteed.”

My experience as a Hyatt Diamond

I had booked a stay at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong for four nights, and used a Diamond Suite Upgrade Award to confirm a Grand Suite.

The stay was fantastic, and in the end we needed to extend by an additional night. We booked another night, though there were no suites available, which meant we had to switch rooms.

I went to the front desk to explain the situation right as we were leaving the hotel for an excursion which would last several hours. The conversation went something like this:

Me: “We have a separate reservation for tonight and realize we need to switch rooms, but are headed out for the day. We will be back shortly before 4PM to check-out and then check-in for the new reservation.”
Associate: “No, we can’t do late check-out.”
Me: “So we can’t check out at 4PM and then switch rooms?”
Associate: “We are fully booked tonight, the latest we can do is 2PM.”
Me: “But aren’t Diamond members guaranteed 4PM late check-out?”
Associate: “We are fully booked, we can’t do 4PM.”
Me: “But 4PM check-out is a guaranteed benefit, isn’t it?”
Associate: “That’s only if you’re checking out.”
Me: “But we are checking out. If we have to switch rooms, how is that any different than a check-out?”
Associate: “Please try to understand the situation.”
Me: “And please try to understand that I’m guaranteed certain benefits, and those don’t just go away because a hotel is full.”

If he had said “I know you’re guaranteed this benefit but we are fully booked tonight and would appreciate if you can switch earlier,” I would have been more understanding of the approach he was taking. But the fact that he simply tried to deny the existence of a benefit because the hotel was full was a bit of a disappointment.

I realize juggling room inventory at a sold out hotel can be a challenge, though in practice not all guests are checking in at exactly 3PM, especially at a hotel with as many suites as the Grand Hyatt. I understand his intentions were good, but it’s a bit short-sighted to just consider the “situation” from the perspective of those checking in and not those checking out, who are also guaranteed certain benefits.

We had somewhere we needed to be, and a room wasn’t ready anyway for us to switch to. So we’d have to completely change our plans in order to change rooms earlier.

Grand-Hyatt-Hong-Kong-10

Ford’s experience as an SPG Gold

Ford has The Platinum Card® from American Express, and until recently wasn’t aware that the card comes with SPG Gold status. So before a recent SPG stay of his I signed him up for SPG Gold, so he’d at least earn extra points for his stay and get guaranteed 4PM check-out. Here’s his experience with that:

While staying at the W Austin two weeks ago for my sister’s wedding, I requested a late check out. When I called down to the front desk, they told me the hotel was fully booked and that 1:30 PM was the latest they would be able to accommodate. I had forgotten that as an SPG Gold Member, I was guaranteed a 4 PM late checkout.

Less than 30 minutes later, Ben sent me a text reminding me of this benefit. When I called down to the reception again and spoke with the same man, I explained that my member status conferred me a late checkout of 4 PM – which they knew, because my SPG number was on file with the hotel. He paused, then asked if he could offer me points in lieu of late check-out.

When I explained that I really wanted late check-out he said “OK, 4 o’clock.” It would be interesting to know how many points they would have offered, but my flight was delayed and I didn’t feel like spending more time in the airport than I needed to!

W-Austin

Bottom line

With hotel occupancy extremely high, it’s tougher than ever before for hotels to deliver on “guaranteed” benefits. I totally understand that it’s tricky to offer a guest 4PM check-out when check-in time is at 3PM. At the same time, we’re offered certain guaranteed benefits in exchange for our loyalty, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to use them.

Have you ever been denied a “guaranteed” 4PM check-out?

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Comments

  1. Despite the runaround by the front desk, Starwood and Hyatt leave Hilton in the dust. Hilton’s late checkout policy which is “subject to availability” is exactly how it sounds–pretty much useless.

  2. If that’s how you are going to treat hotel staff, it’s a real shame they couldn’t travel backwards through time and make you wait until 1500 to check in. What goes around…

  3. It’s the inconsistency that I don’t like. Denial of the benefits. Shifting the rules. You never know what you’re going to get served up as an argument.

    I think in Ford’s case, points as some kind of compensation if they need the room sooner might be ok – if it works for the guest.

    In practice, I haven’t much issue as an SPG Plat with the late checkout, but man, try to check-in an hour early and you’d think you were shoving their puppy in a microwave.

  4. I have *always* been denied the benefit, then begrudgingly granted a partial late checkout, usually with a lecture about doing me a favour, just this once, but next time they won’t give me anything blah blah blah. This has been my experience at SPG , where I’m Gold, Novotel, where I’m Platinum, and other properties.

    The one exception is Sofitel So Bangkok, which simply gave me (Accor LeClub Platinum) and everyone in my party everything I could have hoped for and more.

    Unlimited All-You-Can-Eat Green Tea Eclairs.

    But you’d expect that, from The Promised Land™

  5. While by the letter of the law you are probably correct, but honestly in this case you are being at bit of a pain. Why didn’t you just pack your stuff up and ask the hotel to please move it to another room, and then you could switch to that room when you returned. No need to make drama in this case, in my opinion.

    Sometimes I find a bit of give and take with the hotels pays off in spades in the long run.

  6. Good for you Ben. Thanks for publishing this. As a Platinum member with Marriott I think I have given up too quickly on late checkout requests being rejected. I think they count on most of us not protesting

  7. I don’t like when hotels do that either. Had good luck with the Hilton Prague as a Gold and was offered a 4PM late checkout. Not once did Housekeeping knock on the door as well.

  8. Agree with @chancer – “Late check out” to Hilton and Marriott often means 1pm. Perhaps SPG and Hyatt should amend late check out to by 2pm, as this would align better with hotels that have a 3pm check in time.

  9. Thank you for addressing this Ben. As a Marriott Platinum member, I think many of us have not challenged a rejection of a late checkout request. It never hurts to press the issue

  10. Late check out is very valuable when you are on vacation with kids and have a late flight. That is why I always book my vacations using Amex FHR since they offer 4PM check out in any hotel that is offered in their portfolio. Most of these are luxury/boutique hotels that most of the times don’t even have a loyalty program so it is a great way to guarantee a late check out so you can still enjoy most of the last day and having a place to take a shower before heading out to the airport.

  11. @Santastico

    When you book hotels with loyalty programs (Hilton, Hyatt, SPG ect..) through AMEX’s FHR or GHC do they still award points and honor benefits?

    Thanks

  12. Kind of have to agree with Jack on this one. Knowing you were going to have to change rooms, why weren’t you already packed? You could have left your bags either with the bellman or in the room and then had them move your bags for you. That way you wouldn’t have even had to come back at 4 to do your check out and could have stayed out all day. I personally hate having to go back to the hotel to change rooms if they will do it for me.

  13. I have no qualms strong-arming hotels in the US. I do have qualms in other countries because of possible culture and language differences.

  14. @TethAdam: Yes, I get all the points for my stays when I book using Amex FHR. Regarding benefits, most of the times the Amex FHR are equal or better than the loyalty membership from the hotel. For example, FHR includes breakfast for 2, early check in and late check out, room upgrade (if available) so unless your loyalty card gives you benefits above those the FHR benefits will be the ones applied to your reservation. The other huge benefit you get from Amex FHR is a 4th or 5th night free and $100 in food/spa services per stay. Every time I book hotels for family vacations Amex FHR is the first place I check for availability.

  15. Did you tell them when you checked in that you would be leaving at 4? If they were expecting you to check out earlier then I can see how your last minute change would throw off their planning. I agree that the agent could have handled it with more finesse. But if you weren’t going to be using the room anyway, why not just store your bags and check in to the new room on your return?

  16. hyatt dimanond and spg platinum here. Lately my experience espcially with Hyatt is when I really need a 4PM check out it’s not available. Being offered 1PM. And then this stays I leave early they offer it upfront and ask do you need a 4PM late check out.
    I also don’t understand why certain hotels give you a hard time and negotiate a “guaranteed” benefit.

  17. @ Jack @ Susan @ Leo — It’s very simple. There was no room immediately available for them to switch us to, and I don’t like leaving my valuables unattended. I use the safe when I travel for a reason, and at the end of the day my passports, wallet, etc., are my responsibility. That’s why I don’t like other people handling room changes for me, when I can avoid it.

  18. You’ve never had to fight this fight before? Some hotels are good about it but I’d say at least 30% of the time I have to fight for it with SPG.

  19. I always get 4pm without question from Hyatt (Diamond) and Intercontinental (Ambassador). This is a guaranteed benefit and is never negotiable.

  20. I probably would have just packed the bags in advance and let them change rooms for me. I usually don’t leave valuables in the room during the day and would take my wallet, passport etc. with me. Alternatively, there is usually a master safe that the front desk manager can use to store your valuables in this type of situation. I definitely hate it when hotels don’t deliver on guaranteed benefits though.

  21. I would never entrust my laptop to a porter to move between rooms. In a foreign country! Duh, lucky had to do the switch himself. Duh duh duh

  22. The comments here are surprising. I mean, I know people can’t wait to call Ben a prima donna, and it almost seems like they just lay in wait for any excuse to do so, but this is one that just doesn’t make sense to me. The reason I stay at Starwood hotels and Hyatt, even when there are cheaper or sometimes more convenient options, is to get status, and one of the main reasons I want status is late check out. If the chains want to change their rules, or modify them to read like Hilton’s, then that’s totally within their rights, and the rest of us can decide whether it’s enough of a deal to change our behavior. Have I been subjected to the “we can do 1:00” game? Sure, more times than I can admit. Do I put up with it and simply decide it’s not worth the fight? Of course. Most of the time. But occasionally, it does matter. And that’s exactly why I hump it at the Reno Hyatt Place instead of the courtyard several nights a year, even though I prefer the latter. That’s why they offer it. And that’s why they should honor it.

  23. @RakSiam: hotels *never* want to discuss your late checkout request at checkin. All of them say “call us on the day, sir and we’ll see what we can do”.

    I have experienced only one exception: Sofitel So Bangkok, aka The Promised Land™

  24. It’s rare that my flights are so late that I need the 4pm checkout, *and* I’m staying at an SPG property.

    I’m hit and miss when I “need” it. Awhile back, I was mattress running at the Sheraton Dulles Airport to pick up some stays for some free weekend nights. Those guys flat out refused to give me a 4pm checkout.

    I’m with lucky — rules are rules. Don’t like ’em? Don’t offer ’em. Nobody forces the programs to offer those benefits, and nobody forces the hotels to belong to a program. They can go be an independent and survive on their own.

    Make no mistake — hotels in the Hyatt and Starwood programs get first look from me, and when the price is right, they’ll get revenue stays instead of points. If you’re not a part of the program, you better be good enough to make the top 60 hotels in your city, *and* have a 4* or better rating on trip advisor. You can’t do that, I’ll never stay there.

  25. I’d be interested in readers’ experiences with the “automatic room upgrade upon arrival, if available” that is provided by AMEX Fine Hotels and Resorts and Visa Signature Hotels. I find that this benefit is, in actuality, rarely if ever offered or available.

  26. Ben,

    I would suggest stop asking for clarification of policy and perks at the front desk 😉 and state it is your right…or flat out demand it… politely!

    SPG Elites can also have this added on to the reservation as an alert that you need the extended check out… now if using the 24hr check in check out option, it might work differently maybe?

    So after getting nowhere with the front desk associate, ask for the manager, and it will be honored in my experience. I have checked out at 4pm over 100 times easily with no fuss. Now I’ve been an SPG Elite for 14 years, so maybe I am treated differently, but I assure you there are lots of hidden perks you learn along the way that come in handy. I know SPG hotels are NOT suppose to refuse certain things (I would suspect this is included) for upper level Elites.

    Hyatt are a little more stingy with the 4pm, but again go straight to the manager and usually its honored at least until 3pm haha

  27. @Larry “The comments here are surprising. I mean, I know people can’t wait to call Ben a prima donna, and it almost seems like they just lay in wait for any excuse to do so, ”

    I agree Ben can sometimes come across as a pre Madonna but that isn’t my gripe. Instead if Ford and him have been dating for months now and Ford didn’t know all the benefits of his SPG card perhaps Ford’s time would be better spent reading Million Mile Secrets since there’s no telling what other card benefits he’s missing out on.

  28. I have been on the other end of this. Last year we checked into the Hyatt Churchill in London in the morning. Our club level room wasn’t ready (no surprise) but they offered us a different room to rest in until it was. We thought this seemed like a nice gesture. It turns out an “elite” was in the room and didn’t leave till 6pm supposedly. We got the room between 7 and 8 pm. Imagine my surprise when we checked out and the bill had a $200 charge for day use of the other room, something they never mentioned! The person checking me out wouldn’t budge on the charge. Later that day I finally was able to speak to a manager who apologized and removed the charge.

  29. Have to agree with Jack and Susan here. I would much rather pack my stuff up, leave it in the room, have them move everything to the new room and then arrive back from my excursion in my new room for the last night.

    I understand your desire to have control of your important documents, but, speaking for myself, it’s not worth creating the fuss just because “you have the right” to the 4 p.m. checkout.

  30. Funny reading all this.
    But Ben youre really a pain in the ass checking in and out of the same hotel on the same day? Who does that? Grow up!
    You apparently live in hotels and you couldn’t entertain yourself for two hours?
    I’d hate to be on your entering side, a bit early… How many times have you been let in your room early?
    Sometimes us Diamond members have the class to be on the side of our faithful chain hotels, no? It is a business and you’re the kind of guest that gets the late check out changed to “if available”…
    I’ve had great experiences at the grand Hyatt in HK and think your shenanigans are hurting the brand.
    Why don’t you do something NEW and review the AA 787 experience?
    You’re starting to get stuck in a rut with your friends and your rights and the posturing is not cool or adult or gentlemanly…

  31. @Larry
    +2

    Thank you for this post Lucky, your quests to actually make hotels accountable when they make promises are probably your most reliably useful posts.

  32. Spg wise, 4pm has always been good.. so kudos to spg.

    Hilton wise.. even as a diamond.. we have to beg for 2pm, always. I have never gotten 4pm for hiltons. Its disgusting really.. the treatment is no different fr gold.

  33. This reminds me of what the preacher said in church last Sunday: “think about millions of people who would gladly trade places with you and be faced with this problem without a thought of complaining.” In reality the number would be in the billions – those in this world who have never had the opportunity to stay even one night in a luxury hotel. Count your blessings.

  34. You are entitled to late CHECKOUT. But technically you were not checking out. Consecutive bookings at one hotel are treated as one stay in all major chains. Why not asking for another welcome gift if you think you are entitled to late checkout twice during one stay?

  35. I usually look at benefits as a treat, enjoy them when I get them and don’t usually think it’s worth fighting for.
    But when it is important to me than I will, politely, insist on guaranteed benefits. Rules are rules, most are in favor of the hotel and it’s bad enough, when you have to argue about it. they should be offered proactively or given with a “certainly, Sir”!
    Whether it was important or not, is Bens call. I leave my valuables in the safe as well and won’t let hotel staff move it while I’m gone…

  36. Warm Greetings
    Its an interesting scenario Ben! There may be some gray area in the request you made
    As a Hyatt Lifetime Gold Passport Diamond member I don’t happen to be a big fan of the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.However I’m with the property on this one based on my given understanding and quick read of your post.
    You weren’t checking out you were simply switching rooms during your stay by extending your stay one additional day even with a split reservation.
    In that case you aren’t entitled to two 4 PM check outs back to back one day after the other once you extended your stay technically. Only one on the new departure day
    The stays are typically merged in Hyatt’s system even if booked with separate or numerous confirmation numbers
    You wouldn’t ask for two stay credits for your additional night would you?
    Of course not there wasn’t 24 hours between check outs

    My expectation would be to have changed rooms by noon possibly a tad longer
    It can be disruptive both to the hotel and incoming guests otherwise
    On the other hand if the hotel isn’t at peak occupancy the nice thing is to extend the courtesy to the guest if its to their convenience. If it was your actual final departure day that would be a different story
    The 4 PM check out would be expected as per terms and conditions.
    The other possible exceptions might be if you booked the reservation as a Guest Of Honor for your traveling companion and they simply checked back in and your were not technically extending your stay. Or you not the primary guest on the new booking
    At that point you would be entitled to check out 4 PM no questions or debate.

    The only other thing I would add like to share if it was really important to me to stay later before switching rooms a conversation with a Rooms Executive or Front Office Manager goes far further in the transparency and the clarity of the situation in hopefully getting your special request granted

    Cheers 777 GMH & Happy Travels!

  37. @YYZgayguy
    As a Hyatt Diamond, I can not recall ever checking in to a Hyatt Hotel where as part of the checkin procedure I wasn’t asked if I would need a 4PM checkout, It is part of Hyatt’s standard procedure for checking in Diamonds.

  38. I like to check out late during vacation as well and its hit or miss with a lot of hotels. I can see their point if the hotel is booked out but a lot of times you can find free rooms.

    Have to give props though to the Waldorf Astoria in Ras al-Khaima, they extended our check out to 8pm when I asked them the day before. I had a backup 1 night reservation just in case and was able to cancel it.

  39. I have never had any issue with guaranteed 4 PM checkout at Intercontinental with my Ambassador Platinum… there were several instances where the hotels or even resorts were full… no questions asked

  40. The legalese actually says that late checkout is “subject to availability,” so they really didn’t have to accommodate you. I’ve been denied late checkout before being SPG Gold, and they pointed to that clause. Just saying.

  41. It is simply ridiculous to keep trying to make a big deal out of the “late checkout” perk and consider it a distinguishing feature among hotel programs. What happened here proves that: the “real work” caught up with at @Lucky and his “GP guarantees late checkout” bubble got burst.

    In the real world(tm), every program will do their best to accommodate a top elite’s request for late checkout. I am a Hilton Diamond and not a single time have I been denied a late checkout. In fact, as I previously reported in this space in response to similar claims about Hyatt’s late checkout “guarantee” and Hilton’s lack thereof, I was approved 3 straight times for a 6pm checkout at Hilton Buenos Aires when I had to catch United’s lone 9 pm flight out of EZE; the request for a late checkout made sense and it was approved. Just a couple of months ago, I requested a 5pm checkout at Hilton Sandton in JNB was approved without a fuss. Because Hyatt GP tends to go “by the book”, it is quite likely that a GP Diamond requesting a 5pm or 6pm check out would be quoted the “guaranteed 4pm late checkout” rule and be denied!

    Bottom line: Late checkout is NOT a feature that anyone should got around claiming to be better for some programs than others. This very post proved that… Most perks are ultimately at the discretion of a hotel, regardless of a program’s T&C say.

    BTW, the claim Hyatt offers “confirmed” DSUs is also bogus. I will let you off the hook if you say “confirmable” because that’s what they are — confirmable, depending on availability. “Confirmed” implies a done deal, which is DSUs definitely are not.

  42. This has been my experience lately with Sheraton. I have the Amex SPG Business card which gets me access to the lounge. At every check-in over the last 2 months, I have had to tell the agent about the benefit. Many of the agents have no clue of the benefit, and apologize for me being mistaken. After strong arming more, I usually get the access. This past week I stayed at the Sheraton in Kansas City, and was denied access. The agent stated that the manager had reminded all staff there that Amex SPG Business card holders received no lounge benefit. The agent sensing my frustration offered to do me a “favor” and grant lounge access. I quickly tweeted SPG Assist, and things were taken care of quickly. I hope properties at some point start communicating this benefit better to their employees.

  43. Just remember, the SPG website is very clear about distinguishing between the type of hotels that offer the 4pm check-out benefit: “4p.m. late checkout, subject to availability at resort and conference center hotels.” I doubt the W Hotel in Austin qualifies as a resort or conference center but I suppose they could play that card if they wanted to if the property was anywhere near a convention center or had a spa.

  44. Hyatt Gold Passport Ambasador @ Flyertalk.com hit the nail on the head. I cannot believe that someone who travels as much as lucky and who considers himself an expert at living in hotels full-time wouldn’t know the distinction. Instead, you make an ar$e of yourself by vilifying the hotel online. Classy.

  45. Susan and the others who don’t agree with you I say don’t be a wash over guys. These hotel employees just can’t make up the rules as they go along so they won’t be inconvenienced. You’re a loyal customer and are entitled. Good on you for being assertive.

  46. @Elijah sez: “These hotel employees just can’t make up the rules as they go…” — But, that’s just it…They can make up the rules, especially if doing so has implications for the hotel’s bottom line!

    At least Hilton is upfront about letting HHonors members know that, although they try to enforce uniform adherence to the T&C across the board, implementation of some aspects of the program is ultimately at the discretion of individual hotels (the folks in the trenches, so to speak). @Lucky would rather be lied to (“4 pm guarantee!”) than be told the hard truth upfront, since he is naive enough to think that individual hotels will (or should) bend over backwards to uphold some programmatic “guarantee” to elites, even when their bottom line is on the line …

  47. A view from a perhaps a slightly different perspective. Tried to check in to the Conrad Battery City, NYC today and informed that despite it being 3pm, published check in time, our corner suite wasn’t ready due to the previous guest, of diamond status, granted a late check out. This on a $650 (fully cash paid room rate) on a one night stay when having access to the room on timely basis due to evening plans was important.

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