Gaylord National offers full refund for “less than flawless” experience

Here’s a bit of good news on what is likely to be another Black Friday: Customer service isn’t a lost art in the travel industry. At least not at one hotel.

I’m talking about the Gaylord National, a massive 2,000-room convention hotel in the D.C. area where you’d think you’ll be treated like a number.

But that’s not what happened to Chuck Hester when he complained about an unpleasant experience at the National.

Hester and a team of his company’s executives checked in to the hotel for a recent conference. He picks up the story:

Those of us who arrived on Thursday were told it would an hour plus for the room we reserved. I personally was told I could take the two queen rooms but switch the following day to a king room. When I came back the next morning, there was no king room available.

I personally had to get new sets of keys made 5 times — for a total of 10 keys. This was in a two-day time period. Others in the party had the same problem. At least four of us had to had new keys made more than once.

To add insult to injury, I received a wake up call for 4:15 a.m. – a wake up call I never asked for. When I called down to the desk to complain to the manager, I was greeted with “what is this about?” from the desk clerk.

I told her it was about a wake up call that I didn’t ask for, and she said “yes you did, it’s right here.” She was never able to locate the manager. I had to find one the following morning on my own.

While our bills where “adjusted” to make up for the inconvenience, the amount of consternation that we all experienced was appalling.

Finally, our junior member of our team, assured that his hotel bill was pre-paid (as were all of ours) returned home to find charges roughly in the $1,000 range on his personal card. Later we discovered it was “accounting” error and it was reversed. But, not before this young man worried for 24 hours about how he was going to make his car payment at the end of the week.

Whew. That’s quite a laundry list.

So to recap: long wait for executives, non-working keys, unwanted wake-up call and billing problems.

I recommended that Hester send a note to the hotel and allow some time for the grievance process. He sent an e-mail to a senior vice president at the National. (I think this is one of those times when I might have skipped the regular customer-service process and taken my complaint straight to the top.)

At this point, I probably should get my bias out of the way. I’ve been pretty impressed with Gaylord hotels. We have one here in Orlando, and I know they take customer service seriously. They also have a lot of fun with special events like the Pirates Treasure Hunt Challenge and its upcoming Ice. But I digress.

I wasn’t surprised when Hester heard back from the National in an hour. Joe Cestare, the hotel’s director of rooms, phoned him. Here’s the note he received after their conversation:

I am embarrassed and take ownership of the less than flawless experience you received here at Gaylord National.

As discussed – to “Make It Right”, we will be crediting back your credit card for your stay.

Please use me as a resource in making your future reservations.

Again, your feedback was most valuable.

Needless to say, I’m impressed. So is Hester.

At a time when many customer service functions are being outsourced and offshored, and travelers are feeling unloved, the Gaylord National’s rapid response without the need for any third-party intervention is a terrific example of excellent customer service.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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