Hotels Vs. Expedia Vs. Customers

By Richard Mandigo

October 26, 2009 11:42 AM

I’ve not updated the blog in quite some time, and although there have been a ton of hotel-related developments in the news lately, I haven’t felt like I’ve had a whole lot different to say from everything else that’s out there. This weekend however, I was reminded of the recent dust up between Expedia and Choice hotels, and the larger struggle between online hotel booking sites and the franchises themselves.

As a bit of background that I’m sure most everyone already knows, online hotel sites make deals with franchises and individual hotels to take a block of rooms and fill them for the hotel at a discounted rate. It benefits the booking site, because they make a profit off of each booking, and it theoretically benefits the hotel because it brings in more customers. Except, of course, that many hotels are finding that many of the customers booked through online sites would have, in the past, bought the same hotel room through a different service for a higher price. It’s a bit of a deal with the devil for the hotels, because while they are looking for ways to increase their prices, they can’t afford to lose room nights, and as Choice is finding out, you can’t negotiate with a company that’s in a better bargaining position than you. So now, they have to fend without the extra occupancy that comes from being on Expedia. It’ll be interesting to see how that turns out. But that’s not really my story.

We went down to a wedding this weekend after booking a hotel online. The ceremony began at 3:30, and we had left plenty of time to get down there and change into our dress clothes. We arrived at our hotel shortly after 1, and asked for our rooms. The clerk insisted that they were not ready yet, and that their check in policy stated that you could not be let in before 4 PM. I asked if there were any other rooms we could use just to change beforehand, and she stated that there were not, then offered to let us change in their public washrooms. Thanks, but no. I was getting upset at the bad service, and I’ll admit I could have handled the conversation better, but I’m involved enough in the industry to know that’s not how you run a hotel. But, like everyone’s shared horror stories of waiting at the DMV, this person had an iota of power and by God, she was going to use it. I asked to speak to the GM. She moved on to the next customer, who she proceeded to check in, no problem.

Finally, I talked with the assistant GM who put me into a handicapped room, so that we could change for the wedding. But the experience was already ruined. And it got me thinking, why did a relatively normal situation like that turn into a confrontation? Ruling out myself as the culprit (how could I be at fault, after all?) I settled on two possible reasons, both of which speak badly for that particular hotel and hotels in general.

  1. Bad training. This is sort of an obvious one, but poor training has permeated the industry of late. Whether it’s front desk staff who care about as much about their jobs as they would if they were working a check out register on the low end, or boutique and luxury staff whose bad attitudes seem to say “you’re lucky I even let you in my hotel”, staff attitudes are a major problem in hotels today. I’ve worked the front desk. I’ve had bad customers. I know. But the job of the hotelier isn’t to protect his or her ego from being bruised, and that goes all the way down. Whether you know for a fact that you’re right or wrong, you are wrong, because the customer is always right. If there is a problem, you fix it for them. You’ll probably charge them on their bill, because it’s a service, not a charity, and that’s fine. You don’t say NO unless it’s something that’s clearly wrong. You are not more important than the guest. They are the most important thing in the world as long as you’re working at the hotel. When you punch out and go home, you can go back to being as arrogant as you want, but you cannot do that from behind that desk, or anywhere else in the hotel for that matter. It’s not just another job, because having a good attitude is absolutely essential. I forget who said it, but the truth is, every guest is a VIP, even if some are more VIP than others.

  2. Attitude from above. Going along with point 1, this one can show very clearly in hotel staff. If the managers are aloof, the staff will be too. If they don’t care about the guests and treat it like “just a job” so will everyone else. If they’re treated as expendable they’ll act like they don’t matter. And to bring this back around to my earlier point, if they make a habit of complaining about how Priceline and Expedia are hurting their business, it’s going to show through in the way their staff interacts with their clients.

You can go ahead and bemoan the damage the online booking companies are doing to your bottom line as much as you want when you’re doing your balance sheets, but it’s an absolute sin to treat your guests as less important just because they used the tools they’ve been provided to get a better deal. It’s easy, it’s convenient, and it saves money, and they shouldn’t have to suffer through attitude or worse service once they get there just because you don’t like that they saved a few bucks. It’s not their fault.


1 Majid Daudi says...
Well said, Richard. I expanded on your thoughts with a 3rd point about this on my blog. Check it out: MD.

Posted at 3:43 p.m. on November 20, 2009

2 Aughtumn M. DeNicolo says...
Wow. Rude much? During a large convention, I can see how that'd be more 'appropriate', not the attitude but the inability to use a room, because there are a lot of people around for certain conventions and they just don't have the rooms and staff power to get everything instantly done and all... I once had to wait 3 hours for a Room down in Chicago. I forget the hotel... But it was crowded and they had people drop of their luggage and everything. But it was understandable. But, the woman was polite... Hectic but polite.

Posted at 1:56 a.m. on January 10, 2010

Ted Mandigo, CPA, ISHC.
Director TR Mandigo & Co.

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