Three strikes and you’re out at the Gaylord — or are you?

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By | August 30th, 2016

Steve Schuster and his girlfriend just had an “unacceptable” stay at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, an enormous convention hotel owned by Marriott. And that’s putting it mildly.

The couple checked into a series of rooms that either didn’t meet their needs or were below the property’s stated standards. They’re looking for compensation, but so far, they’re unhappy with Marriott’s offer.

Our advocacy team jumped in to help, but if you read the header on this story, you can probably guess how it turned out. Question is, what kind of lessons does Schuster’s case offer for the rest of us? One or two, it turns out.

Schuster had requested a king bed, but when he checked in, the hotel sent him to a room with two smaller twin beds.

“We noticed the door security latch was broken, the lamp was broken and there were no working electrical outlets,” he says. “Even the bathroom shaving mirror was broken.”

But that was the least of the problems. He also reported a “strong mildew smell” which triggered his allergies.

“I woke up not able to breathe through my nose, had burning eyes and a horrible sore throat,” he says. “Within an hour or two of being outside, these symptoms eventually dissipated.”

That morning, he asked if they could switch rooms. That evening, the hotel sent them to another room — one without running water. They documented the episode on video.

“I called the front desk and was told it was just an issue with our room and maintenance would be up shortly to correct the problem. Nearly an hour later, no one arrived. I called the desk again and was told that the entire section of the hotel had no running water,” he says.

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The hotel offered them another room.

“Our third room was in the unrenovated section of the hotel, and again had a mildew smell, triggering a terrible allergic reaction. All of our clothes will now require dry cleaning because of the terrible odor,” he says.

There were other problems — almost too many to mention. They include receiving only one bar of soap, broken or old beds and slow service. All told, not the Marriott experience, he says.

“Not only was the hotel not up to Marriott standards,” says Schuster, “but neither was the staff.”

(Here are Marriott’s standards, in case you were wondering.)


Marriott refunded Schuster’s parking and resort fees, and also deposited 10,000 points in his rewards account. He appealed. Here’s how Marriott responded:

Thank you for the additional email regarding your stay at the Gaylord Opryland. I am sorry to hear of your disappointment with the hotels compensation of rebated parking and resort fees as well as the 10,000 Marriott Rewards points. The hotel staff is committed to providing the best service possible. I have discussed with the Gaylord Team and support their offer of compensation as appropriate.

We are sorry to hear of your continued frustrations. The hotel staff has always been committed to providing the best service possible. Our records indicate that you have been provided with point compensation on numerous past stays at several hotels. Even with our best efforts you continue to be unsatisfied with the accommodations and services that we offer. We are unable to continue providing compensation on each of your stays.

Although we understand your disappointment with the outcome of your request. We do consider this issue closed and no further compensation or communication with be forthcoming related to this issue.

We value your patronage and trust you understand our final position in this matter.

Particularly vexing to Schuster is the fact that the hotel claimed on TripAdvisor that his case was resolved, when clearly, it was not.

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He asked us to help and we happily obliged.

Marriott’s response? Silence.

So we’re left with this question: Is a refund of Marriott’s parking fee, resort fee, and 10,000 points enough for the problems Schuster endured? Or is it more like “three strikes and you’re out, Marriott”?

But who is striking whom out? Marriott seems to think Schuster is a serial complainer. But Schuster seems to think Marriott failed to do what it was supposed to.

I mean, at what point do you start to refund rooms? Does the water have to stop running and the toilets overflow? Is there some kind of compensation algorithm that Marriott is using here? If so, I’d love to know how bad it has to get before the hotel does the right thing.

Reality check: When a guest comes at you with a laundry list of complaints, as Schuster did, a hotel’s instinct is to say “no.” And I’ll admit, some of the items on his list, like the uncomfortable furniture, don’t exactly strengthen his case. Marriott’s offer was, to use a double negative, not ungenerous.

But was it enough?

Did Marriott offer Steve Schuster enough compensation?

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  • sirwired

    Given that a lack of running water probably violates a building code of some sort, I’d say nothing less than a full refund was in order, unless it was restored within a couple hours.

  • Ben

    > All of our clothes will now require dry cleaning

    This is the thing that makes me think the writer is a bit of an exaggerator.

    That being said, broken door latch, non-working outlets, broken mirror, and no running water are not acceptable, particularly in a nice hotel like Gaylord Opryland. If those things really were true, they deserve a full refund.

  • Jeff W.

    Is the amount of compensation enough? Sounds like it is not.

    However, what is telling is that Marriott is claiming that there have been multiple complaints regarding multiple hotels. How many is “several”, who knows? And what was the compensation provided for those complaints?

    Marriott offered something for the issues, but has deemed this customer a serial complainer and probably made the assessment that it needs to write off this customer. It is unlikely to ever make him completely happy.

    Like the Starwood case a few days ago, if the Mr. Schuster was a frequent / elite customer of Marriott, additional compensation might be granted because more revenue would be had in the future.

  • AJPeabody

    No water in a hotel that does not use outhouses equals not suitable for habitation. Why on earth did the OP stay there any longer?

  • Jim Zakany

    A cursory read-through (broken mirrors, no running water, no electricity) had me thinking that a full refund was in order.

    But now I’m second guessing.

    We’ve all encountered work electrical outlets in hotel rooms (they get used and worn out much faster than any in your home). That’s annoying, but not completely unexpected.

    Loss of water to a building can take even the best plumbers a few hours to resolve – and we don’t know how much time it took other than it wasn’t less than about an hour. If the water, power, elevators, etc. go out it can and does take time to fix. That does happen.

    We also don’t know how broken the shaving mirror was. For all we know, it could simply have a loose joint. Was the lamp broken, or was its bulb burnt out?

    This is why it’s not good to laundry list. It’s better to fully describe what’s actually important that needs addressed.

  • John Baker

    The note back from Marriott seems to suggest that he is continuously unhappy with Marriott. Why would he continue to use them? Some of his complaints are petty.

    He better watch out or they’ll shut down his Loyalty account and ban him.

  • Bill___A

    I was not pleased that Marriott bought the Gaylord chain. It was on my blacklist before that time, and I think it is the only hotel chain that’s permanently on my blacklist. In addition, they charge ‘resort fees” which is unacceptable. I agree that the Gaylords are not up to “Marriott Standards” but when they add too many hotels like this, then they become a new, lower standard.. Remember that Marriott was fined $600,000 by the FCC primarily because of this hotel blocking wi fi hot spots in their convention area – and as I recall, Marriott’s response to that was less than satisfactory.

  • RightNow9435

    My advice to him would be “use up those 10,000 points and whatever other points you may have in your account and then start staying at places other than Marriott”.

  • RightNow9435

    Not to mention that Parking Fee they charge just to walk into the hotel. Between the parking fee and resort fees, that add almost $40 additional to the nightly rate.

  • Lindabator

    I think the letter from Marriott is pretty telling, and that this guy likes to complain about EVERY stay – and therein lies the problem. Remember the boy who cried wolf? Even IF there was a valid issue here, I think Marriott would not believe him again – his own fault

  • RightNow9435

    Exactly! Since he complains about every room, his credibility is lost.

  • mbods2002

    I live in Nashville and this hotel has a reputation of not being up to par for the exorbitant prices they charge. Better watch out Marriott, a LOT of new construction going on that includes new hotels. It doesn’t take long for word to get around about which hotels to stay at. They’re all expensive so why not stay at one that’s worth the $250-$400 at night that you’ll pay. For that type of $, I expect to be treated like royalty!

  • Rebecca

    It WAS restored. He waited an hour, and they moved him to a room with running water.

  • Rebecca

    I used to supervise the same type of correspondence/call center department that writes these types of letters. I can assure you that in order to put the following statement in the letter, this OP is a problem customer. Carefully reading the last line, he has complained and received points and a partial refund EVERY time he stayed at a Marriott. A rep isn’t allowed to call out a customer like this, especially indicating that he will not only receive no further communication, but won’t receive any compensation if he stays at another Marriott again (and apparently inevitability requests a refund and points). A letter like this must be approved by not even a direct supervisor, but the direct supervisor’s supervisor. Only the worst of the worst receives this response.

    “Our records indicate that you have been provided with point compensation on numerous past stays at several hotels. Even with our best efforts you continue to be unsatisfied with the accommodations and services that we offer. We are unable to continue providing compensation on each of your stays.”

  • Rebecca

    Run, don’t walk, away from this OP. He has apparently received a partial refund and points for EVERY SINGLE STAY at a Marriott property. This type of response to a customer isn’t allowed without at least a couple supervisors reviewing and approving it. Marriott doesn’t “think” he’s a serial complainer, they have unequivocal PROOF that he’s a serial complainer. Again, he has requested a partial/full refund and points for EVERY SINGLE STAY at a Marriott property, apparently pushing it to the point that Marriott will refuse to even acknowledge any further requests from him. If it’s really that bad, why in the world would you continue to stay at this chain? Any normal person wouldn’t.

    It may be that in this one particular case, it really was bad. The first room having no working outlets and the second having no running water is a legitimate complaint. Frankly, I’m not inclined to believe him. He laundry listed petty, ridiculous things. The legitimate complaints may or may not even be true. But if he finds something to complain about every time, I’m quite certain he exagerrates and probably outright makes things up.

    The fact that Marriott states the following tells me all I need to know here:

    “Our records indicate that you have been provided with point compensation on numerous past stays at several hotels. Even with our best efforts you continue to be unsatisfied with the accommodations and services that we offer. We are unable to continue providing compensation on each of your stays.”

    He doesn’t even dispute this fact. I supervised a department that wrote this types of letters. They don’t ever send this letter without there being a very good reason, and after multiple supervisors have reviewed and approved it. That last line says it all. Every single stay he requests a refund and points. That’s really just ridiculous, and I’m thinking that many people voting and/or commenting missed that.

    As if to prove even more he’s a serial complainer, he adds that he’s irritated the hotel indicated the matter was resolved on TripAdvisor. It is resolved; he apparently won’t be happy until he stays at the hotel for free and receives enough points to stay at more hotels for free. Undoubtedly so he can complain again, and get more points, and stay for free again, in an endless cycle of whining and not paying.

  • ctporter

    IF the OP had not repeatedly done this before, would what he received in compensation already be enough? To me it would depend, assuming that once he found major flaws he started looking for everything possible to complain about perhaps with the idea that it makes his case for a 100% compensation for his stay more viable? I have noticed when reading this forum that laundry lists tend to weaken a case rather than help.

  • Tricia K

    I’m not a big of Marriott, especially their more traditional/higher end hotels that tend to cost significantly more than their Fairfield Inn and Residence Inn. My recent stay at a Marriott in Maryland recently was less than pleasant, and when I brought a few issues to the attention of the front desk clerk, I was met with a shrug of the shoulders. When I got home, I emailed the hotel manager, I got a rather snotty response. in spite of my experiences, I still find it hard to believe that there would be so much wrong with any single room. What I don’t understand is why the person in this story continues to stay at any Marriott hotels given his obvious dissatisfaction with the chain’s hotels.

  • Michael__K

    he has complained and received points and a partial refund EVERY time he stayed at a Marriott

    Where in the article did you read that?

    It may well be that this customer really is a serial complainer and malcontent, but unless you’ve worked at Marriott, very recently, you make irresponsible sweeping assertions.

    We know from court documents that the rabbi who received a similar notice from (at the time) Northwest Airlines and had his account closed and miles revoked, had barely complained for years. And we know that his feedback — including plenty of positive feedback — was consistently in response to the airline’s requests for feedback about their service, and that his complaints were overwhelmingly confined to a seven month period when his luggage was repeatedly delayed for hours during a baggage worker contract dispute and work slowdown….

  • Mel65

    I was so shocked to read this! It’s been a few years, but I attended an NSA symposium at the Gaylord maybe 4 years ago and LOVED it. The restaurants and bars were good, the spa, while expensive, was awesome, my room was very clean and I came home singing its praises to my husband that we “had” to go back someday. But, we were a major conference, and we got a really good rate (I think it was $117 a night or something ridiculously cheap) and free parking. How disappointing to read from so many other commenters that they have sunk so far :(

  • Rebecca

    I got it straight from the letter that Marriott sent him. I quoted it in my post. Marriott says they are unable to continue to compensate him for each of his stays.

  • Bill___A

    I just don’t like Gaylord for so many reasons, thank you for pointing that out too I wish Marriott would sell them off or get rid of the brand. They drag the whole company down as far as I am concerned.

  • Michael__K

    Their statement of fact, as you quoted is that ” Our records indicate that you have been provided with point compensation on numerous past stays at several hotels”

    Notice they don’t even mention “refunds” at all.

    And you’re also reading too much into the line “we are unable to continue providing compensation on each of your stays”, which I read as just a manner of speech, not a literal passive-aggressive backhanded declaration of a fact.

  • taxed2themax

    I agree.. it does not state “every”…. but the article here (assuming it is correctly and completely presented and not edited for content or context) uses the word “numerous past stays”…. It also fails to state exactly how many that was, over what time frame and the amounts in play.. So, there is some amount of ambiguity here..

    That said, given what IS said, and filtered thru how I see it, I have to agree with Rebeca and Linda, in that I think perhaps he is a ‘serial-complainer’… Now, that does not mean each and every complained about case is wholly or even partially without merit – there’s no evidence to say one way or the other.. but at the end of the day, it appears that the hotel chain has decided that this persons complaints **taken in aggregate** form a pattern — and one that they’re not going to continue.

  • Michael__K

    Again, my point is not that he isn’t a serial complainer — he may well be. I object to Rebecca’s sweeping assertions about the careful vetting and supervision we should automatically assume went into the letter, unless she has detailed inside knowledge of Marriott’s operations specifically.

    I provided a counter-example (from another travel company).

  • Rebecca

    I’m basing what I said on my experience supervising the department that wrote these types of letters and the fact that the OP doesn’t deny it. Certainly if he’d only complained once or twice, and/or not recently, he’d have pointed that out. Additionally, he laundry listed, exagerrated and received a sizeable refund and points deposit.

  • Rebecca

    I go on probability. It’s significantly more likely that he’s a serial complainer. For kicks, I looked up his TripAdvisor review. He specifically references requesting compensation from other hotels in his reviews. (And strangely, he compares several to third world countries and claims that the American hotel was worse than a third world country).

  • taxed2themax

    That’s fair.. We do not know, from a numerical, objectively measurable basis, how many/often he makes a complaint,and there is no assertion that is 100% of the time — so I agree that it’s unfair or unfounded to say “all” or use similar all-encompassing type of ‘sweeping’ wording.. Here I agree..

    That said, I, myself, think it is not wholly outside of what I will call a reasonable estimate – based on what is written, combined with what else is available in the public universe (such as TripAdvisor reports) that he is most likely a serial-complainer – and in this context, I define that as someone who makes compensation-requested complaints at a rate that far, far exceed the rate of others and/or files them for issues that I will call “frivolous”

    .. and as such the hotel has acted based on this belief.

    I will restate, I DO think the issues he reports (and with the operation assumption their are factually accurate) make his complaint credible, I think what hurts him in this case, is what the hotel sees as his “track record”.. and rightly or wrongly, ones track record can influence how future events are dealt with.

  • Michael__K

    It seems safe to say that he has been provided with point compensation for numerous past stays. Which is a valid reason to be skeptical of his latest complaint and to take it with a grain of salt. I don’t think it’s necessary or warranted to reach broader conclusions than that.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    “Where in the article did you read that?”

    Here are two references from the Marriott’s response to the OP:

    1. “Our records indicate that you have been provided with point compensation on numerous past stays at several hotels.”

    2. “We are unable to continue providing compensation on each of your stays.”

    Based upon the # 1 statement, it seems like the OP is a serial complainer…maybe he is going after the record of the guy that received 100+ free nights from Hampton Inn when they had their promise of “don’t like your stay then it is free.

    Based upon # 2 statement, it seems like the OP has received compensation or asked for compensation for EVERY stay at a Marriott brand hotel.

  • Michael__K

    So where did you get the part about points AND also “a partial refund” for “every” stay?

    Reference #2 is a manner of speech about expectations for the future. If their records showed point compensation was provided for “every” stay then I would expect reference #1 to reflect that.

  • cscasi

    Could it be because of the previous flooding in Nashville? As I recall there was severe flooding and the Gaylord was affected. Perhaps they never went in and properly renovated it like they should have? I have not stayed there so I am not sure what the hotel’s overall condition is or if it is still being renovated in stages.

  • Hanope

    I get that the OP is a serial complainer, and has been compensated ifor prior stays at Marriott. But what do they expenct when their compensation is points? By compensating in points, they are encouraging him to use them again, because the points can’t be used anywhere else.

    If the OP is saying Marriott is that bad, maybe he should stop using them, even if its free, or nearly so with the points. I wouldn’t stay in a place/chain that routinely provided bad service, even if it was free.

  • Blamona

    Either OCD or worst luck traveler ever. I think OCD (or professional complainer). Fool me once shame on you fool me twice shame on me. Marriott doesn’t want to be fooled. They need to ban him from future stays. All those Marriott can’t be that bad

  • John Grier

    sounds like this character thinks by exaggerating everything, he’ll some how get a refund. It doesn’t work that way.

  • AAGK

    The reply suggests Marriott does not plan to welcome his business any longer anyway. Sometimes the company needs to just pull the plug first.

  • Altosk

    Serial complainer, next?