You call that a Grand Deluxe Room? And about these pastries!

pastryLynn Kamimoto thought she was staying in a Grand Deluxe Room at The Fairfax at Embassy Row, Washington, D.C. She thought her stay included a full American Breakfast at the Jockey Club.

She thought wrong.

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Kamimoto got a downgrade and missed a few meals, and the hotel didn’t seem to care about disappointing her. That’s when she called me.

It’s easy for a hotel to take the attitude, “We gave you a room, right? What are you complaining about?” But a deal’s a deal, and Kamimoto definitely didn’t get what she paid for.

Here’s her note to the Fairfax Hotel:

First, I would like to confirm that we received a Grand Deluxe Room. The Grand Deluxe description on your website copied below does not match the room we received. Our 2-double bed room did not have views of Massachusetts Avenue, nor was the larger configuration, as we instead faced a service alley with not a hint of Massachusetts Avenue visible from our room’s windows. In viewing the fire-escape map on the back of the door, it seemed that we were occupying one of the smallest rooms on the floor.

The first two days of our reservation included a full American Breakfast at the Jockey Club. On the second morning, we received a notice under our door that only continental breakfast would be available because the kitchen would be closed. We ate breakfast at the Jockey Club, and were disappointed by the offerings.

The pastries were cold and stale, as though they had been out for at least a day or two, and smoked salmon (or any protein) was not offered with bagels. Also, there was no option to toast the baked goods. When we inquired as to our bill that morning at the Jockey Club, management had told us that our breakfast was not included in our room rate.

Here’s the company’s response.

We, at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, strive to have the finest in guest service and accommodations; therefore, the quality of the guest experience is of the utmost importance to us. An intimate and objective knowledge of how we are doing – in the consumer’s eyes – is critical in moving the The Fairfax at Embassy Row, Washington, D.C. to a higher level of service orientation, and it is through this type of feedback that we can confirm the direction, quality and quantity of our effort. The inconveniences you experienced regarding the service you received is not acceptable to our standards. Please accept my sincere apology.

A hotel is defined by the quality of service it provides to its guests and because our success is measured by how our guests evaluate our services and facilities, I want you to know that the comments and suggestions we receive are taken seriously. They tell us what we’re doing right, what we’re doing wrong and how we can improve. Your willingness to share your recent experience is genuinely appreciated.

Please be assured that any and all of the issues you’ve raised have been addressed, and that appropriate action has been taken. I have opened Corporate Customer Service file 200910082919, to document your comments, which will be reviewed by the General Manager at the hotel to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. We take pride in our hotel, and do our best to prevent problems from recurring.

I do apologize that your stay with us was marred by this experience. We are an ever changing industry and always take all notes and concerns to improve the services we provide to our guests.

As a gesture of goodwill, I have arranged for 2,000 Starwood Preferred Guest Starpoints to be credited to your Starwood Preferred Guest account, with our compliments. I am grateful to you for taking the time to detail your concerns and do sincerely hope you will permit us an early opportunity to regain your confidence in our services.

Eventually, Starwood bumped her up to 7,000 points and an apology. But why not reimburse her the difference between the Grand Deluxe room and the Superior room she was given? Why not compensate her for the breakfast?

One reason may be that her letter contained a long list of other complaints, from a broken air conditioner to a coffeemaker that didn’t work. (I edited her letter for brevity.) These smaller incidents can often detract a customer service department from the more serious complaint.

I see this frequently, and more dramatically, on cruises. Passengers write with a long list of complaints — some legitimate, some not. I call it the laundry list. These grievances are frequently ignored by companies.

I contacted Starwood on her behalf. I heard back from Kamimoto a few days later:

Thank you so much your assistance. After you intervened on my behalf, they expedited my claim and agreed to refund me for the downgraded room (equivalent to $50/night despite being a special discounted rate) in addition to the 7,000 points I received.

I’m happy to hear about this resolution, but disappointed that Kamimoto had to write a letter in the first place. This shouldn’t have happened.

When Kamimoto’s stay started to head south, she should have said something to the hotel immediately, rather than waiting until after checking out. And the property should have done everything in its power to fix these problems before she left.

(Photo: foooooey/Flickr Creative Commons)