Lying in the Wrong Hotel, In My Husband's Underwear

To reassure any doubters that I don't just write letters of complaint (although the balance is likely in that favor, and I think I might change that), here's my letter of gratitude to the kind folks at Marriott. I seriously wanted to go 'round the desk and hug the manager at one point, but thought that might seem inappropriate:

Dear Marriott,
I am writing to praise members of your staff in Arizona, both at the Camelback Inn and Desert Ridge JW Marriott properties, who made a tangible difference to the enjoyment of my and my husband’s recent vacation in Scottsdale, turning around what began as a miserable experience. Their attentiveness, calm and kindness are the kind of customer service that build lifelong brand loyalty. Before I can say anything more, I want to say THANK YOU.

We had an unfortunate beginning to our trip: our flight was overbooked and my husband was nearly bumped off the plane (while I had a seat assignment and debated boarding by myself, or canceling our whole trip and losing every penny.) The airline then lost my luggage. We arrived at the Camelback Inn after 1 am (3 am our local time.) Walking up to the entrance, I inhaled the sweet tender smell of the flowers lining the pathway, and felt the warmth of the fire pit and thought to myself, “At least we have arrived.”

As we approached the front desk and said, “Hi, we’d like to check in” the subtly startled look of Gary, the night desk manager, should have tipped us off that something was awry. But Gary kindly took my itinerary, even though he probably already knew his property was booked full that night. After searching for our reservation through the confirmation #, first name, last name, any way possible, it was clear that the reservation I’d made weeks earlier on Travelocity had disappeared.

I have to pause and appreciate specifically that Gary never sought to lay blame on Travelocity or Marriott, but quickly moved to trying to find a solution. This is uniquely different, but such a welcome change from other experiences I’ve had while traveling where airlines will blame each other, hotel agents shrug their shoulders... Gary even talked to Travelocity twice on my behalf - a really frustrating experience, since the operator’s first language was not English. While I was juggling talking to Gary and Travelocity at the same time I was able to compare the customer service experience from both companies, and Marriott came out far, far, far ahead - demonstrating an exceptional caliber of customer service, when it counts the most. Gary arranged to have us stay the night at the sister Desert Ridge property and invited us to come back the next day when rooms were available. He promised to make a note to fill in the the front desk in the morning and to call the Desert Ridge so they could expect us.

When we arrived at the Desert Ridge, Steve, the Night Manager there, came out to meet us. Since he and Gary had already spoken it was a relief not to have to reiterate our story and go through the futile search for our reservation. They gave us a room that was considerately not too far to walk to, and a toiletry kit, since mine was lost with my luggage. Steve was courteous and understanding, as were his staff, and he even also offered to take our confirmation number to see if he could figure out the problem. By 3 am that night, our heads found pillows. (5 am our local time, I’d now been awake for an exhausting 24 hours. Great start to a vacation, right?)

I was momentarily distressed when I called Camelback Inn in the morning and the woman I spoke to didn’t sound familiar with our little tale of tribulation, but when I asked she quickly handed the phone off to the manager, Ben. After driving back over to Camelback, I was encouraged when I introduced myself (again) at the desk, and both desk agents readily smiled and immediately said, “Oh yes, Mrs. Priestas, let us get Ben for you.” I cannot express how depressed I’d started the day, waking up and remembering all that had happened, and that I was lying in a bed in the wrong hotel, wearing a pair of my husband’s underwear for pajamas. But as low and discouraged as this made me, it changed when Ben took out the property map and coyly explained that our room was here [circling a room number] and the pool was here [circling the big blue box on the map] but that we wouldn’t need that because he’d upgraded us to a room with a private pool. We would be in the Presidential suite, since we’d originally booked a suite, he explained, grinning. I stopped and felt like I was going to choke with happiness, cry with happy surprise. All the frustration of the previous day turned completely around. (The Sunset Margarita at the R Bar helped too! Delicious!)

But if you’d watched us go through the Jack Rabbit Suite you’d think we were the family in an Extreme Makeover Home Edition episode. Our jaws were on the floor and we just felt so enormously relieved. Thank you also to Ben who gave us a credit to the room for the $100 we’d spent unexpectedly on the taxi to and from the Marriott properties -- I ended up needing some extra cash for shorts from the gift shop.

This level of service was consistent in our every interaction with JW Marriott employees at Camelback Inn, even those who had no idea what we’d dealt with. Rita at the R Bar, the ladies at the gift shop, the friendly security guard who stopped his cart to tell us about the trails on Mummy Mountain, and the massage therapists at the spa (but I guess you expect them to be gentle and kind!)

We probably said to each other every other hour, “We have to come back here.” Although, next time we’ll book directly through Marriott and skip Travelocity!

Thank you again particularly to Gary (who we probably have to apologize to for scaring so much!) and to Steve and Ben. When people have asked about our vacation I retell the up’s and down’s and I end by emphasizing how exceedingly wonderful Marriott was and how excellently your staff responded to our needs. As I said, it turned a really sad start to the vacation right around.



Pete Kosednar said...

Nice post. Glad everything worked out for you.


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