Couldn’t turn the heat down in my room — or up on the hotel

By | August 28th, 2016

It sounds like a bad joke.

Guy calls the front desk and says his air conditioner isn’t working. Engineer shows up and says, “Yep, your air conditioner isn’t working,” and walks out.

Except it wasn’t a joke for Lee David Hanson when he stayed at the Leipzig Westin Hotel.

(It’s OK, you can do that joke in a German accent. I know you want to.)

The Westin followed all the steps to resolving the problem — at least the first step. It acknowledged the problem. After that, not so much. And when that happens, there’s not so much you can do, except maybe to write a story about it.

Hanson was in Germany to attend the four-opera Ring Cycle in Leipzig. “That is when the difficulties started,” he explains.

The weather in Leipzig was unseasonably warm, and he’d made sure that he and his companion found a room that had air conditioning. The Leipzig Westin advertises air conditioned rooms.

“The hotel room was ungodly hot and made sleep impossible,” he explains. “After coming into the room on the first day we found the air conditioning did not work. I immediately went down to the desk and asked that the air conditioning be fixed.”

A hotel representative assured Hanson that the air conditioner would be fixed. It wasn’t.

“After the opera we got back to the hotel about midnight to find the room hotter than ever because the cleaning staff left the curtains open and the sun had heated up the room to a nearly unbearable level. I called the desk and asked for another room so we could sleep because we had another five-hour opera coming up. I was told nothing was available,” he says.

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That night, he could hardly sleep. In the morning, Hanson asked a front-desk employee to help him again.

“A man in blue coveralls came up to the room,” he remembers. “He fiddled around and said the air conditioning did not work.”

Eventually, the hotel offered him a different room. But it didn’t have a working air conditioner, either. The hotel provided a fan, but that didn’t help.

“By the way,” he adds. “The fridge did not work, the hair dryer was broken and [the room had] no coffee-making facilities.” But these three items became unimportant compared to the temperature in the room.

Hanson believes the 440 euro cost of the rooms should be refunded in full. He also wants 150,000 points be deposited in his loyalty account.

“That way, some trust can be restored and I can try out other Westin hotels,” he says. “This will be a satisfactory resolution.”

That’s a tall order, but our advocacy team thought he should get more than an acknowledgment that his AC didn’t work and a half-hearted effort to cool down his room with a fan. Time to hand the mike over to Westin.

Here’s how it responded to his initial request:

I would like to thank you for your stay and your constructive feedback and of course for having taken the time to share your opinion with us.

We appreciate it a lot, as it is the perfect chance to really listen to our guests needs and to constantly improve our service.

Really sorry for the technique problems in your room with the temperature. Upon arrival our colleagues show you some alternative rooms in different floors. That is what we can do, but sorry for the troubles.

We check our air condition again – normally it works.

We do hope that you will give us another chance to show you our professionalism on any upcoming visit to Leipzig.

Please feel free to contact me directly, so that I can take personal care.

That wasn’t the answer he expected, so he appealed to Westin corporate. Here’s how it responded:

The recovery was offered on behalf of the hotel to extend an apology based on the experiences you encountered at our property and do not pertain to other travel costs you have endured.

The 14,000 Starpoints offered would cover 2 free nights at this hotel or any other Starwood hotel of the same category.

Although we appreciate your sentiments and your request for 150,000 Starpoints in addition to a full refund of €440.40, we cannot agree that [your] stay was without worth or value and do not feel that further gestures of goodwill are warranted.

The hotel offered alternative rooms in order to resolve the situation. It is unfortunate that your stay with us has not been to your expectations. However, I hope that your future experiences are more positive and that going forth we may regain your faith in our services.

Hanson isn’t happy with a 14,000-point apology. And I’m personally offended that Westin used the word “free” in its letter. That implies its apology has no value.

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Hanson asked us to advocate for more. Our advocacy team thought Westin might want to review his complaint one more time, but it declined to do so.

That raises the same question we ponder almost every day on this site: How bad does it have to get before you refund the money? Is there a temperature threshold, and if so, what is it? Is it above 90 degrees? 100 degrees? What other combination of amenities must break down before the hotel agrees that it didn’t live up to its published promises?

Did Westin offer Lee David Hanson enough compensation?

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  • AJPeabody

    Saying other rooms were offered when at first there were none and then the alternatives had no AC is as off-putting as asking for a total refund plus 10 days worth of free point nights. Ask for the moon and get points. A plague (a very mild one) on both their houses.

  • Fishplate

    Did he move to another hotel, or did he stay there for the full four (or five) nights?

  • Travelnut

    My nephew just had an issue with a Westin property. They are very unresponsive. I was about to advise him on how to drop an Elliott bomb on them when they finally offered him one free night’s stay. I told him to take it and run.

  • taxed2themax

    “That’s a tall order, but our advocacy team thought he should get more
    than an acknowledgment that his AC didn’t work and a half-hearted effort
    to cool down his room with a fan.” This is where I think it went wrong. Just from an initial read, it sounds like his request was not proportionally justifiable.. While I do agree that no AC in that kind of hotel and that level of a hotel is not OK, I don’t know that this equate to a full refund PLUS points (call it funny money if you like, but it DOES have an economic value) that appear to equal a sizeable number of cost-neutral (note that I didn’t say ‘free’) room night which I assume can be booked in advance (thus potentially displacing a traditional room-rate paying guest).

    I think if his request was more moderate, in the eyes of the hotel, that he might have received more, or at least a good case for a reconsideration..

  • Jeff W.

    I voted no because he asked for way too much. A partial refund and a reasonable number of points would have been what to ask and advocate for.

    But when Mr. Hanson asked for a full refund and a number of points that could be redeemed for the equivalent of ten days (or even more if he decided to downgrade — less, of course, if upgrade), Starwood, soon to be Marriott, said no.

    If the point request was granted, how long would it normally take for him to redeem such points? Does Mr. Hanson generate enough business at Starwood to warrant such largess? If he is a very frequent customer, the points they give would certainly be made up in future business. If he is infrequent, it would cost effective to remove him as a customer.

  • AAGK

    Hotel Sauna should refund the cost of the room. They can keep their points and I wouldn’t even ask for any, just my money and points credit for the stay, nothing additional. A hot hotel room is just miserable. Surprised at SPG here.

  • AAGK

    Good point. I assumed he just stayed 1/2 nights.

  • Bill___A

    If I am reading this correctly, the guest asked for another room and the AC didn’t work there either. The hotel seems to think that they were offered several rooms and refused them. The last two Westins I stayed at, although having some positive attributes, were essentially unacceptable. The first one – I didn’t move and maybe should have. The second Westin, for a conference by the same organization, in fact, I did check out after one night. I brought up the issue they had, and I could tell from their reaction that it wasn’t going to be fixed, so I moved hotels. The best way to deal with Westin, in my opinion, is to not deal with them at all. In any case, the guest should have gotten this resolved at the hotel and hammered out some sort of agreement, or moved to a different hotel. I think a full refund and points is asking a bit much. As for the hotel’s contention that there was “some value” in the stay, when there is a major customer service failure like this, it does in fact, ruin the stay and the trip. They should refund the money and make sure that their rooms are in working order in the future. And not give him points.

  • Ribit

    I have a digital travel clock with a digital thermometer. I think if the temp was consistently above 80 in the room and no remedy was made available, I would have taken a sheet off the bed and gone to the lobby to sleep.

  • AAGK

    That would definitely make then reaccomodate you quickly. I’m OCD on climate control and I always accidentally press a button that does the opposite of what I want.

  • AAGK

    I decided to google German opera houses (very busy Sunday). It appears many don’t have A/C. He mentioned a 5 hour opera……

  • marathon man

    Ein mann kalse zee Rezeption und he zez his air co is kaput. Zee engineer shows up und zez, “Ja, your air co is kaput!” und he valks out.

    hahaha! Stoopid Amerikan tourists! hahaha

  • marathon man

    Once the hotel said it could not give him another room the first time–I assume it was full? They should have been able to offer him something close by of equal quality instead. And once he finally got offered another room (funny how only if you know to push does one become available) but it too had no working AC, the hotel cannot and should not use the “we tried to give you another room” excuse. No, they resisted and when they finally did, they gave me one just as bad!

    I love Germany, but I have decided that Germans do not require AC like we do. All the trains, as nice as they are, have NO moving air at all on them. I have always wondered about this. Do Germans just know how to take it more? Are they all thin and in shape and thus not even feeling the heat like us overweight Americans? (well not everyone, but you know what I mean) or is it something else? Either way. I tend to think in this case, the people who service the rooms and even the hotel management at this hotel must have not have thought it was as bad or as hot as the guest did. But in my opinion, if you cannot sleep in the room because it is too hot or uncomfortable, then you need a new room. He should have gotten one. I would have done whatever it took to resolve this on the spot and still pushed for some points.

  • marathon man

    sadly, while they may have finally begun to pay more attention to you, it may also have landed you in a German jail for the night.

  • marathon man

    points are easier for them to give than money, and in my opinion, points are often more valuable, once trying to book something in the current SPG world. I would take points as part of any gesture.

  • AAGK

    Points are definitely easier for the hotel, but not for me. I would only accept money owed to me in the form of payment I used. If they want to add points as a gift, then of course that’s fine. If they offer points in lieu of a refund, I may accept if the offering was significant enough, however I would only want that as an option. Asking for a refund and an additional gift of points seems greedy and not something I would do. The hotel may have found that off putting as well.

  • marathon man

    Yes I agree with that. In some cases a person may feel they want a refund and then somehow hope for or even politely ask for something extra for the trouble, but there are ways to not do that because it could derail the request..

    In most cases, yes I want the same money I paid… not vouchers (which expire and cannot be transferred) but in the case of pretty much only spg, I would in fact take points. For example, we are going to stay in Munich for 10k points a night. If something goes wrong, they can give me back 10k points a night. If they want to give me more, that’s great. Then again I paid for it in points so yeah.

  • joycexyz

    So, Westin slithers out of responsibility by claiming it offered him other rooms (also without A/C). Apparently customer satisfaction is not on their radar. In contrast, we once stayed at a Fairfield (owned by Marriott), and my husband mentioned loud construction noise from outside because of street repairs. The clerk comped us for the room, even though the motel had nothing to do with the noise. It was something we certainly didn’t expect. (In fact, I was a little embarrassed.) Now that’s going above and beyond!

  • Jeff W.

    Does the jail have air conditioning? Lol

  • cscasi

    Wonder if it would have been air conditioned?

  • marathon man

    hahaha yes. It would be like in My Cousin Vinny when he WANTS to spend the night in jail because it’s more comfortable for him

  • AAGK

    I agree with you. I am an SPG person also. I have had some terrific experiences with point redemptions with them. The only annoying thing is sometimes they short you and you have to email your folio to research–err. The 150k request did him in. I calculated it and I think to earn that many points, as a gold member, one would have to spend @42k in SPG stays- way more if he isn’t. It turned them off to him, I think.

  • Sharon

    An OT commentary to your second paragraph:
    As an American who has lived in Germany for almost 40 years, I can say that there haven’t been too many summers where AC was “required” for more than a few days. I got used to it after the first couple of years! This particular season has been extremely hot, and we have probably had almost as many 95 degree days during July and August as did Florida. It’s been sweltering. Very few homes in Germany are equipped with combination HVAC systems …. think radiators for heating! Other than the 4 & 5* U.S. chain hotels, many family owned properties – of which there are many – still do not have AC, especially the 3* ones. Same situation with most stores. Heck, if we really can’t bear the heat, we get into our car – which thankfully does have AC – and just drive for a little while (wasting very expensive gas!), since our condo also has no AC.

    Having been an opera singer in Germany for most of the 40 years here, I can empathize with Mr. Hanson and sitting through 5 hour Wagner performances during the summer festivals, and then going back to an overly hot hotel room! And, while it’s generally very hot in the opera house auditoriums, the singers are sweltering while performing in heavy costumes during those same 5 hours. And NO AC in the dressing rooms (or fans under their costumes).

    Sorry for the lengthy epistle here. Just some adjustments one has to make by being in Germany. And, finally, NO, Germans are not all thin (and definitely not most opera singers).
    I wonder if the Leipzig Westin had ANY rooms with functioning AC?

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