After a rather heated debate on one of the PMB’s zoom online sessions (https://fb.watch/fLo6P50q51/) on hotel loyalty programs comparisons, I realized I had forgotten one more story which been a significant reason along with the other two incidents mentioned during the online meetup. As our memory fades away over time and is stimulated with the newest and most exciting “enhancements,” it will be worthwhile to document these three stories and what are the things I think a hotel loyalty program should be.
I have stayed close to 60 nights with Hyatt this year, ensuring I will have globalist status next year. However, this article will explain why I won’t renew my full globalist status for 2024.
Why I chase the hotel elite status
Before sharing the three stories, I will set some bottom lines on why I chase the elite status for hotel chains:
- It is almost like an insurance policy, where you know that wherever you go, you will be covered regardless of what happens. In the loyalty program world, a high-tier elite status guarantees you always be treated nicely as a guest by all the hotels under the same loyalty program scheme.
- If the hotel you are staying in has caused inconveniences, you know that either the hotel or the chain brand will try their best to resolve any issues you have experienced.
- The financial return of your stay may afford you some inspirational trips and pleasant surprises, including a presidential suite upgrade at those inspiring properties.
It may not be easy for some people to relate to some of the benefits from hotel elite status I described above. Here is another perspective to see what I mean.
- As a high-tier member, you will receive perks and benefits and, most importantly, be treated nicely as a loyal guest of the brand. I value the benefits that come with this treatment such as flexible check-in and checkout times, room upgrades, lounge accesses, and so on.
- Besides the “hard” benefits, the things I value even more from a hotel chain are: a. warm hospitality from hotel staff across the brand (in luxury or top service brands), b. sympathy and understanding towards guests (sometimes you need that human connection while you are dealing with a difficult situation and are in a strange country), c. the courage and willingness to resolve issues the client experiences during their stay at the hotel.
- Lastly, it is always great to have a signature suite to host parties and reconnect with friends, classmates and families.
Food and beverages are an integral part of a hotel. While a quick google search will not tell me which hotel has the most restaurants on-site, hotels usually have anywhere from one standard restaurant like those at basic Inns to many different types of restaurants like those found at casino hotels and resorts. Some hotels may even feature upscale bars, and some of these bars may become more famous than the hotel itself.
As a top-tier member, many chains will leave welcome snacks or gifts, mostly fruit plates and pastries, in your room prior to your arrival. In April when I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Bangkok, like many hotels in Bangkok, I received a plate of fruit in my room. Typically, I wouldn’t eat the fruit if my stay was short, but this time, I had three nights left for my trip and thought it was a good idea to get some vitamins into my body before the long flight home. When I ate the fruit a scary thing happened: the apple tasted disgusting and was covered in mold.
I messaged the hotel on WhatsApp about this issue, and they told me they would report it to their “concern department.” And that was it. One more thing, I believe there was a miscommunication because the hotel told me they would replace the fruit basket with a new one but they never did. They thought, “I am okay,” means I do not need another basket. Though I told them I would not complain further, I was not poisoned by the food. The following day, I went to the cafe for breakfast, and the wonton in the soup bowl was cold. I messaged the hotel again and got the same response.
Upon checkout, I informed the front desk that I never got the replaced fruit basket, and the only answer I got was, “we will report to the concerned department, and hopefully, it will never happen again.”
Lastly, I found the cocktail at the rooftop bar was very bad. However, it is not a Hyatt problem because I also had the worst gin martini at Marriott Marquise Bangkok Queen’s Park. So if you want a fantastic time and excellent cocktail, go to the social club at the Four Seasons Bangkok, and do not waste your money at other places.
It was more disappointing how the hotel handled my issue than what happened. I agree that it is rare these days to see a restaurant or hotel go the extra mile to provide excellent service, and that everyone has their own definition of excellent service. From my past experiences at Marriott, good or bad, the hotels I repeat the most are those that own up to their mistakes, proactively solve any issues, and make it up to their guests. Not to mention their most loyal guests, who sometimes have to go out of their way to stay at this limited footprint hotel chain.
Because of our knowledge and expertise in travel, families or close friends often ask us to plan or even book their trips. Many may have used the second guest trick to book hotels for their loved ones so that both parties can reach a win-win situation. I was thrilled to see the “Guest of Honour” perk from the World of Hyatt program, which allows you to “transfer” your benefits to your guest when booking on points, and let the guest also earn the night credit.
On my way back to Canada in September, I had a 10-hour layover in Seoul. I had a friend visiting me from another city in South Korea. So I figured it would be nice to try out the guest of honour benefits, and it would be nice to share the excellent experience I have had at Park Hyatt, New York. Therefore, I booked Park Hyatt Seoul, which is also very close to the Frieze art show at the COEX centre in the Gangnam area.
While I may need to take the initial blame, I thought booking guest honour was as simple as making a note on the hotel reservation. Instead, it involves you calling the World of Hyatt support line, which I only do for highly urgent issues once or twice a year. In other words, I do not like to call if it’s not absolutely necessary (#inclusivityforpersonality ). Maybe I should have been more cautious when I did not get the pre-arrival email from the hotel. This stay turned out to be one of my worst ever experiences during my “loyalty program” career.
My friend arrived in Seoul the night before while I was in a slum in Asiana’s A380 economy class with some Korean grannies who would put their feet on my leg during the flight. My friend was harassed at the check-in counter, as the receptionist threatened her that she might not be able to stay at the hotel because I was not present. Moreover, throughout that day and night, whenever she saw any hotel staff, the hotel staff would ask her about my whereabouts. During this time I was still reachable by phone or email, but I was never contacted by anyone from the hotel.
After I landed in Seoul I transferred onto a bus en-route to the COEX centre station and made my way towards the hotel in the pouring rain. I told my friend to go to the hotel restaurant as I would not be able to make it before free breakfast ended. Then more drama happened: the hotel restaurant staff refused her access to the restaurant, even when she offered to pay for her breakfast. At this point, I was pretty outraged. I sent messages to Hyatt’s Twitter account about this issue. Instead of getting help, I was lectured by Hyatt Twitter about how I did not activate the guest of honour perk correctly. They then remediated the situation.
This was an awful experience for my friend. Imagine what would have happened if this occurred to your partner during the beginning stage of your romantic relationship, or if this had occurred to colleagues or family members whom you wanted to gift an exceptional hotel experience to.
What will happen to your relationship with these people that mean so much to you after they have been harassed and mistreated by the hotel staff during a booking you made for them? I had this last question in my mind when I was reading through the “lecture notes” from Hyatt on Twitter: How hard it is to make this situation right? It is not like I made a revenue booking and expected my guest to get the benefits they are not entitled to. It was a simple technical error, which, if Hyatt has any modern computational system, would quickly fix from their end: change the booking to my friend’s name.
For the highest tier brand under the Hyatt chain, I have received Zero communication from the hotel throughout this saga. The assistant manager sent me an email after the event apologizing pointlessly. I only received this apology after I complained to the front desk, who tried to repeat the Hyatt Twitter lecture but could not answer my simple question: why did you never contact me? You are a Park Hyatt, not a Hyatt Place” (YYZ HP is very nice, by the way).
I understand this might be an isolated incident, but with a minimal footprint in higher-end hotels, the probability of f-up was too high for my taste to prioritize staying with Hyatt. I only had one lousy martini at Ritz Hainan, and all my past Ritz Carlton experiences have been positive. And yes, I am not a fan of St. Regis (except New York St. Regis), so I intend to avoid it whenever possible.
As mentioned above, besides your loved ones, you also have a chance to stay with your colleagues or stay in different hotels for work because you want to stay within one hotel chain. When I went to Cartagena, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. The lounge staff at the check-in was amiable and helpful. And I thought I would have a fantastic stay.
To my surprise, my positivity towards this hotel only lasted three hours. Around lunchtime, two of my closest friends, though much senior to me, came to my hotel to fetch me for lunch. They are retired and respected diplomats who have been the chief protocol or ambassadors representing Canada, and I appreciate their careers profoundly. Before we headed out for lunch, they wanted to come to my room to use the washroom. I also wanted to have some coffee in my room with them. Both of my friends were senior males, and the hotel security stopped them at the lobby level because one of them did not have a passport on them, even though the person who did not have a physical passport on him had a picture of his passport on his phone. Unfortunately, they were still not allowed to come to my suite. Then my friends asked whether they could use the washroom in the lobby, and the hotel also declined the request.
Again, I was outrageous. I complained to Twitter and the hotel about the situation. I also informed Hyatt about how old they were and why there was no sympathy towards older adults. It is unacceptable, in my opinion. If you know me well, you would know I spent many years researching and providing high-quality technology for senior citizens. I have volunteered for four years at the local senior centres to teach Chinese immigrants about modern technologies. As a result, the hotel sent a manager to my room to apologize and explain the rule. While I understand the rule is essential for running a business, I do not think hospitality is about to rule, nor does respect for the seniors and distinguished fellows.
Imagine if you were forming a business relationship, and you were not allowed to invite a guest to your room because they do not have a physical ID. Ironically, when I got to my friend’s place, while the security stopped him at the entrance, they still allowed me in without an ID in the same city. While I understand the hotel has every right to do that, what will your business partner think? Is it your responsibility to understand every country’s rules regarding guests coming to your room for a short visit?
Here you go, these are the three stories about why I will not renew my globalist status for 2024.
I understand that every hotel chain has good and bad properties. Given Hyatt’s small footprint, I believe the probability of getting a lousy property is higher than Marriott or Hilton. I have a few more Park Hyatt stays coming up in the next few days, let us see if they can change my perception of the Hyatt brand.
While following rules are essential, I believe the hotel chain should emphasize hospitality more than following rules. We already have courts for that.
To end, I quote a French scholar, Louis chevalier de Jaucourt, “hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.”