Marriott Fails: Hotel Still Under Construction, Leaves Your Door Wide Open, No Hot Water

Reader Allan stays at Marriott hotels a lot. He has platinum status, meaning that he stays at Marriott hotels for more than 75 days a year. One might think this level of loyalty would mean that he’d get a response to his complaint letter.

Dear Consumerist:

I have platinum status at Marriott, and my girlfriend and I recently took a vacation to San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotel we chose – La Concha, owned by Marriott – was brand new. And despite them promising us that the hotel was completed, and the guest rooms no longer under construction, we were awoken to the sound of jack hammering every single morning. When we went to the pool… heavy construction vehicles drowned out the sound of the ocean. When we sat on the resort’s beach, heavy construction in the background interrupted our conversation. The worst part was that the cleaning staff left our door wide open for an entire day while we went to a more remote and much quieter beach.

I wrote this letter informing Marriott of the problems that existed at this hotel a few weeks ago. I CC’d a number of executives, as well a few managers at the La Concha, in San Juan Puerto Rico. I haven’t heard anything back – no apology, no phone call from the executive customer service team, no compensation, nothing! And it’s a little surprising considering that in order to achieve platinum status, you need to stay 75 nights per year in their hotels.

I just want you to warn readers of the consumerist.com that if a hotel is brand new, they should be very skeptical even at large reliable chains such as Marriott.

Below, and attached, is the letter I sent.

-Allan [redacted]

December 26, 2007

Marriott International
Attn: Mr. William Shaw
Marriott Drive
Washington, D.C. 20058

Dear Mr. Shaw:

For over two years, I have been a loyal Marriott guest, choosing the Marriott brand wherever and whenever possible. I have achieved platinum status with your hotel chain, and after well over one hundred stays, have experienced nothing but exceptional customer service. I called the Camden Yards Marriott in Baltimore, Maryland home for nearly four months during the Summer of 2006. I called the Courtyard Marriott in Lowell, Massachusetts home for nearly four months after convincing my client that the Marriott, and its premium price, offered better service than the local Hilton chain. And on multiple occasions, I have written letters to the managers of these hotels noting how pleased I was with the courtesy, professionalism, and service of it’s staff, reassuring them that they were doing their job well. Therefore, it is with deep regret that I write this letter.

I recently moved to New York City, and immediately began working long hours at a large academic hospital. Known as “the city that never sleeps,” my girlfriend and I were long overdue for a vacation, a chance to retreat from the horn honking, the construction, and the winter weather. We chose Puerto Rico for our vacation destination, and more importantly, we chose La Concha, a Marriott Resort, for our accommodations from December 13 to December 17. I have never experienced a business this disorganized and a staff so nonchalant about guest concerns as the La Concha resort; simply put, you failed us, and should be embarrassed.

When we checked in, we were told that our room was upgraded to the twelfth floor, and included a balcony, but was inconveniently located right next to the elevator. Normally, this would not be a big issue, but every morning (excluding Saturday and Sunday), we were awoken by the sound of constant jackhammering starting at 8:00AM in the adjacent service room. This came as a complete surprise, because I had recently received the annual Marriott mailing noting that the La Concha was open and taking reservations. I also called the hotel and was assured that construction had been completed on all guest rooms; clearly I was misled since heavy construction started daily at 8:00AM on the upgraded floors.

During check in, I asked to cash a personal check, in the small sum of $25, and was informed by Michelle, the young lady who checked us in, that the La Concha lacked any means to cash checks despite this service being one of the perks of achieving platinum status. While not a big inconvenience, I had to walk to the other Marriott resort, located three blocks away, to cash a personal check.

Immediately after checking in, I called the front desk for assistance with the digital in-room safe. Michelle, the front desk associate, was unable to offer assistance, but assured me that her supervisor would call back with instructions on how to operate the safe; no one called back. Most concerning, on December 16, my girlfriend and I left the resort to visit another beach in Old San Juan. Gone for nearly twelve hours, we returned to find our door was left wide open by the cleaning staff. Luckily nothing was missing, but the hotel staff’s inability to provide directions on using the safe, coupled with the maid staff’s inability to secure our door, puts the enjoyment of our trip at great risk. This should not happen at any hotel, especially a Marriott. I can only imagine the unnecessary inconvenience if my work laptop was stolen or our passports missing.

On the night of December 15, the shower lacked any hot water; the water was room temperature at best. We notified the front desk staff, and on December 16th, we again had no hot water. In addition to lacking hot water, the bathroom door was difficult to open and close because the air-conditioning closet door had not been properly secured. We asked four times before this closet door was secured.

I do not want this letter to be completely negative, and I do want to recognize the bellhop staff for a job well done. I do not think that you could have recruited a nicer group of young men, willing to go above and beyond what is expected. On December 15, we asked for a bellhop to call a taxi. When we inquired about the bus, he chased down a bus, and after finding that the bus only took coins, proceeded to shake himself down for the exact fare. This is not the service I expect or demand, but was a prime example of a Marriott employee going above and beyond what is expected. That young man should be applauded, the bellhop staff envied by the rest of the La Concha staff who miserably failed – on multiple occasions – of delivering value to guests.

The La Concha Resort, clearly still undergoing heavy construction, should not have been booking guests. It is flashy, it is modern, and at first sight, I liked it. But spending the night in an upgraded room, and being awoken by jackhammering in the early morning hours while on vacation spoiled the Marriott experience; that noise was thprecise reason that we left New York City in the first place. The stay was stressful, and I now feel that I am returning to New York for a much needed vacation from La Concha. In closing, I want you to know that I will still remain a loyal Marriott customer, but will unfortunately need to do a significant amount of homework before booking a room in another Marriott Resort. I trust that you will investigate, address, and resolve these concerns. If you have any questions concerning this letter, I invite you to contact either by email ([redacted]) or telephone ([redacted]).

Sincerely,

Allan [redacted]
Marriott Rewards #: [redacted]

CC:

Mr. A. Bradford Bryan, Jr.
Executive Vice President
Architecture and Construction
Marriott International

Mr. Edwin D. Fuller
President and Managing Director
Marriott Lodging – International
Marriott International

Mr. David J. Grissen
Executive Vice President – Lodging Operations
Marriott International

Mr. Norman K. Jenkins
Senior Vice President
Lodging Development – North America
Marriott International

Ms. Kathleen Matthews
Executive Vice President
Global Communications and Public Affairs
Marriott International

Mr. Robert J. McCarthy
President
North American Lodging Operations and
Global Brand Management
Marriott International

Mr. David A. Rodriguez
Executive Vice President
Global Human Resources
Marriott International

Mr. Luis Forty
Director of Guest Services
La Concha Resort

Ms. Johanna Lopez
Front Desk Supervisor
La Concha Resort

Comments

Edit Your Comment

  1. MercuryPDX says:

    I want you to know that I will still remain a loyal Marriott customer…

    I agree that your stay sounded awful, but you didn’t give them a reason to contact you or ask for anything.

    After the first night I would have demanded to be moved to the one three blocks away where you cashed your check. :/

    …the bellhop staff envied by the rest of the La Concha staff who miserably failed – on multiple occasions – of delivering value to guests.

    ZING! Nice one!

  2. bluebuilder says:

    I feel your pain. Personally i stay away from chain hotels, and prefer independents…even when on business. Gives me some of the local culture, and I tend to get better service.

  3. Saulhousen says:

    Yeah, Marriott’s customer service isn’t very good. I suspect it’s due to the level of franchising that exists in the chain. I’ve got 250+ nights under my belt in 2007 and the customer service I’ve encountered has been mediocre overall with some rare positive exceptions. At least they have a good rewards program!

  4. DeeJayQueue says:

    So… if you’ve said you’re going to stay a loyal customer, what incentive do they have to do anything for you at all?

    That was a shitty stay though, and I feel for you mate, but if you’re not going to present a possible loss to them (your sizeable spending habits at their hotel chain) then they don’t have any reason to help you out.

  5. darkened says:

    Personally if i didn’t receive an apology or my entire stay paid back to me after this letter after spending how many $1000s to achieve that platinum status I’d be writing a new letter canceling my platinum status informing them I’d never be coming back.

  6. Caprica Six says:

    why didn’t you move to a better room? I am sure there were reasons for staying at *that* particular room, but I would have demanded to be moved.

  7. SabrinaFaire says:

    I’m not a platinum member, nor am I a big time traveler, but Marriott is definitely a company I do not stay or book with if I can avoid it. We had a hotel booked at a Marriott chain hotel for our wedding night and when we arrived to check in, we were told that the reservation was cancelled with no reason why or by whom. We never did get an apology, only a very lame excuse which was a total lie by the hotel manager. As a customer they have no reason to keep my business but as someone who books frequently books travel for others, they did lose a lot of their business.

  8. He says:

    @bluebuilder: Staying at chains is a great way to save money in the long term with their loyalty plans that actually give real and significant rewards. Most companies let employees use their own frequent visitor accounts when traveling which can mean hugely discounted vacations when they’re finally not traveling for work.

  9. Schlarg says:

    I’m a Marriott Rewards Gold member, and despite the fact that I have to say “gold member”, I always find that Marriott hotels have fantastic service. If I ask to change rooms, they always change my room. Their staff are friendly and helpful. I was staying at a Marriott in Pasadena few months ago and the fire alarm mistakenly went off at 3 AM and a bunch of sleepy business travelers like myself were standing out in the cold for a few minutes before the staff apologized and informed us it was a false alarm. When I awoke in the morning I found a letter under my door that offered a refund for the night or 2000 Rewards points for the trouble. All of my colleagues (some aren’t Rewards members) got a similar letter. I literally have never had a bad customer service experience at a Marriott hotel. And I swear I have absolutely no affiliation with them whatsoever, other than as a guest. My guess is that it’s just taking them some time to process your complaint. No doubt they’ll read this Consumerist thread and make it right.

  10. Daniel-Bham says:

    Dear Faceless Executive,

    //list of horrible things

    I want you to be fully aware that you will continue receiving my money despite this.

    Thanks,
    Chump

  11. matt1978 says:

    @Daniel-Bham: That’s exactly right. What a sucker.

  12. Nemesis_Enforcer says:

    @Daniel-Bham: Hmmm when people say they are never going there again people complain about what incentive they have to change. When people complain but say they will still shop/stay people complain. Just can’t win.

  13. erica.blog says:

    My worst hotel stay included hotel-wide construction, broken internet/wireless (despite their assurances it would work when we made the reservation and when we checked in), no restaurant (despite the reservation agent saying it was open during renovations), a broken elevator (meaning six-flight climb to the room while six months pregnant) — and sending another guest to our room because they decided we had checked out. (LOADS of fun to be woken up at midnight with somebody trying to get into your room — and then having the front desk call up and demanding to know why we were there, even though our reservation was for two more nights…)

    Not only did they lose 75% of that bill due to the problems, they also lost all future business from the university physics department (who’d arranged the stay and was furious at our treatment). That was a quite satisfying zinger to deliver to hotel management :) I can’t imagine paying full price for a miserable visit.

  14. LeJerque says:

    The victim just can’t win with you people, can he?

    Seriously, help me out here. What is the appropriate response when wronged by a company? There are countless other posts here where the victim writes a letter with some request/demand for compensation, and you point and laugh, responding to the tune of “They don’t owe you squat!”

    Finally, here’s a guy who’s tone is civil and reasonable throughout, and isn’t getting huffy or demanding anything–he is a loyal customer, clearly 99% satisfied with the service he’s experienced with this company over the years, who is bringing a one-time incident to the company’s attention. The summary here is “I know you can do better, and I’m sure you’ll continue to do better–I just thought you should know about the one bad apple in the batch.” He’s not kicking and screaming or demanding anything, and you snark at him for it? “You moron! You should have asked for money/freebies/controlling ownership of the company!”

    I’m confused. Please explain why this guy should have made massive demands and/or threatened to take away all his business, but the other people who do that are “entitlement junkies” or otherwise. Regardless of how legitimate his complaint may be or to what he may *actually* be entitled, isn’t it possible that he just doesn’t want someone to buy him off? That maybe he just wants to voice his disappointment and be done with it? He’s doing this as a reminder to others to research their hotels carefully.

    Seriously, how DARE he. That courteous bastard.

  15. Sudonum says:

    I used to be the guy in charge of the guy on the jack hammer. You failed to read between the lines to decipher the “hotel speak”:
    “construction had been completed on all guest rooms” = We’re done in the rooms, however we still have some issues to address with the mechanical systems and the public areas, that’s why your hot water will be sporadic.

    Also, most Marriott e-mail address are “First.Last@marriott.com” I’ll see if I can find the card for the Project Director who’s region this falls under and post back.

    And one last tip, never, ever stay in a “just finished” hotel. Too many complex systems they’re still getting the bugs out of, including the employees.

  16. joeblevins says:

    Marriot generally annoys because it seems everything ends up being extra. Internet? Extra. Local Phone? Extra.

    My gold status recently expired, so I have done my share of traveling. I just perfer Hilton, but I seem to be treated better there.

  17. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @LeJerque: I like the cut of your jib.

    Seriously, Marriott: this is the easiest fix in the world. I bet you wouldn’t even have to send him a gift certificate. Just send a letter of apology, assure him that you’re “taking things seriously,” and you’re DONE.

    The complete lack of response indicates critical disorganization, to me, and that’s not a good sign.

  18. tootingbec says:

    @LeJerque: In much the same way that the defining product of Marriott is hospitality, the defining product of the Gawker Network is snark. Calling someone a bozo in these forums is a comradely greeting.

  19. Mr. Cynical says:

    I am also a Marriott Plat traveler. I am actually very surprised they haven’t responded yet. Just out of curiosity, did you submit a complaint via their complaint system online- the normal way?

    Anytime I complain that way I’ve gotten a reply within a day or two. I had a bad stay once at the SF Marriott and I had used points- when I wrote they replied in a day and refunded all the points I had used plus some extras.

    Each time, however, that I use their complaint system I get a reply from the hotel manager at that hotel. For the example above, the SF Marriott manager was the gentleman who replied to me. Maybe the manager at the Marriott you stayed doesn’t care?

    Anyway good luck. Try the conventional system if you have not already.

  20. specialed5000 says:

    @joeblevins: This is common among many hotels. In the Marriott family, these things are usually extra at Marriotts, JW Marriotts, and Renaissance Hotels but are always free (at least internet is, and local calls most of the time) at all of the lower brands (Fairfield, Courtyard, Spring Hill Suites, Residence Inn, Towne Place Suites). It is the same at other hotel families. Crowne Plaza charges for internet, but Holiday Inn and Holiday Inn Expresses don’t. Hiltons charge, but Hampton Inns don’t. For more info, read this:
    [www.slate.com]

  21. specialed5000 says:

    I spend about 150-200 nights in hotels per year, more than half at Marriott properties. I have been a Platinum Marriott Rewards member for 3+ years. I had 94 nights last year and about 110 in 2006, mostly at their lower priced brands (Fairfield Inn, Courtyard, Spring Hill Suites) when my boss was paying for it, and at Renaissances, Marriotts, and JW Marriotts when I use the reward points for free nights on vacation or other personal (non work related) stays. While some properties have been better maintained and/or have better service than others, I have found them to be by far more consistent than other brands such as Intercontinental (Holiday Inn), Hilton/Hampton Inn, Starwood (Sheraton…some of them are really nasty).

    And the reward program is better than any others (faster to accumulate points, easier to use them, takes fewer points for free nights).

    I will be very surprised if Marriott doesn’t offer him some kind of compensation. They really do seem to genuinely appreciate customers like me, who spent almost $20,000 at Marriotts last year.

    BTW, the best Platinum benefit is guaranteed room availability with 48 hrs notice. While hotels usually hold back a couple of rooms even when they are ‘sold out’, I suspect that a couple of times that I have had to use this, they actually had to bump someone. I’m sorry for them, but it’s great for me.

  22. spinachdip says:

    Couple of thoughts:
    1. Do most business travelers actually have a choice in where they stay? It seems that at most corporations I’m familiar with, you’re stuck with whomever your employer chooses. So I’m not sure if loyalty matters much, unless you’re in a high enough position to dictate or influence your employer’s hotel choice.

    2. I bet a complaint letter would have more power if you CC’d tips@consumerist.com and alerted the recipient to it.

  23. CumaeanSibyl says:

    @tootingbec: I see very little snark in this thread, and a whole lot of people who think they’re funny because they disagree. This is what’s known on the rest of the internet as “lame.”

  24. aparsons says:

    @ALL:

    This was my letter to marriott. The hotel was under complete construction, and most of their rooms were not even completed yet. They did construction on the inside of the building (near the elevator and service shaft first), and then it appeared they were working their way out to the wings; the suites were not even near finished. So moving to another room would have been a downgrade. I was on the top floor with a balcony, and as a platinum marriott member, you are entitled to this type of upgrade.

    Whatever the case, the point of the letter is that I got their brochure noting that the hotel was ready to accept guest, and I even called to confirm that the construction was completed. All of it was a complete lie, and I wanted to make sure they were aware of it.

  25. aparsons says:

    @mercurypdx: That was my original choice. Unfortunately, I couldn’t use my points at that hotel because they were sold out during one of the nights.

  26. MercuryPDX says:

    @LeJerque: “He’s not kicking and screaming or demanding anything, and you snark at him for it?”

    I haven’t heard anything back – no apology, no phone call from the executive customer service team, no compensation, nothing!

    “Please explain why this guy should have made massive demands and/or threatened to take away all his business… That maybe he just wants to voice his disappointment and be done with it?”

    His message to Marriot didn’t say that, but his message to Consumerist did. Aside from Daniel-Bham, who went easy on him by Gawker standards, no body slammed him or jumped all over him.

    During the stay…
    Reasonable request: A room away from the noise or a move to accommodations at another Marriot property.

    Outlandish request: A room at the most expensive resort in all of San Juan!!! This is DEPLORABLE!!

    After the fact…
    Reasonable request: A refund of some or all of the hotel bill and/or member points.

    Outlandish request: A refund of his hotel stay, airfare, and all expenses because his enitre vacation was ruined!!! RUINED I TELL YOU!!!

    “Entitlement junkies” demand outlandish requests, and while Allan was polite and courteous he didn’t ask Marriot for anything, and should have asked for something reasonable (if that’s what he wants as per his letter to Consumerist)… even if it’s only an apology.

  27. MercuryPDX says:

    @aparsons: :)

  28. aparsons says:

    @Mercurypdx: I wasn’t demanding anything, you’re right. But we’re all adults here, presumably educated, and can read between the lines. A refund of points to enjoy the La Concha resort when their construction was completed – even just for a weekend – would have sufficed. And if I was an executive, at any business, and saw a modest complaint letter come across my desk from a loyal customer, I would have been on the phone saying “you’re right, we screwed up and what can I do to fix this?” It was my vacation, after all…

  29. MercuryPDX says:

    @aparsons: I sure your letter was a welcome change from the hail of fire and brimstone they would usually receive, and if & when (fingers crossed for you) they do call and if & when they do ask “What can we do to make this right?”, I hope you take this as your cue to express that….

    …and then ask for 51% of the controlling shares of stock in the company, the executive’s job and head on a silver platter, and a lifetime supply of hotel towels and pillow mints. ;)

  30. Sudonum says:

    @aparsons:
    I’ve worked in hotels for 20 years. They are never to be trusted. An example:

    On occasion we would have to shut the water down to the whole hotel (1600 rooms) to make major plumbing repairs. We would always wait until a night with occupancy below 25% (hopefully lower). Then we would shut the water off at around midnight and have it back on by 5am. But I would still get into a disagreement with the General Manager over guest notification. My view was that we should put a note in each room and also send a mass voicemail. Hard for a guest to miss both. He preferred not giving any notification at all. His reasoning was that very few guests would actually up and be impacted, and if anyone was up and complained we would instruct the GSA’s to apologize and tell them it was an emergency repair and the water would be back on shortly and we would send up some complementary bottled water up if necessary and knock 30% off their rate for that night. On the other hand, if he did any kind of notification, then guests would have their hand out whether they were impacted or not. And actually this worked pretty well, until the night that we shut the water down and had a fire alarm at 3am, woke everyone up and of course they all decided to go to the bathroom or get a drink while they were up. The GSA and operators couldn’t handle the call volume.

    This is the same industry that coined the phrase “domestic water” to describe water leaking into a room from an overflowing toilet in the room above it.

  31. sleze69 says:

    I am also platinum level with Marriott. All of the stays I can remember have been very good and any time there was a problem (they forgot to do my laundry, etc.), they were always able to make up for it in some way (free laundry, upgraded rooms, etc).

    That said, this sounds like the guy had a horrible experience and I am going to forward it to my friend who works for Marriott.

  32. JayXJ says:

    @spinachdip: I used to do a LOT of business travel (200+ days a year). We generally got a ‘Hotel Allowance’ of X dollars a night. The company didn’t care where we stayed as long as we didn’t exceed that amount. Naturally any points we accumulated at various chains were ours to keep, great for vacations.

    If enough investigators had issues with a particular hotel or chain word got around and they didn’t get more business from us. “When you get to Topeka, avoid Xyz motel.”

  33. JiminyChristmas says:

    @Sudonum: This is the same industry that coined the phrase “domestic water” to describe water leaking into a room from an overflowing toilet in the room above it.

    Well, that’s what it is.

    ‘Domestic water’ is actually a common construction/mechanical engineering/plumbing term. It refers to water supplies for common domestic fixtures, e.g.: toilets, sinks, and showers.

    You have to distinguish ‘domestic’ water from the rest (water for boilers, chillers, industrial processes, etc.) because non-domestic water is often not potable.

  34. Sudonum says:

    @jiminychristmas:
    I ran the boiler and chiller plants for these hotels. Water from and overflowing toilet is also commonly know as “raw sewage”.

  35. Trick says:

    I always found it funny back in ’97 when I checked into a Marriott’s Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite. It had been snowing all day and the power was out at the hotel. Only emergency lights were available when we checked in.

    We were able to check in because the only thing working was the credit card machine and front desk computer to authorize/bill our credit card!

    Power was restored quickly enough and Marriott had no problem getting paid for our stay!

  36. deserthiker says:

    I have a buddy who’s a platinum member for Marriott and they do everything but blow him to make sure he’s happy (and if he slipped the bellman a twenty I’m sure he’d arrange for someone to blow him as well–for an additional fee, of course).

    I think your letter has some problems:

    First, it’s too long. Just get to the point. Don’t recount everything but say what REALLY bothered you. No one wants to read a laundry list.

    Two, you should address it to one person. The person at the top. I don’t know but isn’t that still Bill Marriott? Send it to his office and it’ll get to the right person.

    Three, express your disappointment and leave it at that. Let them think they’re going to potentially lose one of their good customers and they’ll make it right.

    And lastly, don’t go bellyaching on the Consumerist. They might put you on the list to receive a wake-up call at three A.M. next time you stay.

  37. Jim says:

    @aparsons: Is it possible that Marriott Hotels and Marriott Resorts are separate entities? I know this is the case with other chains. They appear to be the same, same name, similar logo, etc., but are actually distinct from each other. Investigate that, it may explain the lack of response.

  38. JerseyJarhead says:

    I love it when random people say something like “Well I stayed there and they treated me nice and the room was fine.” What in the HELL does that have to do with someone else’s HORRIBLE experience, and the refusal of management to resolve their complaint?

  39. sleze69 says:

    @JerseyJarhead: It detracts from the complainer’s assertion that the bad service is pervasive. That’s what the HELL it has to do with it.