The Lights Are On, Nobody's Home
What's your reaction when a new hotel provokes reactions like this on TripAdvisor?:
"The valets were terrible, but also 99% ... of the other hotel employees we spoke with reacted as though every question or request was a huge inconvenience for them." "We found trash on the closet floor, soap that appeared to have been gnawed by an animal." "Our first night, the fire alarm went off at 5 in the morning. ... By way of apology, the hotel offered us waffles the next morning. Thanks, but I would have preferred another few hours of sleep." "The bartender was awful. I sent a glass of wine back. ... He then wouldn't open a new bottle and pushed me to something else that was also terrible." "If the swimming pool is important to you, verify the times it is open. It was only open from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. and then again for a brief period at night." "The mini-fridge smelled like there was a dead mouse in it."
I mean, what do you do with opinions like that? Speaking personally, I can only say that when my son and I come across such rants ... well, we couldn't wait to stay there.
I understand that this sort of schadenfreude tourism may be unique to us, but the resort in question, the purportedly 4-star Westin Annapolis, was so convenient we just couldn't resist. Just to fill you in, the Westin appeared to hold spectacular promise when it opened this past July, a 225-room luxury hotel that would serve "as the anchor for a stylish, mixed-use complex that includes boutiques, restaurants, offices, a spa" and more, according to a press release. But something seems to have spoiled the party in the intervening few months. Then again, maybe all those TripAdvisor people were overreacting.
"Good afternoon, sir! Welcome to the Westin," beamed the valet. My 7-year-old grabbed my arm, taking me aside. "He doesn't sound awful," he whispered. Indeed, everyone was all smiles and the car was parked without issue. The lobby was a bit chilly and attitude-y (especially for Annapolis) but the front desk clerk was friendly and fast. "She seems nice too," said my son.
Another clerk seemed nice the third time we left the lobby, having twice received keys that wouldn't open a room on the fourth floor. "Maybe it's the floor," she smiled, her hands trembling ever so slightly. "Third time's the charm!"
"She seems nice," I said to my son on the way to the elevator. He'd had enough: "Can we just get in the room? I want to go swimming."
Uh-oh, I thought.
I'm pleased to report that our fifth-floor double had not a bit of trash in it, the soap in the bathroom appeared ungnawed, the fire alarm was neither seen nor heard and the mini-fridge, to which my son immediately sprinted to check, contained not a whiff of dead animal. To my great relief, the pool was open too, although the front desk and the lifeguard appeared to disagree violently about the hours of operation.
In short, the Westin is not a disaster. It is, however, a textbook example of what happens when a major hotel chain thinks its work is done when the concrete dries. Here, as so often in the travel industry, the human element appears to have been neglected at the outset, an omission made all the more glaring by the sumptuous surroundings. Prospective hoteliers in the Internet era beware: If a property opens before its time, first impressions will be brutal and immediately shared.
Have you had experiences when inadequately trained personnel spoiled what should have been a perfect holiday? And did you take to the Web to retaliate?
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