Getting Hotel Rooms Upgrades as an Elite
One of the greatest things about this hobby is learning how to obtain elite status which makes traveling a lot more rewarding and often easier. I have previously written about the various hotel statuses I hold and how I earned them.
As a recap I hold:
- Hyatt Diamond
- SPG Gold
- Hilton HHonors Gold
- Club Carlson Gold
- Best Western Diamond
- IHG Rewards Platinum
Among the biggest perks of having hotel status is getting space available upgrades into preferred rooms. In some cases like with Hyatt, as a Diamond the terms say I should get the highest category non-suite room available. I have found this doesn’t always happen and I rarely say anything since it normally isn’t a big deal.
In other programs the terms don’t necessarily guarantee the highest category, but just a one category upgrade. What many hotels have done is split their lower tier categories to both restrict award space and to limit upgrades. The Andaz Maui did this with “Garden” and “Mountain” view rooms and the Grand Wailea has done this with “Terrace” & “Garden” view rooms.
Grand Wailea’s Dishonest Policy
The other day my family and I checked into the Grand Wailea as HHonors Gold members. Since we used free night certificates, we were booked into Terrace view rooms. They offered to give us a Garden View as an upgrade, even though Garden View rooms most often sell for the same price (or at most $5 more) and used to be the same room category once upon a time.
I asked the check-in agent about an Oceanview room which is the next category up and is not even their top category room. The front desk agent said as a Gold I could get a “special price” of $70 per night to upgrade to an Oceanview room. When I asked why the upgrade wouldn’t be complimentary, she said they had limited space. So they had enough space to sell it to me, but not enough to give it to me. She also explained that they don’t upgrade Golds to Oceanview rooms, although I know of many who have been upgraded including myself in 2013.
So this policy irks me a little bit, but I continued to be polite as we moved through the conversation. I did admittedly press her a bit on why they could sell it and not give it to an elite and then she made a mistake. She told me that Oceanview rooms normally go for $1,000. That was the last straw for me. I always check a hotel’s website before visiting to see what categories are for sale. I happened to know that the rooms were going for less than $400 for the night and I knew the difference in price between my room category and an Oceanview was $45.
While I understand check-in upgrade prices differ from the room rate being charged, for the front desk clerk to say I was getting a special price of $70 as a Gold and then to lie about room rates was too much. I eventually spoke to a manager who defended their policy on upgrades (the rate differential part). Their resolution was to offer me the Oceanview for $45 (the same differential available to anyone on their website) or give me breakfast and the room for $70.
What to Do When Looking for an Upgrade
If you are checking into a hotel and looking for an upgrade based on your status, you should know what you are entitled to in the program’s terms. You have earned those benefits and shouldn’t feel awkward asking for them. I always suggest checking the hotel’s website ahead of time to see what room categories are being sold, so you know what is available and the prices. In the case of the Grand Wailea that turned out to be a valuable habit.
I also want to stress how important being friendly and polite is. At the Grand Wailea I was polite, but that didn’t get me anywhere. Through our two day stay at the hotel we quickly learned that the staff’s friendliness and service is lacking in many ways at this hotel. It was a stark contrast to both the Andaz and Hyatt Regency Maui where everything was beyond expectations.
Grand Wailea Resolution
Since I felt that the Grand Wailea was not honoring the terms and at best was being dishonest with customers, I decided to tweet (not from my blog account since I don’t want that to affect how I am treated) to Hilton HHonors instead of trying to escalate things further at the front desk. In my tweet I explained exactly what happened. They had to ask hotel management to contact me twice (another sign of how this hotel is run), but eventually they did contact us and without any hesitation waived the upgrade fee without me even having to ask.
As another sign of just how disorganized this hotel is, the manager never took the upgrade fee off of the bill as agreed, so we had to wait 45 minutes at checkout to get it corrected. On top of that, the original check-in agent gave us dirty looks several times while we were waiting. It was a fitting end to a very mixed stay at a beautiful property with fantastic rooms, but indifferent and stoic service in most areas.
Ultimately I have no issue with elite upgrade policies being enforced as written, but I don’t like it when hotels split award categories, lie about upgrade prices and are dishonest about room rates just to keep an elite member from getting a room that is otherwise unsold. As is the case with most anything, being an informed consumer will help you in the end and twitter once again proved that it can be a powerful tool in getting a resolution.