Last week I was scheduled to be interviewed for contnuation of my federal personnel security clearance. According to the rules (as they now stand) the interview could not be in my home or office (who can say why?), so I suggested a neutral site, a full service Marriott at which I have stayed approximately 400 nights in the past three and a half years.
I emailed a senior person at that hotel to ask if I might use the Concierge Lounge for just an hour to have this interview--scheduled for a non-meal service time--in privacy without interruption. To my surprise I got an email detailing the reasons why this could not happen: hotel rules state that only paying guests can use the Lounge, that if I wanted to check in for the day I could use it, etc.
Needless to say I was taken back by this sudden "rules are rules" response to m request. At that point it was too late to reschedule the meeting so I assumed that I'd be doing it in a corner of the busy lobby. When I passed the front desk I was greeted by an associate that I've known for years who asked if I'd like a key to the Lounge to see the staff there. I accepted the key, waited for the fellow, and we had our meeting in complete privacy in the empty Concierge Lounge. I gave the key back and thanked the associate. We did not interfere with the Lounge's schedule--it is open during the day but no one is there.
I am not a person to abuse a privilege, but felt that asking for just an hour of the hotel's time in the Lounge that I had frequented for all those years was not an unreasonable request.
It concerns me that the state of things, at least at one hotel, is that long standing guests are not given even one perk unless they agree to stay at the property. In days goneby the Marriott byword was "no guest leaves unsatisfied." Technically I was not a guest but was unsatisfied with the reception I got to my simple request.-- Edited by SteppingStones at 08/23/2009 7:53 AM PDT
SteppingStones -- I normally fall in line with most of what you post here, but I take exception to your take on the "State of things." Is it up to the requester of special status or treatment to determine the reasonableness of the request? Or is it up to the standards, without which there would be no consistency among staff performance...something several of us have commented about on this board. You often refer to the T&C of various offers, etc., when someone complains. If you wanted an exception for you from the T&C, why didn't you just go directly to the GM? You were, from your own description, well known as a valued guest at this property. I think you put line staff on the spot by asking for something they knew was beyond their purvue, and then felt slighted when they didn't respond to your "reasonable" request. I'm going to ask my mechanic if I can use his garage to do some work on my car so I don't have to pay him to do it.
NUHusker has a very good point. The e-mail unintentionally placed the person 'on the spot'. Keep in mind that e-mail provides an audit trail and can place someone in the position of authority on-guard - needlessly. It can and does happen, even if it means falling short of your expectations as a loyal guest by denying your request - as reasonable as it may be. It's not the request, it's the form of presentation.
IMO, special 'favors' are best handled in person face-to-face or on the phone. It's the level of engagement and quality of connection that is effective. You're able to leverage an "Elite relationship" to access a benefit normally ascribed to the paying guest. That's exactly what happened. By your own experience, it works.
The 'State of Things' might be better stated as, 'State of Relationships' highlighting the very positive relationship you have with the associate you have known for years.
Points noted. In business the customer defines quality. I fear that concept is lost on the staff of this hotel. I was never asking for something that would cause them embarrasment, or discomfort, and would certainly have settled for a small alcove in the lobby or a secretive meeting in the parking garage (a la Deep Throat!) Even that seemed too hard to do.
My business is and has been valuable to Marriott --they have treated me with respect and with courtesy lo these many years. Now, it is my fear that the golden age has ended, At one point this hotel was going to put my name on the door of the room that I occupied most of the year until I demurred.
If I were the associate whom I asked I would have gladly made this happen with someone along to make sure I was doing what I claimed I would do and not something wrong if necessary--since I am that member of the hote; staff I can only assume that rules are being enforced at a rigid level now.
I have crossed this hotel off my list of places to stay, for this and many other reasons.
Thanks TJC: Another corollary, in a marketplace there are choices and I have made one vis-a-vis this property. I did get a tepid email asking if the meeting went well for me--and expressing sorrow that the person to whom I wrote could not break away to say hello while I was there.
TJ: I would rather not identify the hotel or its location since I still have many friends there, and the Insider post identified one particular management person who was a rule-follower. I have not burned any bridges there, still see the hotel folks from time to time, and have merely transferred my business to another nearby prorperty where the Spirit to Serve lives on, and in great measure. The new location is willing to accomodate reasonable requests--which I rarely have. They have and continue to earn my business.
As an aside I was able to have two associates at the heretofore unmentioned hotel given special recognition by Mr. Marriott himself for their exceptional service to me and to all guests. Both have moved on to other pursuits.
I escalated the issue to the top (as far as I could) of the hotel's management chain and when rebuffed let the matter drop. As it turned out the graciousness of other personnel at the former hotel allowed me to complete my mission.
Ironically the economic situation has led to a dramatic decrease in room occupancy at this property, but the rates have remained fairly constant, thus another reason that I moved on.
I define the quality in any service. The hotel mentioned in my original post did not meet my expectations at first, teaching me a lesson in customer relations, but alas not them. It is a free market and I choose not to "purchase" their "product."