Get Free Stuff At Starwood Hotels By Being A Regular And Complaining A Bunch?

According to a Starwood hotel insider, the chain has a super-generous comp policy. Her story, and an expert’s take on whether she’s full of beans, inside… “Most companies empower their employees to make the customer happy by offering discount or coupons – to an extent of course. I believe Starwood Hotel’s is called “Never Say No.” We were given the OK, with manager approval, to spend $1K/day to do whatever it took to make guests happy…”

…So, if a guest requested that their stay would be more comfortable if they had a dvd player, game player, or a different bed – if we wanted to – we could go out, purchase said item and supposedly be reimbursed by the hotel. An in-house myth is that a guest claimed they could only sleep in a La-Z-Boy recliner and an employee ran out and had a recliner delivered that day – whatever, it’s good propaganda.

If you were a bartender or server, this worked to your advantage, of course. I worked as a bartender at the Westin Charlotte for several years and loved it. Many of the regulars at the bar stayed at the hotel every Mon.- Thurs. for months (some even a year) – mostly independent contractors/consultants working for BOA, Wachovia or Lowe’s. They loved to drink and loved to tip. Many times my co-workers and I would comp the majority of a regular’s bill under the “Never Say No” rule. Free alcohol = big fat tip.

Moral of the story? Anytime you stay at a Starwood Hotel – Sheraton, Westin, W, St. Regis, Le Meridian, and their Luxury Collection – make sure you tell anyone and everyone who works there you were unhappy with something. This works best with those that expect a tip like a concierge or food service employee. I would happily comp someone in the hopes of receiving a bigger tip. Managers – the ones who give a shit or are trying to climb the corp. ladder – are another great resource for free stuff. Also, mention to someone it’s a special occasion, and chances are, they’ll comp something if they’re feeling nice that day.

We asked Mark Ashley, blogger behind Upgrade: Travel Better and Consumerist contributor what he thought:

Not unheard of, though I haven’t heard of this at Starwood explicitly. But size matters: if you’re a big enough fish (high-ranking elite in their program, regular guest, etc.) then it is particularly likely that you’ll get some customized comps. Nice hotels will do a lot to customize the guest’s room if that guest is an important enough client. But if you booked a room at the Westin for $50 through Priceline, don’t count on getting a La-Z-Boy delivered. The hotel wants to keep all guests happy, but they’re also making a business decision based on loyalty and perceived future revenue. That’s why the bartender’s story of giving free drinks to *regular* customers is so plausible.

I once worked in a hotel that was asked to bring sports equipment (e.g., treadmill, weights) to a guest’s room, because he thought he was too much of a bigshot to exercise in the very nice attached gym. They didn’t charge the guy for this extra service, though it was a pain in the ass and cost the hotel labor time to move the equipment. (They didn’t have to *buy* anything new, to please him, though. I am suspicious of the La-Z-Boy story, frankly.)

Bottom line: It never hurts to ask for something that would make your stay more comfortable, if it makes sense. Don’t say you can only sleep in a room filled with 206 jelly beans in a Versace porcelain bowl. The staff will ask why you didn’t bring your jelly beans.

And if it really is a special occasion, it can’t hurt to mention it and see what the hotel does. Just don’t expect the world if you’re not a big spender. And don’t be an asshole about your request. You’re asking for a favor.

(Photo: Getty)

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