When the resort isn't always an escape

Ah, the large-scale resort: hotel’s bloated sibling. They are expansive, have numerous moving parts and teem with vacationers looking for a good time. Just pulling into one, you immediately feel the feverish pitch. I have empathy and immediate respect for the GM running one of these.

Of course, I also have my complaints. If you read my September column, you learned all about my recent disagreeable stay at a Nashville hotel. For it, I received expressions of thanks for pointing out some glaring but easily fixed concerns/problems. Others, mostly my friends and colleagues, exposed me as an old curmudgeon. Whatever, it makes for good commentary!

Here, then, we go again. Seems like iffy hotel stays follow me wherever I go. This time we head west, way west, to The Aloha State—Hawaii.
Once again, I won’t be naming the hotel or brand, just to say that it’s part of one of the larger branded hotel companies. And, once again, my thoughts are not meant to be taken as barbs, but rather, I hope, useful instruction on how to improve.

1) If your check-in line snakes around posts, columns, potted plants, it’s too long. That’s exactly what I encountered upon arrival—after a taxing 10.5-hour-long flight…in coach. You get the picture: disorientation and wearing East Coast clothing when the weather called for flip-flops and a bathing suit. So, a 30-minute wait to check in is not ideal. This is exactly where mobile check-in has its place. Instead, those in line were approached by a Hawaiian-shirted staffer and his clipboard; who instead of having the ability to check us in, only tried assuaging our billowing anger at having to wait this long to get our room key with gems like, “Yeah, shouldn’t be that much longer.” Very reassuring.

Delirious by the time I reached the counter, I was affably greeted. As is commonplace at resorts, I was weighed down by maps I never will use and bombarded with directions and details of how I could reach my room. I didn’t hear a word, only nodded silently.

The last thing a guest wants to hear about after a long-haul flight is the drink special at the pool bar. We will figure it out on our own. What we want is a seamless check-in from curb to door. Mobile, dare I say, is key. But I finally had my key, hooray, or…

2) If you have rooms available, exhaust the better ones and use the less desirable only as needed. Here you are in paradise and as you exit the elevator you check your room number, spy the placard that notifies guests of what direction rooms are, and it hits you: Once again you are right smack next to the elevator bank. (Same thing happened in Nashville; it follows me from 5,000 miles away.) Oh well, at least the room will make up for it. Fat chance. In a resort full of balconies, my third-floor room was void one; instead, my eyes feasted on a concrete wall. But let’s go for the trifecta: faulty air conditioning. (A call was put into the front desk with the promise of an engineer visit to follow; he or she never arrived over the three days I was there.)

Here, again, it’s 2015: Guests should be able to choose their room prior to stay. Moreover, how is it fair that I pay the same rate for a room with no balcony, no AC and adjacent to an elevator as a room with balcony, working AC and far removed from the elevator? It doesn’t. Would a car buyer pay the same price for a vehicle with power steering and GPS as one without?

Airlines allow you to choose your seat and offer the ability to pay more for a more desirable seat. How are airlines beating out hotels in customer service?

3) If your name is on the resort, all areas on the premises should come under your purview. Have you ever walked into a Macy’s and been turned down when you tried to make a purchase with your Macy’s card? Of course not. But when I ordered a coffee at the resort’s Starbucks, I was told I couldn’t charge it to my room—that the Starbucks was independently operated. Even more egregious, when I asked for a towel at the pool cabana, the staffer told me it, too, wasn’t affiliated with the hotel. Huh? What message does this send to guests? Are they staying with you or a bunch of independently operated small businesses? There is enough brand discordance out there; don’t make more of it.

Operating a resort is no small task, but there are times when common sense should rule the day. Agree or disagree, I look forward to hearing what you think!

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