Thanks, Doubletree Hotel, For Not Even Apologizing After Messing Up My Wedding Reservations

Readers Brandon and Eleanor made reservations back in November for their wedding this June, but in May found out that the Doubletree Hotel had only reserved a small fraction of the rooms they requested. This started off a chain of bad service that included weddings guests not able to book their rooms at the quoted rate, unauthorized charges to Eleanor’s credit card, and unexpected fees for handing out gift bags. What a headache.

Brandon and Eleanor write, to Doubletree/Hilton:

I am writing to you because of an extremely unpleasant interaction and stay that my husband and I had at the Doubletree Hotel Chicago-North Shore in Skokie, Illinois. I had blocked 50 rooms at the hotel for our wedding weekend June 27-June 29, 2008. I cannot even begin to express the frustration that I had dealing with the hotel and reservations staff, which I will outline for you later in this email.

I travel approximately six weeks a year in my position as [redacted] I usually enjoy staying at Doubletree Hotels (and other Hilton Hotels), but I do not believe I will stay again after all of the hassles and excess charges that my husband and I endured.

Here is an account of our experience: I blocked the rooms in November, 2007. Since we live out of town, as do many of our guests, I made sure that 50 rooms were blocked. I even remember asking if that high number was possible to block. I was told it would be fine.

On May 10, 2008, I received a phone call from one of my guests, telling me the block was full. I was shocked to hear this, and immediately called the hotel. They told me in a very curt manner that the block was indeed full and that 13 rooms had been booked. Of course, I told them that we had 50 rooms blocked, so this must be a mistake. They informed me that only 10 rooms had been reserved.

After much discussion and debate, they said they could open five more rooms ONLY. I was furious that seven weeks before my wedding, I had to book another block of rooms at another hotel, without even an “I’m sorry” from the Doubletree staff, who tried on two occasions to blame the error on me.

After blocking the rooms at two hotels, I called about 10 days before the wedding to ask how many rooms were blocked so that we could hand out gift bags to our guests. Imagine my surprise to find that 35 rooms were booked at the Doubletree. Obviously, there was enough room to expand out the block. This was quite aggravating!

When we went to give the gift bags to the front desk for delivery to each of our guests, I was again dismayed. We were told that there would be a charge of $1.50 per bag to simply hand the bag to each guest. I agreed to the $54 charge because I had no other option. I asked some of my recently married friends if the hotels that they had blocked for their wedding charged them for the same service. They had not been charged and were also shocked to hear of this fee, especially because we had filled 35 rooms of the hotel. Additionally, my in-laws had paid for breakfast for nearly 40 guests on June 29, 2008! This made the nickel-and-dime charge even more offensive.

Just yesterday, I was about to pay my credit card bill when I realized that another charge of $75 from the Doubletree Hotel was billed to my account on June 29, 2008. Again, I called the hotel. I was told that the charge was for transportation of 18 people to the reception site a mile and half away. I told the accounting department that I had NEVER authorized such a charge. I do not know if my guests used the hotel’s transportation, but my husband and I never booked the transportation, never rode on the transportation ourselves, nor authorized such a charge.

The hotel has since reversed this charge because of my complaint, but it is just another example of our unsatisfactory experience. Additionally, our guests who blocked rooms early were told that the shuttle was free. Only closer to the wedding did the shuttle begin to charge a fare. I only discovered this myself and was never contacted by the Doubletree staff, nor were my guests.

Finally, when my Mother-in-law booked her room, she was told that she would have to pay a higher rate for the Thursday night she planned to stay. When she told the staff that she was under the impression that the wedding rate was valid Thursday through Monday, she was again met with a discourteous and unhelpful rebuttal. I was surprised to learn of this just a few days before the wedding because I was also told that the rate was valid Thursday through Monday. She and several guests mentioned that they were unable to book anything online. The rate was apparently only accessible by phone, contrary to what my husband and I were led to believe.

We were even given an online booking code to give our guests, but they could not receive the rate using it. My husband and I are embarrassed and irritated that our block was handled so unprofessionally. I have advised a close friend who is getting married in the area not to block rooms at that particular Doubletree Hotel, and I have advised my other friends not to block rooms for their weddings at Hilton or Doubletree Hotels because of our bad experience. I am dismayed that the Hilton Family of Hotels, a company that I so highly regarded, disappointed us so much on the biggest weekend of our lives. A reply would be much appreciated.

Sincerely,
Eleanor

Comments

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  1. Incidents and misunderstandings like these are why we advise all of our clients to correspond either by writing letters or sending emails – AND KEEPING COPIES OF ALL REPLIES.

    Employees can easily deny making promises or giving wrong information because they fear for their jobs. There is no way to prove who is right or who is responsible for misunderstandings.

    Also, if one is going to write a complaint letter, it is usually best that several copies are made and sent to the board of directors besides the lowly customer service personnel (who probably just want to get through their agonizing days of hearing nothing but angry complaints)

  2. Wow

    So sorry you and you husband had these issues. Sounds like you took care of all your own wedding arrangements, and that’s stressful enough. For the Doubletree to add this much to it is ridiculous.

  3. sleze69 says:

    Anytime I had a problem with Marriott (and there haven’t been many), they have always been very quick and OVERWHELMINGLY nice to make up for it.

    It’s time to enroll in Marriott rewards.

  4. RabbitDinner says:

    I’ve had nothing but good experiences with DoubleTree in Chicago, but then again I haven’t been there in years, and it really depends on the management. Their breakfast is excellent.

    It’s hard to take your business elsewhere in this situation, it looks like you really took the shaft. That being said-did you speak to the management? Did you get each and every employee’s name? I don’t understand how this happened-did you have any form of documentation that stated you had reserved 50 rooms that you could wave in their faces?

    You should have this in writing, i hope. I’m no expert on innkeeper’s laws, but if you can prove that you reserved 50 rooms you can probably sue for breach of contract, if they had rooms available that they did not give to you, that’s even better for you, that’s some other form of egregious violation of innkeeper’s laws. I don’t know who exactly to report this to, but they can be fined, I’m pretty sure, for each room reservation they failed to honor.

  5. chiieddy says:

    When I had to set room blocks I had it all in writing and contracted. Gift bag fees were in my contract.

  6. Doctor Cathattan says:

    For an event this big I don’t think emails would have been enough. Sorry if this sounds like I’m blaming the OP (I’m not), but I would’ve asked for an immediate faxed or mailed confirmation on official corporate letterhead of my arrangements. She should’ve also gotten an itemized list of expected and related charges, again on official corporate letterhead. Any reputable hotel should’ve been able to provide this, the fact that they didn’t should’ve come up as a big red flag.

    I would’ve also asked for the name of a single point of contact to reach in order to confirm arrangements or help resolve problems. It sounds like the hotel played a customer service round robin with her. This is surprising since usually big hotels like the Double Tree have specific offices to handle weddings and events.

  7. RabbitDinner says:

    If you had it in writing you’re on easy street. It’s clearly a breach of contract, and even if they were overbooked they’d be fined and probably owe you damages. From the looks of it, you received not compensation, but poor service. Of course, I really hope you had a contract/something in writing

  8. trekwars2000 says:

    @Simply_J: agreed. My wife and I got married about 3 months ago and blocked out 75% of a Courtyard. The staff was more than happy to hand out welcome bags for free, provide transportation to the small downtown less than a mile away and were more than happy we were paying their paychecks by filling up the hotel for 4 days.

    Add to this problem that the OP was getting married and it makes it even worse. My bride was more than stressed out and we had no problems with the hotel or anything. UNACCEPTABLE.

  9. BFIrrera says:

    Strangely enough, we had problems with Doubletree that very same weekend (though it was a different location in Chicago: 5460 North River Road, Rosemont – (847) 292-9100, where we were staying for the Wizard World Chicago comic book convention). I later had trouble with my computer when we returned home so I never got a chance to post about this, but: though their parking garage advertises $11.00 a day for parking and then on the second floor, there is a sign designating that particular floor for Doubletree guests (implying, in my opinion, that the spaces should be gratis for guests), and then we were offered by the hotel clerk at the desk to have our parking ticket “validated” whenever we needed to go somewhere (again, implying that parking for guests should be comped, considering that NO mention of a fee was ever uttered by the desk clerk…), imagine our surprise to find out that:

    A) we were charged for parking (fine, but it would have been nice if they didn’t act like we were getting comped…considering we were supposedly their “guests”)
    B) we were charged $16.00 for the validation (as opposed to simply paying the $11.00 at the exit machines!).

    Because of the trips we took during the weekend, we were rooked out of $30.00 (SIX TIMES we were charged this extra $5.00 without being informed of the extra price).

    THEN, when we got home, we discovered that my husband’s credit card was charged TWICE by the hotel for our parking and internet bill ($130+x2). It took TEN days to get the charge removed!

    Never again! We will ALWAYS ask before accepting any service at ANY hotel and make sure there are NO hidden fees (I have no problem with having to spend the $11.00/day for the parking if that’s the way it has to be, considering that the SAME garage would cost $20.00 for the Embassy Suites that shares the same lot (stupid, why would guests do that? Just park in the regular people’s spaces and not in the hotel’s designated spaces and save the money!)

  10. EE2000 says:

    Not blaming the OP, but for our hotel wedding block (not a doubletree) we only had 10 rooms and still got a contract in writing. We learned that everything for you wedding should be in writing.

  11. SuffolkHouse says:

    DoubleTree is run by some smug mother-F’ers.

    For my wife’s bachelorette party, her friends reserved some rooms in the DoubleTree near downtown Chicago. For my wife, as she walked down the hall, they’d stuck up pictures of her from her childhood.

    They visited her room in the morning and told her they were going to double her room charge because of damage to the hall. We were the ones who removed the pictures, which were scotch-taped to wall-paper. They came right off.

    I told the would who wanted to DoubleCharge me at DoubleTree that I’d not authorized that payment to my card, and would reverse it immediately.

    She never actually charged us, but fully intended to until I made that remark.

    Now, we always joke about getting DoubleCharged at the DoubleTree.

  12. bagumpity says:

    It sounds like the length of time that passed between the initial blocking-off of the rooms and the call to check on the status was part of the problem. Periodic check-points might have been advisable. I still think the hotel’s actions were reprehensible, but I think the “check early, check often” might be another lesson that future brides could learn from this story.

  13. snowburnt says:

    @Simply_J: Emails are enough for lawsuits now adays provided they come from a non-anonymous account

  14. hills says:

    I booked blocks for my wedding at 3 hotels – and ALL of them had contracts in writing for me to agree to. Sounds like that would have saved a lot of confusion here. Also, the blocks were released about a month before the wedding, so I wonder if her guests who didn’t get the special rates just didn’t make their reservations in time?

    Charge to hand out gift bags? That’s ridiculous.

  15. Tarpo says:

    As someone who works with hotels on a daily basis I can pretty much guarantee that unless she had a signed contract between her and the hotel there is no way she had 50 rooms blocked. Hilton properties especially have very detailed contracts that lay out additional fees. Weddings are terrible because they are notorious for not picking up their blocks and leaving the hotel scrambling to fill rooms. Any number of things could have lead to her problems. Did she sign a contract with a master bill? That could be why she got the transportation charge. Was there a mention of the delivery fee in the contract? How about a cutoff for reservations? After the cutoff the hotel is under no obligation to offer that rate. If the contract expired and the hotel may have left a 10 room courtsey block to avoid the normal wedding problems. Basically it comes down to the hotel and the client. If the bag handling fee was not in the contract and there was no master bill then those charges were a mistake and should be refunded. But if the OP just didn’t read it and signed off. Then thats business. Its not hard to read a contract if you pay attention. Just be happy you didn’t get stuck with attrition fees for not picking up all 50.

  16. Ms. Pants says:

    Yet another reason I’ll be eloping should I ever decide to hitch up.

  17. PinkNightmare says:

    An “oldie but a goodie”…the DoubleTree complaint presentation…it still makes me laugh!

    [www.hyperorg.com]

  18. mac-phisto says:

    @PinkNightmare: lol. thanks – i’ve seen that a few times, but it’s still funny as hell.

  19. ZekeSulastin says:

    Once, the Doubletree in Philadelphia gave other groups related to an annual event we attended our rooms – notwithstanding that this was the x-th year we’ve been there and all the required paperwork was done soon after the event the year before …

  20. Jevia says:

    I’m curious about the ‘gift bag’ thing. Is that something new, giving gifts to the guests? I’ve never heard of that before. Even so, couldn’t the OP had asked someone in the wedding party to hand the gift bags out to the guests at the reception for free?

  21. AgentTuttle says:

    They double charged me once in that a production company was putting me up, but they charged my card for incidentals for the whole stay as well.

  22. STrRedWolf says:

    I haven’t heard of any complaints around the same time frame over in Pittsburgh’s Doubletree, but I’ll follow up with my comrade admin in arms.

    Heads up, though, if you’re booking in Pittsburgh around July 4th. Anthrocon is being held that weekend, and the main backup hotel (the Omni) is unavailible. You probably will find the Westin, the Doubletree, and the Mariott filled in that order (and yes, they’re under contract according to the chairman)… and if you do get a room not for the con, expect alot of howling and yapping that will make the Red Sox loose games due to lack of sleep.

    Any complaint similar to “What’s running around in there, a pack of wild animals?” will be answered with “Yep. Foxes, feline’taurs, some skunks, some cougars…”

  23. chgoeditor says:

    I’ve planned plenty of meetings and events, negotiated lots of hotel contracts and have pulled my hair out over room blocks. My advise to aspiring brides, grooms, reunion planners, etc.:

    1. Sign a contract with the hotel. If they tell you they’re going to do something for you for free, make sure it’s in the contract.

    2. Before signing the contract, make a list of all possible services that you or your guests are planning to use. Give it to your sales contact at the hotel, and ask for their prices, in writing. You may be able to negotiate reduced rates for certain services. Free parking? Free breakfast? Free distribution of gift bags? Ask first, because if you don’t discuss the cost, you’ll certainly pay for it later.

    3. Remember that the contract is a two-way street. The hotel won’t set aside rooms for you, or give you a lower room rate, without putting you on the hook. Don’t use all of the rooms you set aside? You may pay for them later! So be conservative in your efforts.

    4. Ask for a weekly room pick-up report. The hotel will show you how many people have booked rooms within your block, their names, and their arrival and departure dates. Consider giving the hotel a list of out-of-town guests, and ask them to confirm that none of your guests have booked outside of the room block. Does it look like you’re not going to fill the block? Ask if you can release some of those rooms back to the hotel with no penalty. Does it look like you’re in danger of running out of rooms? Ask the hotel if you can add a few more rooms to your block. I’d rather set aside 20 rooms, then, every couple weeks, ask the hotel to add 5 more rooms to my block, than set aside 75 rooms and find that I have to pay for 30 that were never used.

  24. Alger says:

    @chgoeditor: At some point, though, you just don’t know what the hotel would come up with a charge for. For example, it wouldn’t even OCCUR to me to ask if there’s a charge for distributing gift bags. Where do you draw the line? Should I have to ask if there’s a charge for walking through the lobby in wedding clothes? You never know…

  25. Alger says:

    Don’t hold your breath waiting for an apology. I’ve had a bad experience EVERY SINGLE TIME I’ve stayed at a Doubletree.

    I even wrote a long letter once complaining about my stay. Did I get any kind of response? Nope.

  26. jenl1625 says:

    @Jevia: Back in 1998ish, I flew out to California for a friend’s wedding. She had folks flying in from around the country (as well as from Australia) for the weekend. She had a Godiva chocolate gift-basket waiting at check-in for every guest room where the guests were out-of-state.

    So it’s not new . . . .

  27. Verbal, Verbal, Verbal and throw in an email for good measure.

    Professional hotels confirm everything in writing. I am sure the florist and catering did the same for the Bridezilla. Sounds like she was not as anally attentive with her hotel planning as the rest of the wedding.

  28. MMD says:

    I attended a friend’s wedding in Virginia, and her block of rooms was at a DoubleTree. The bullet point version of this fiasco?

    - The special “wedding rate” was $20/night more than the online rate I found…so I booked my reservation there instead of identifying with the wedding party. Which was good because…

    - The hotel had seriously underbooked the block of rooms, causing many of the bride’s friends and family to be bussed across town to a much shabbier hotel

    - The bride had reserved space in the hotel restaurant for an after-reception party, including open bar. Not only was the restaurant closed when we arrived, but…

    - They wouldn’t even extend the hours of the little makeshift bar that was open. And yes, the bride had a contract for this after-party.

    Combine that with the broken wi-fi and the keycard that stopped working 3 times during my visit. I will *never* stay in a Double Tree again.

  29. dweebster says:

    @PinkNightmare: Whazzup with requiring IE to view this..?

  30. VidaBlueBalls says:

    As a HHonors Gold member, I have only had one problem with a Hilton hotel and they bent over backwards to fix the problem. That said, DoubleTree hotels seem to be the least friendly, and shabbiest. It’s a shame to hear this because I promote the Hilton family of hotels to everyone.

  31. Pipes says:

    I have only fond memories of Doubletree Rosemont because I interviewed and got my current (dream) job there. That being said, reading about these experiences makes me not want to go back, and I stay in hotels probably a week+ per month. You know who I’ve found to consistently be excellent? Hampton.

  32. dweebster says:

    It seems that Paris Hilton is a living, breathing advertisement for how you will be treated at any hotel chains that bear her name. Boorish, insensitive, and completely disconnected from the meaning of service.

  33. snakeskin33 says:

    I’m extremely sympathetic to the OP, but agree that the best way to avoid this kind of thing is to make sure that in any big transaction like this that’s very important to you, you get it in writing.

    Furthermore, I hope the OP will rethink her decision to forsake all Doubletrees forever — I really think one of the best consumer lessons is not to give up the good service you receive at 99 percent of a company’s locations because you receive bad service at one. If she feels (as she says in the post) that she’s always gotten good service from them before, this is probably bad on-site staff, and she’s not necessarily going to do herself any favors by refusing to patronize good locations with good service. Just a thought, really.

  34. The company I work for uses this as their “host hotel” for out of town employees. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the last 5 years from being a Doubletree to just being a “Convention Center” to then being re-branded as a Doubletree again.

    Sounds as though they still haven’t worked out all of the bugs yet!

  35. Hateshopping says:

    This person’s experience should be a lesson for anyone planning an event, whether it’s a wedding or not. I do event planning as part of my job and always get confirmations every step of the way from the caterers, the venue, the entertainment, security, decorator, rental places, insurance, licensing, etc etc. Just ask for an email confirmation if they won’t go to the trouble of a letter, and you can always write up your own letter confirming your understanding of what the deal is, advising them to contact you immediately if there’s a discrepancy. For most people the first time he/she plans a wedding it’s the one and only time they do an event of this size so it’s a learning process the whole way. If you’re not using a wedding/event planner, educate yourself about what you should be thinking about–besides what shoes to wear.

  36. billhelm says:

    It seems to me that unless you are having your wedding in an area with not a lot of hotel supply or at a time of high demand that wedding blocks are pretty worthless. We had blocks at 2 hotels for our wedding and most of our guests told us they could find better rates elsewhere and didn’t bother. We also had our wedding in a downtown area where hotel occupancy is usually quite low on the weekends anyway. So a block may not even be worth the hassle or time.

  37. kayfox says:

    IT sounds like she had 50 room-nights in her block and through some combination, 13 reservations took up all the room-nights. Most hotels do room blocks in room-nights rather than reservations.

    It really sounds like the poster did not throughly examine the hotel contract and all contingencies. This is why conventions have at least one hotel person (or more, up to an army that includes a lawyer and accountant) and most well planned weddings use a professional wedding planner.

    When you plan a large event (more than a handfull of rooms) at a hotel, you need to have a well defined contract and cover every base, or you will have a mess of fees you cant do anything with. Often you will get odd or incorrect fees with a contract, but at least you can get them removed with the contract.

  38. spryte says:

    @RabbitDinner: It was always those warm cookies they gave you at check-in that got me. **droooooool**

    Like others have said, that charge for handing the guests their gift bags is pretty wacky. I understand that the hotel is a business and all that, but the employees were not going to be working extra time or doing anything above and beyond their job descriptions by handing a small item to a guest. It’s things like this that are so maddening – it’s not going to make the hotel suddenly flush with mountains of extra cash, but it IS going to look really lame and like an awful business practice. Sometimes companies amaze me with their jackassery.

  39. imrcly says:

    If holiday in gave me cookies i would never stay at a doubletree again.. matter of fact i probably won’t anyways.

  40. I can see a fee to hand the gift bag to the guests. Hell, why not? If you don’t want to pay it, hand the bags out at the dinner the night before, or at the reception.

    There should have been a contract for anything over ten rooms. If you didn’t get a contract then that is on you.

    Weddings are the worst for the hotel business. Every bride seems to think they are going to have fifty to a hundred out of town guests, and want you to set aside rooms for them, but of course they don’t want to pay for the rooms that are not used. Every wedding block contract I ever wrote spelled out very clearly the block would be released back into general inventory at least 40 days prior to the wedding. Sometimes I wrote 45 days. Depended on wether or not there were any other events going on in town that week-end. It was always interesting when people would get shocked that I would turn down their “50″ room block with a $15.00 dollar discount per room per night, because there was something else in town and I could raise rates by $15.00 per night.

    I have had great wedding blocks that came of without a hitch, and I have had disasters which were one disaster after another. Sometimes it depends upon the experience of the sales manager, and sometimes on the experience of the wedding contact. I would say that anyone who travels as much as the poster said they travelled should not be surprised that there was human error involved in the hotel business. Should have got a contract, should have read all the fine print on the contract, should have checked with the hotel at least once a month, then twice a month, then every week, then daily as the date arrived.

  41. Bruce Bayliss says:

    If something’s important, YOU DOCUMENT IT.

    Simple as.

    Just how dumb are these people?

  42. spryte says:

    @Bruce Bayliss: I don’t know, but at least they’re not dumb enough to post a comment on Consumerist that repeats what other people already said just as a way of getting an insult – and a lame one, at that – out there. ‘Cause if someone did THAT…wow, that would be pretty dumb, wouldn’t it?

  43. Indecent says:

    @Jevia:

    When you have people flying in or driving in over the course of one, two, or three days, rather than have a guest stand there for 16 hours a day, hoping to catch some people they may or may not know are there for your wedding, it is far preferable for the hotel to hand them out. For most hotels, if you’re booking large sections of rooms and giving them that much business, they’d happily do it for free.

  44. eb718 says:

    This is Eleanor and Brandon,

    We sent the email to top Hilton executives and received an apology email within three hours and a promise to follow up. We emailed them because we figured that we would get no response from the hotel staff. The next day (yesterday), we received an email from the hotel manager and 120,000 Hilton Honors points on our account. I think the hotel has had problems in its conversion back and forth to Doubletree. That is the sense we have gotten from others. I will second that having everything in writing is key. That helped us along the way. Also, we never had a problem with our other block of rooms at the Hampton Inn and Suites, so if anyone’s looking to arrange rooms for a large event, consider them!

  45. eb718 says:

    I forgot to mention that, ironically, the Hampton Inn and Suites is also a Hilton Hotel…. We might veer away from Doubletrees for the other hotels.

  46. Charlotte Rae's Web says:

    Simple thing to do – once you work all that out, just ask them to fax over the details.

  47. Six_El_Sid says:

    I work as a GSA at at a Hampton Inn & Suites…

    The whole deal is pretty screwed, but just some points…

    Our hotel books in blocks of 10. Get 10, if you book those, you can get 10 more. If they told you 50, they certainly should have honored it.

    Also, blocks expire about 1 month before the event, at least at our hotel. After the block expires, we try to give the group rate if possible, but if the block is expired, that’s it. If the mother tried to book a few days prior (which I’m sure she didn’t, just the writer heard of the event a few days prior) it might not be honored.

    Limited blocks + block expiration are in place to protect a hotel. A hotel holds a block of unreserved rooms aside in more or less a promise that your group will book at least most of them. If a group blocked half the rooms of the hotel and it never expired, and it comes the day of the event and nobody booked inside the block, the hotel is screwed half it’s rooms.

    Still, they ought to stick by their word, either way.

    On a side note for others, being given 120,000 HHonors points is no small deal. You get 10 points per dollar spent, so that’s $12,000 dollars worth of points, or, 2 nights absolutely free at the Waldorf Astoria Collection during busy time.