Question: Your 4 Diamond Hotel Loses Power. What Do You Ask For?

This is a great reader participation exercise, because I’m very interested to hear what others would do in this situation.  I had thought that our one-night stop at the St. Regis San Francisco would be a quick post, but it turns out to be a bit more detailed than that.

First, some quick background.  This was a one-night stay on points (20,000 points a night) and I had redeemed a suite night upgrade.  Suite night upgrades are a new benefit Starwood Preferred Guest awards members who stay at least 50 nights a year.  I hit 100 nights last year on the nose, so I asked my Ambassador to request a suite.  I was confirmed into an Astor Suite, which appeared to be a comfortable 2-room suite.  All seemed well for our arrival.  This was a short weekend trip for a close friend in Northern California.  But, since our daughter had never been to San Francisco, we thought this was a great opportunity to squeeze in some time showing her the sights.

We landed at approximately 7pm and were at the St. Regis by 8, at which time we were told that all of the guest rooms were without power.  They weren’t sure when power would be restored.  They said it could be an hour or a few hours, but they were very confident it would be on by morning, if not sooner.

They offered to upgrade us to a bigger suite at the St. Regis or move us to a regular room at the W.  We looked at the suite which was quite nice (more on this in a separate post), but our daughter was a bit scared by the fact there were no lights other than some flashlights and battery operated candles the hotel gave us.  So, back down to the lobby.

I was told that the hotel had secured me a preferential rate at the W.  I replied that since I was staying on points that, respectfully, I thought the St. Regis should cover my rooming expenses if I needed to be moved from the property.  It seemed like the hotel did not have much experience moving guests to other hotels.  While handling everything very politely and with a ton of customer service, the process was a bit disjointed trying to get a comparable room.  Since there were 3 of us, a hotel room with one bed and no room for a rollaway wasn’t what I planned for.  Had the suite night upgrade not been confirmed early I would have just booked two connecting rooms.

After some work, the hotel managed to find a suite at the W but they weren’t sure a rollaway would fit.  The W seemed to think they could accommodate but it wasn’t a sure thing.  I asked them to call some of the other SPG properties around.  To their credit, they even offered to call the Four Seasons, which I think would have been an excellent comparable choice.  Not that the W brand isn’t nice, but it’s just different than St. Regis.  Around this time, though, a very tired little girl and my wife who weren’t feeling well decided that they just wanted to go upstairs and sleep.  We figured we would wake up in the morning and take showers and all would be fine.  We finally managed to get everyone asleep sometime between 10 and 11.

Sleeping turned out to be something of a challenge.  First, the room got quite cold.  Second, there was noise in the hallway off and on throughout the evening.  Unclear whether it was workers.  I don’t think it was.  We were all wide awake by 4am and it was clear nobody was going to be able to go back to sleep.  A call downstairs around 5am yielded a new estimated time of 6am for power.  Alas, by the time we checked out at 8:30, un-showered and tired, there was still no power.

This leads to my question of what is appropriate compensation in a situation like this, but just a bit more context first.

The hotel did pay for a snack from room service late that evening when we arrived.  And, they did offer to move us.  While the process was clunky, they ultimately found a room that probably would have worked.

Had I been traveling on my own I probably change hotels, but the girls were definitely beyond worn out.

And, when we arrived in Sacramento the next day at a different Starwood property, the St. Regis had arranged for a bottle of wine and some fruit and cookies to be delivered to our room as another apology.

There was also an offer during the commotion of getting settled the night we arrived at the St. Regis that they would refund our 20,000 points.

And, during the entire time we were there, the staff was exceedingly polite, just unable to solve the core issue (hey, who turned out the lights?).

So,with all that, what’s appropriate compensation?

I’m not trying to negotiate against myself, but I feel like there’s a legitimate argument that we did choose to stay at the hotel given the situation at hand.  The hotel has also made a few meaningful gestures (offering to refund 20,000 points, paying for a snack and sending the amenity to our next hotel).

Are those gestures compensation enough?

Would you ask for more?  Do we hold a St. Regis to a higher standard during a situation like this because of what the brand stands for?

Is that too much compensation considering we were ultimately given a choice to switch properties into a lesser quality but probably still reasonable room replacement?

 

21 Comments

  1. Just take the points back and be happy you have them to rebook a night in the future (or if you want to go back to SF, maybe they could comp you a suite at the Regis in the future instead),

  2. I am sorry, but you are a spoiled person and bad example to your daughter. You must have a suit? When was the last time you went on camping? Your world is just me me me me.
    When was the last time you volunteered somewhere? How compassion are you to animals and care about the environment?
    Your daughter is afraid of the dark? What do you know, there was no light until some 150 years ago. Play games with her. Educate her that it is not the end of the word.
    The point is simple, doesn’t work? Even the worst option that was offered to you was probably the best night 99.9% of the people will never enjoy!

    1. G, no doubt these are first world problems. 🙂

      Our daughter actually enjoyed the adventure with some help from her parents and the hotel staff. It just took a bit for her to warm up. 🙂

  3. What a dilemma! A perfect night planned but seemingly ruined by forces beyond anyone’s control. Rather reminds me of the Super Bowl power outage.
    I believe the hotel did as much as it possibly could to ‘make this right’ for you. Granted, you all three lost a night’s sleep and suite (sweet) night turned into a sour experience, but the hotel did make amends…and your points were refunded.
    I call it even at this point. ( and I’m sorry your little one didn’t have a good time – truly).

  4. In the case of a natural disaster or other major calamity, where power is out across a city, it’s reasonable for hotels to charge for the shelter they’re providing.

    Outside of such extraordinary circumstances, normal St. Regis brand standards apply. One of those brand standards is that every St. Regis hotel shall provide its guests with electricity. And with heating or air conditioning (seasonally appropriate).

    You mention their offering a return of your points, that seems appropriate, they did not deliver the room night you expected.

    Let’s compare this to a basic walk scenario. Had they walked you to the W, as a Platinum you would have been entitled to (1) a return of your points [or in the case of a paid night, no charge for the night] and (2) a free night at the other hotel. The St. Regis would have had to come out of pocket for that.

    Here you feel badly that you DID stay on property. In a walk scenario your night would have been free (at a hotel with electricity) and that would have COST the hotel something for your stay. Compared to that baseline by staying on property you saved them money.

    I guess the only other question is whether they should also return your suite night, or provide ADDITIONAL compensation. Now, you did stay in a suite after all 🙂 although you could easily claim that your suite night was really intended to be used for a suite with POWER. Not unreasonable to get that back.

    Wouldn’t be crazy to push for “enough points to give the St. Regis another try on a future trip,” to see that they can and do do better. In other words return of your points and suite night plus 20k points. I wouldn’t turn that down if offered but wouldn’t press for it. Although if you needed to negotiate to get points/cert returned I would frame the issue in terms of what’s reasonable to expect, including the free future night, and explain that your insistence is much more modest.

    Sorry that your stay didn’t turn out as planned.

    1. Gary, I feel pretty comfortable with what the hotel has done to make amends. But, I was definitely curious what others thought. Hindsight is always 20/20 and having them walk us may ultimately have been the best choice of action. But, the points returned and the free snack and amenity along with a lot of effort on their part to find an agreeable solution make me feel fine with the resolution.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      Sent from my iPhone

  5. Souns like they did a pretty good job under the circumstatnces. I run a conference center in northern Virginia and we have generators in our buildings as we tend to loose power more than, say SF. Perhaps St. Regis should revise the brand statndard to include installing back up generators.

    1. Kevin, since you bring up generators, I wonder if the public spaces were being powered by generators. The guest rooms were the only thing without power.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      Sent from my iPhone

  6. I’d say you were fairly compensated. A free room, amenities, AND your points returned. Any more would be greedy.

  7. I’m amazed at the first couple of comments. Perhaps they’d intend to book a room without power, an extended and convoluted check-in process, and odd noises outside their room. That’s certainly their choice, but it wouldn’t be mine, and I doubt it was yours.
    What you would do if you were traveling single is similarly irrelevant. You booked a room based on your full traveling party, so any “irrops” solution must also address the needs of the full party, including an understandably cranky child late in the evening. That you chose to stay in the room without power as the least objectionable option should in no way obligate you to accept lesser compensation. (And I doubt you expected weird noises outside the room all night when you took that offer.)
    So that brings us to the question of compensation. A full refund of the points plus the suite upgrade is what’s owed. But there is also the question of what kind of reputation a large, multi-national company operating a high-end property that relies considerably on customer loyalty wants to convey? The gifts the next night are certainly a sincere effort on the part of the property management to apologize, but I’m not certain I’d call that compensation.
    I would suggest writing corporate guest relations a polite letter, in much the same tone as your post, and ask what the “official” policy is. (I might be a little more pointedly disappointed that the property management didn’t have a good irrops plan before the power outage.) Most likely there is no official policy, and the company will extend and offer of compensation. I agree with Gary, matching the points required of the original night seems reasonable, but you’ll have to judge what’s appropriate to you.

    1. Scott,

      Thanks for the very detailed thoughts. The situation struck me as one that reasonable minds could disagree over and that seems to bear itself out in the comments. I lean towards being okay with what was given to me thus far, but I certainly wouldn’t turn down more. 🙂

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      Sent from my iPhone

    2. As a general comment, I wonder if the initial hesitation to relocate me to a similar room was based on the fact it was a points reservation. There were a few early comments from the front desk staff about being unsure of how to handle walking someone on points. I know it shouldn’t make a difference. I definitely got the impression they don’t walk people often.

      Regards, Edward Pizzarello

      Sent from my iPhone

  8. I think the St. Regis went above and beyond with the amenity both on-site AND at the next hotel. In addition, they upgraded your room and refunded your points. That’s more than adequate compensation.

    As an alternative, they could have walked you (as Gary had mentioned) and paid for your room elsewhere, but it would just be a room and no blog entry to write about. 😉

  9. Hotel loses power during a storm then blame the storm not the hotel. When you check out you still left a dirty room to be cleaned and utilized services of the front desk, therefore u owe for the services you used. Points are a good compensation and a partial refund may be in order but one should not expect a full refund when the situation is beyond the control of the hotel. I mean just think, if this happened at home, who would compensate you then?

    1. Ian, I don’t think I expected a full refund here, either. I was pretty okay with the solution. Honestly, the only thing that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth was that there was a system in place where my Starwood Ambassador should have been notified and then reached out to me so we could have ended up at another hotel prior to getting to the St. Regis. Now THAT surely would have been good service. I certainly didn’t expect that going in but once I knew that was a potential outcome I wish they had executed on it here.

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