The Insider: Should I take a cruise?

Editor’s Note: This is part one of a new Insider series on cruising. As always, please send me any suggestions on topics or content I may have overlooked.

The world of travel used to be divided into two groups: People who cruised — and people who didn’t.

Today, it’s a little less segmented. Oh sure, there are still frequent cruisers and landlubbers, but with 73 million Americans saying they’ve taken a cruise and another 36 million claiming they’re “likely” to take a cruise vacation in the next three years, according to a recent industry survey, the floating vacation is becoming an option for almost everyone.

Should you join them?
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The Insider: Do I really have to deal with the TSA?

Editor’s Note: This week’s Insider series is on managing the TSA when you travel. As always, please send me any suggestions on topics or content I may have overlooked.

One of the most common questions I get from air travelers is whether they really have to endure the searches, scans and pat-downs by the TSA.

If you’re flying, the answer is: probably.

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The Insider: Ask these questions before renting a car

Editor’s Note: Over the next few months, I’ll be publishing a series of posts on weekday afternoons about becoming a better traveler. This week we’re turning our attention to car rentals. By the way, if you see something I’ve missed in this post, please tell me in the comments or email me.

Do you need a rental car?

It seems like a no-brainer, but it really isn’t. Any time you’re traveling somewhere and you’re not in your own car, you’ll need to ask: rent or not?

The right rental vehicle can get you to your destination quickly and can give you freedom of movement when you’re on vacation. But an unnecessary car can also add to the expense of a trip, not to mention insert a layer of worry that you can probably do without.
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Ramada insider: the customer isn’t always right

The customer isn’t always right.

That’s the message from a Ramada hotel employee who read my recent recommendations about how to complain more effectively. So what’s going on behind the scenes when a complaint comes in? And is it true that Ramada has a quota for customer grievances?

I asked, and my Ramada insider answered. Here’s the full interview.

Q: What’s the fastest way to get a complaint resolved at a Ramada hotel?

Ramada Insider: Don’t complain. Just kidding.

Seriously, the fastest way to get a complaint resolved is to talk about the situation to a worker on the property and seeing what can be done to resolve it. Usually, that ends up in some form of compensation. That’s all that will satisfy some people.

Q: When someone complains about your property, what’s happening behind the scenes?

Ramada Insider: If a call comes in, we will try and get the guest to talk to a manager or manager on duty to see if anything can be done at that time. If a manager is not available, they can leave a message so that he or she can call back. We listen to the complaint and apologize for any deficiency in their stay and assure them that the matter will be looked into — and we always mean that.

Sometimes a guest is satisfied there, other times they want some form of compensation from either 10 percent off [that we guarantee] to a full nights stay off, and sometimes a full stay free. That just happened.

Q: What if it comes through corporate?

Ramada Insider: Corporate will briefly sum it all up and fax it to us, where it is reviewed. A manager can call, write or email the guest and all of the above happens. It usually takes much longer on this level as well as a lot more effort to resolve.

Q: Can you describe the relationship between your corporate parent and the hotel when it comes to complaints?

Ramada Insider: The customer is always right. That’s corporate Ramada’s belief. It doesn’t always work for us.

Q: I’ve heard that franchises have a quota for complaints. How does that work?

Ramada Insider: That’s true. The number is determined by how many rooms were sold in the previous year (at least for Ramada hotels…shhhh). I don’t know our number, but once it’s over the number the hotel is charged for just processing the complaint — whether it is legit or not.

Q: Does it matter if the complaint is filed by email or phone? Sent to you directly or to the corporate office?

Ramada Insider: We recommend calling the hotel first trying to get it settled because the hotel is where the problem occurred, and that is where the problem needs to be fixed. Calling or e-mailing both work equally as well.

Calling corporate makes us scared most of the time that the guest is extremely upset and we’re upset that they didn’t call the hotel first because usually it’s just minor.

Q: How about contacting a manager?

Ramada Insider: This usually works fine. Freaking out and yelling from the guest usually will end up in a big argument. Put it this way: Would you want to help anyone who’s treating you badly? Not really. Let us take notice of your problem with the hotel and we will find the best way possible to help you out. We want our guests to return. We really do.

Q: Do managers ever de-escalate a complaint — in other words, if I have the email of your manager and send it to him or her directly, how often would the complaint get kicked back to the customer service folks?

Ramada Insider: Other hotels have specific departments (i.e. customer service, front desk, reservations, etc). However, at our hotel it’s just front desk and management. Basically, if a complaint comes in, the manager will try to take care of it, but if he or she is unable to tend to it at some time, then one of us will try and take care of it. We all try our best for guest satisfaction.

Q: What do you think should hotel guests know about the inner workings of complaints, and the relationship between a hotel franchise and hotel chain, that would make them more effective at filing a
successful complaint?

Ramada Insider: A guest should file a complaint and word it in a way where he or she is actually concerned about the hotel’s problem instead of just wanting us to fix that one experience. It makes the guest seem self-centered and extremely picky. Also, avoid listing out problems, like a laundry list.

Q: Do you think the system is fair? If not, how should it be changed?

Ramada Insider: I personally don’t think the system is fair because guests have taken advantage of it. The customer is not always right.

I’m not joking when I say that a guest was complaining so much about a small crack in the tile that we gave the guest 10 percent off. Corporate offices need to understand that some people here cannot be made happy, no matter what happens.

Guests can try to see a hotel from our point of view. Imagine us, normal people like yourself, working here trying to make your vacation better. That’s what a hotel is all about. We will help guests in any way we can — however, it would help if some guests put themselves in our position as well.

Complaints take so much time for the guest and the hotel itself to settle through corporate. Calling the hotel and talking to, not yelling at, a manager – writing works too – can get your situation resolved and respect will be earned on both sides. Some people just need to vent, that’s all.