Friday, September 26, 2008

The Marriott Saga

I'm bummed today because what I considered a trusted and respected brand has let me down.  

Anyone following me on Twitter knows that as of last night, I have major issues with Marriott.

I'm getting married next month.  My fiancee and I contacted the Marriott near our wedding site to establish a block of rooms for our guests who required overnight accommodation.  We chose the Marriott not only for its location, but because they came highly recommended to us via word-of-mouth from friends and family.  I have always enjoyed staying in Marriott locations.  I find the staff to be friendly, accommodating and very nice.

Here's how it went downhill:

I spoke with a very nice Marriott representative in March who sent me the contract for a group block rate and even worked with me to negotiate a smaller "guarantee" number of guests who would take advantage of staying their hotel.  I was very pleased and thrilled that the Marriott representative who worked with me got this taken care of so quickly.  My fiancee and I sent out word to all of our out-of-town guests about the block of rooms we had reserved at this chosen Marriott location. 

And then strike 1 occurred.

I received a call from my good friend who was trying to book his flight and hotel in June (with the rising cost of travel, this was a smart move) and he informed me that the Marriott told him that there was no record of our room block on file.

I thanked my friend and called Marriott.  Turns out...drum roll...

The person I dealt with never entered the contract into their system. 


Now, I understand sometimes things happen. We get busy. Things fall through the cracks, but this was annoying. 

But Marriott redeemed themselves and quickly put me in the system.  They also informed me that the woman I originally spoke with was no longer at the company and I was handed over to a regional group sales manager based in Denver.  This gentleman was very nice and quickly redeemed the Marriott brand.  He listened, entered my information, and very quickly made sure to provide me with an online link I could send my guests to register for rooms and get the rate.  He also at the time (per my request) supposedly entered me into the system for the four-night stay I required at the hotel for my wedding and told me there was no charge.  He said Marriott appreciated my understanding and that he was apologetic that my guests were not able to book when they originally called. He also said if I had any more problems to call him.

Fast forward to August.  My parents in the midst of helping me plan my wedding, requested that I book their room for them at the Marriott location.  Since they are also planning an extended stay, I called the gentleman in Denver (as I was told to do) to speak with him about securing the negotiated rate for my parents.  

Get ready for strike 2.

I'm told that the gentleman who originally helped me is no longer with the company and the Marriott representative I talked to had "no idea" why I was told to call the regional sales manager in Denver when I should have been dealing with the sales manager in Chicago.  I was transferred (I'm assuming) to a sales office in Chicago only to be told that there was no need for me to talk to them as I had already negotiated a group rate and that I could just call the reservation number and make the reservation for my parents.  I then called Marriott reservations, gave them my block name and told them that I was told that my parents would receive the group rate per night across the extended stay.  The Marriott representative originally told me this wasn't the case, but later gave me the rate per night as I was promised.  I thanked her profusely.

This Tuesday, my "event coordinator" at the Marriott, who has been very nice, sent me a list of people that have currently booked rooms under our group rate.  I noticed that the reservation that I had made for myself (and my soon-to-be husband) back in April wasn't on the list.  I don't know why-but I got this feeling that I needed to call Marriott and confirm that my reservation was in the system.

Here's strike 3.

I spoke directly with the Marriott hotel where we have reserved the block of rooms.  They told me that I was nowhere in their system and they had no record of me making a reservation with them back in April.  Keep in mind I found out that they had no record of me after talking to FOUR different people including my "event coordinator" who informed me that it was a reservation issue, not an "event" and therefore I would need to talk to them.  Three people later, I was told I would have to rebook my reservation.  I received no apology.  I declined to rebook.

Now, I know how this must look from the Marriott side: There's no record indicating that the gentleman in Denver made this reservation for me in April.  Just my word he did so. I also know that I was stupid not to ask for an e-mail or confirmation number or whatever the Marriott uses to guarantee rooms (shame on me).  I also know that I didn't appreciate being passed around to three different reservation specialists last night who put me on hold only to have a different person come on the line for me to repeat the situation over and over again  (take a lesson from USAA people - if you are in customer service handing someone up the chain, provide a brief overview of the customer's problem to the next level). 

If 80% of my block of rooms weren't already booked by people attending my wedding, I would tell everyone to rebook somewhere else.

Now I know most people reading this may think I'm overreacting, but I'm actually truly annoyed with Marriott.  With economy being weak and people selectively travelling now for pleasure, you would think they would try harder to accommodate customers with better customer service - especially when you've signed a contract guaranteeing that a certain amount of people are staying at a specific hotel location for a predetermined period of time.  

I'm seriously considering booking my stay now at a neighboring hotel in the area, but then I'd be away from my guests who have travelled to our wedding.  Sigh.

Sorry for the Friday rant, but Marriott's dropped the ball multiple times here.

Anyone else encountered bad customer service in the hospitality industry lately?

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