It sounds like a bad joke.
Guy calls the front desk and says his air conditioner isn’t working. Engineer shows up and says, “Yep, your air conditioner isn’t working,” and walks out.
Except it wasn’t a joke for Lee David Hanson when he stayed at the Leipzig Westin Hotel.
(It’s OK, you can do that joke in a German accent. I know you want to.)
The Westin followed all the steps to resolving the problem — at least the first step. It acknowledged the problem. After that, not so much. And when that happens, there’s not so much you can do, except maybe to write a story about it.
Hanson was in Germany to attend the four-opera Ring Cycle in Leipzig. “That is when the difficulties started,” he explains.
The weather in Leipzig was unseasonably warm, and he’d made sure that he and his companion found a room that had air conditioning. The Leipzig Westin advertises air conditioned rooms.
“The hotel room was ungodly hot and made sleep impossible,” he explains. “After coming into the room on the first day we found the air conditioning did not work. I immediately went down to the desk and asked that the air conditioning be fixed.”
A hotel representative assured Hanson that the air conditioner would be fixed. It wasn’t.
“After the opera we got back to the hotel about midnight to find the room hotter than ever because the cleaning staff left the curtains open and the sun had heated up the room to a nearly unbearable level. I called the desk and asked for another room so we could sleep because we had another five-hour opera coming up. I was told nothing was available,” he says.
That night, he could hardly sleep. In the morning, Hanson asked a front-desk employee to help him again.
“A man in blue coveralls came up to the room,” he remembers. “He fiddled around and said the air conditioning did not work.”
Eventually, the hotel offered him a different room. But it didn’t have a working air conditioner, either. The hotel provided a fan, but that didn’t help.
“By the way,” he adds. “The fridge did not work, the hair dryer was broken and [the room had] no coffee-making facilities.” But these three items became unimportant compared to the temperature in the room.
Hanson believes the 440 euro cost of the rooms should be refunded in full. He also wants 150,000 points be deposited in his loyalty account.
“That way, some trust can be restored and I can try out other Westin hotels,” he says. “This will be a satisfactory resolution.”
That’s a tall order, but our advocacy team thought he should get more than an acknowledgment that his AC didn’t work and a half-hearted effort to cool down his room with a fan. Time to hand the mike over to Westin.
Here’s how it responded to his initial request:
I would like to thank you for your stay and your constructive feedback and of course for having taken the time to share your opinion with us.
We appreciate it a lot, as it is the perfect chance to really listen to our guests needs and to constantly improve our service.
Really sorry for the technique problems in your room with the temperature. Upon arrival our colleagues show you some alternative rooms in different floors. That is what we can do, but sorry for the troubles.
We check our air condition again – normally it works.
We do hope that you will give us another chance to show you our professionalism on any upcoming visit to Leipzig.
Please feel free to contact me directly, so that I can take personal care.
That wasn’t the answer he expected, so he appealed to Westin corporate. Here’s how it responded:
The recovery was offered on behalf of the hotel to extend an apology based on the experiences you encountered at our property and do not pertain to other travel costs you have endured.
The 14,000 Starpoints offered would cover 2 free nights at this hotel or any other Starwood hotel of the same category.
Although we appreciate your sentiments and your request for 150,000 Starpoints in addition to a full refund of €440.40, we cannot agree that [your] stay was without worth or value and do not feel that further gestures of goodwill are warranted.
The hotel offered alternative rooms in order to resolve the situation. It is unfortunate that your stay with us has not been to your expectations. However, I hope that your future experiences are more positive and that going forth we may regain your faith in our services.
Hanson isn’t happy with a 14,000-point apology. And I’m personally offended that Westin used the word “free” in its letter. That implies its apology has no value.
Hanson asked us to advocate for more. Our advocacy team thought Westin might want to review his complaint one more time, but it declined to do so.
That raises the same question we ponder almost every day on this site: How bad does it have to get before you refund the money? Is there a temperature threshold, and if so, what is it? Is it above 90 degrees? 100 degrees? What other combination of amenities must break down before the hotel agrees that it didn’t live up to its published promises?