Is this too much compensation? Men’s room mixup nets guest $200 gift card from Marriott

This column is usually called, “Is this enough compensation?” because frankly, the travel industry often doesn’t have a clue about customer service.

Then again, maybe I’m clueless.

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Here’s why: Back in April, I received a note from Mark Gross about an uncomfortable incident at the Renaissance Tampa International Plaza Hotel. I didn’t think it was worth bringing it to Marriott’s attention. Neither did a majority of my readers.

But apparently Marriott disagreed with me about the seriousness of the problem, and compensated Gross very generously.

Did I misjudge this case?

First, a few details.

Last spring, Gross stayed at the hotel for a conference. During a break, he went to the restroom, which was clearly marked as the men’s room and was, in fact, the men’s room (it had urinals).

While sitting in the stall I was surprised at how noisy the bathroom was becoming.

I was shocked when I came out of the stall and saw half a dozen women in the bathroom. They were even more shocked than I was, and they viewed me quite suspiciously.

Luckily a female friend was among the women. She assured them that I was OK as she escorted me out of the bathroom.

I really was mortified.

When I left the bathroom I saw that one of the Renaissance staff had covered the men’s room sign with a ladies’ room sign. I could understand the reason, as there were more women in the conference than men.

However, no staff entered the bathroom to see if a man was inside before they made the switch.

OK, who hasn’t at one time or another accidentally walked into the wrong bathroom? I know I have. It’s embarrassing, absolutely.

I’m not sure if I would have done anything about it, other than to apologize to all present and to assure them this was a misunderstanding.

But that’s not the end of Gross’ story.

I complained to the hotel manager, who laughed, said it was a mistake, and offered to investigate it for me. I gave him my name and room number and asked him to follow up.

Though I could imagine, as part of good customer service, he could have offered me a dinner, a drink, or at a minimum some sort of formal apology, he did nothing.

I am pretty sure that if it were a woman in the stall and they had changed the ladies’ room to a men’s room, the response would have been quite different.

In any case, I really did want an apology and an acknowledgment from Marriott. When that didn’t come, I wrote to the general manager of the hotel, Jim Bartholomay, in May.

When I got no response from him, I wrote the President and COO, Arne Sorenson, at corporate headquarters in July. To date, he hasn’t responded.

I am quite surprised at that poor level of customer service and am curious if I should have done something else. I really expected much more from Marriott.

I agreed with Gross that his incident was troubling, and offered to write something about this issue, but didn’t contact Marriott, because I wasn’t sure if this rose to the level of needing a consumer advocate’s intervention.

Well, Gross followed up with me late last week with what he called a “happy” ending:

I had to make reservations at another Marriott in Orlando. I was so impressed by the incredibly solicitous reservation person that I asked her if she had a phone number or an address for customer service/follow-up to address a concern I had at another Marriott hotel.

She gave me a phone number, I called, and in less than four days I had a $200 Marriott gift card FedExed to me. Your affirmation of “troubling” really allowed me to keep my hopes for justice up.

I find that surprisingly generous. I don’t think I would have pushed for that kind of compensation. But Marriott has a rare track record of overcompensating guests with grievances. Here’s another case.

I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing, actually.

So here’s my question: Did Marriott go too far?

In a survey of 700 readers you said: yes.

This case makes me wonder what else I’m wrong about. Errors are inevitable collateral in the pursuit of truth. But still.

I haven’t written anything about the TSA in 48 hours. Maybe I should listen to the commenters who want me to stop covering the pat-down controversy?

(Photo: bitch cake sny/Flickr Creative Commons)