Saturday, June 21, 2014

Shouting from the Virtual Rooftops

I'm not a big "living out loud" guy. Other than this column, I generally don't post on Facebook, Instagram, GooglePlus, Tumblr or subscribe to other social media platforms missing strategic letters in their names. Not that there's anything wrong with those that do; it's just in my nature to be more private. Besides, if I told everyone everything over there, what would I write about in this forum?

Still, sometimes it's necessary. And perhaps because I don't do it all the time, sometimes it actually "works." By works I mean make an impact, force a ripple. Such was the case in a recent tussle with the Marriott Corporation. In the old days (circa three years ago) I would have had endless phone calls and emails to resolve the issue in question. But if it worked to cause an Arab Spring in Cairo, I thought there was a chance it could do the same for me in Washington DC. And while it was a capital city, I wasn't trying to overthrow the government, just resolve my hotel problems.

It started when I arrived with 2 other associates late on a Saturday night. Weeks before I had made reservations for 4 rooms under my name. Once I knew who was actually going, I called Marriott HQ and gave them the correct occupants. Since I was paying for all the rooms, the rep said she would put my name on the reservations as well, so all would match my card. Seemed like a plan.

When we got there at 1AM, one guy from the west coast had already checked in, and indeed, it was posted correctly. But as the desk agent started to process our arrival, I saw the look on his face go from puzzled to concerned. He kept a tight grin as he told us that while he did have our reservations, they had read the dual names as meaning double occupancy. As such, they were holding only 2 more rooms, not 3. And they were sold out, with no more space at the inn.

Not happy is a polite way to describe how I felt. I gave the other guys the rooms, while the desk clerk, to his credit, quickly called a sister hotel a few blocks away and found one for me. He offered cab fare to get me there, but I opted for the short walk to cool off. The manager there was equally efficient, quickly checked me in, and off I went to catch a few hours of sleep. Insult was added to injury when I got my card statement: I had been charged for 3 rooms at the first hotel, the one at the new hotel, as well as a cancellation charge for the one they didn't have at the first.

I wrote an email to the manager, and called as well. No response. A second email went unanswered as well. So I decided to start shouting from the virtual rooftops via Twitter: "@Marriott Major reservation snafu at Courtyard Convention Center in DC. No room, ignored by GM, no response to phone calls. Do you care?" You bet they did: within minutes I got an apology as well as a request to send them details privately. Once received, they promised a response within 48 hours. My comeback? You're on the clock.

By hour 50, nothing had happened. I repeated my earlier tweet. Again, a quick apology and a request to talk privately. My tweet: "We'll stay here in public, keep score for all to see." Suddenly, it didn't take so long. Within the hour, my phone rang from the hotel. The Ops manager apologized, spent time explaining why things went awry, adjusted my account, and gave me a bucket of extra points amounting to a free night for my troubles. Figuring if I yelled "fire" I should also yell "it's out," I tweeted "Good to go! Just got call from Ops Mgr Zaw Oo at the Courtyard CC DC. Resolved all. Kudos for making it right! THAT's cust svs!"

And so it goes; sometimes it pays to yell. But as for me, I will do it sparingly. Not to mix metaphors, but you usually get more with honey and a smile than you do with a bat. Still, there are times. Or as Ian Faith put it in Spinal Tap, "Having a good solid piece of wood in your hand is often useful."


Marc Wollin of Bedford tweets this column, but little else. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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