15 May 2013
Dear Mr. Nassetta,
This email’s mostly about my recent stay at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza, but also somewhat about my Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar stay last December.
First, I want to say that, as a result of my stay at the Conrad Hong Kong last June, the Conrad Brussels last fall, and the subsequent stays I’ve had in 2013 at the Conrad hotels in Bangkok, Singapore (twice), Tokyo, and Maldives Rangali Island, I’d decided that Conrads were “my” hotel, by which I mean that, for me, they were the sweet spot of value and luxury. (Well, okay, maybe not value in the case of the last, but it was worth it.)
Until this stay.
So there I was, at 6:30 in the morning on Sunday, April 28th, arriving at the Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza.
I got out of my car, and a porter opened the door. By the time I opened the trunk of my car, the porter was nowhere to be seen, so I brought my bags in with me.
And then I was told by the front desk staffer that my room wasn’t ready, and that check-in time was 4 p.m. And, at that point, basically written off by the lady in question until that time.
Look. I get that arriving at 6:30 in the morning one is not always able to get a room. It has happened, but I don’t expect it. What I do expect is to be treated well in the interim.
Then I was told I could take my bags over to the other counter to leave them until my room was ready.
A few minutes later, I realized I was hungry, and I asked a different front desk staffer if I could have breakfasts for today and tomorrow (Sunday & Monday) rather than the usual Monday and Tuesday. She asked if I meant I wanted breakfast now, and I said, “I’m a hungry Diamond, so yes.”
It’s funny how one word, Diamond, can make someone’s perspective change.
From that point, Kendra tried to take care of me. She tried as a trainee with a full hotel and people checking out late. But she at least tried to keep me updated even though the lobby was becoming crazy busy.
And, more importantly, no one but Kendra tried.
So I was given breakfast coupons ($7 voucher for breakfast for Golds and Diamonds? Seriously?) and water vouchers (that could only be redeemed from 12-5 at one particular place in the hotel) and a $15 credit for food in the hotel, and I thought — I got better service than this in the Best Western in St. Thomas. Except there was a bad word in between Best and Western.
When I looked at the vouchers for water (see attached photo), the censored version of my thoughts:
Whiskey? Tango? Foxtrot?
So check-in time’s at 4, and I’d been originally abandoned until that time. And the vouchers are good from noon to 5 p.m., and Hilton Golds and Diamonds can check in from 4 (as the first woman told me) and then have an hour to get their water because, you know, they have absolutely nothing else to do in Puerto Rico but that. Everyone else can suck it and buy the $7 waters from their hotel mini bar — that is, if they have a room and actually have a hotel mini bar. The rest of us are simply screwed.
I don’t know what problem the vouchers, which I’d previously encountered at the Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar last December, were trying to solve, but I can tell you one problem they do not solve:
Treating a luxury guest who is also a Hilton Gold or Diamond member as a valued guest. One whose time might actually be important. One who might be checking in after 5 pm and out before noon the next day, for example.
A friend says that he’s stayed at the Caribe, the Conrad, both Embassy Suites, the Hampton Inn and the Caribe. Per his recollection, all but the Hampton Inn used the certificate for water. How odd that I’d have felt better treated had I stayed there.
When I worked for Classic Vacations, one of your wholesalers, one of the things I learned was that luxury customers consider their vacation begins when they’re checked into their room. And, even though it’s been about ten years since I last worked there, I have to admit that I never truly understood this sentiment.
Until this stay.
You see, I couldn’t get out my computer and work comfortably because the business center required a hotel key. Pretty much anything I wanted to do really required some relaxing and a nap first, and I didn’t really have a place for it.
But now, now I get it. Your time really isn’t your own until you’re checked in, have your stuff, and can get on with what you want to do.
This time, though, I felt like I was just treated awfully and it seriously made me question why this hotel was a Conrad when I’ve had better treatment at the lowest tier of Hilton brands. And that’s not even getting into the fact that one of the restaurants you could sign your room charges to is a Denny’s. While that offends my sensibilities, they were 24/7 and the service was better than what I got in the lobby from anyone but Kendra.