After reading your book The Penny Pincher’s Passport to Luxury Travel and trying some of your advice for getting room upgrades it seems to me that these days it is very hard to get an upgrade. I have been in two different Ritz-Carlton hotels for two different special occasions and both of them have given me the same excuses of why they cannot give upgrades to the club level. Three weeks ago I went to the new Ritz-Carlton Lake Las Vegas for a two-day stay. For my first night, I reserved a room on the club Level, and for the second night a room on the regular floor (not club level). When I arrived at the hotel I asked if they could upgrade my second night to the club level since I would be there the first night. The person in charge said that no upgrade could be given unless the person paid for the upgrade (the same thing happened when I went to the Ritz in Dearborn, Michigan), then I proceeded to ask for a suite upgrade, the answer was the same, “No.” I do not feel comfortable asking for an upgrade anymore at this type of hotel.
That day there were two or three couples on the club level. The person in charge of the club level decided to close it early. My wife and I could not enjoy the final presentation. I decided to complain since I was paying for the club level facilities. After talking with the assistant manager, he hesitantly gave me an upgrade for my second day. I will appreciate any advice.
I have another question for you. My wife’s birthday is February 14, and since I live (in Iowa) three hours from Chicago I was thinking I’d take her to the Four Seasons in Chicago. The price on their web site is $310 per night. Since my wife and I are both graduate students, I find the price high. Can hotels give lower prices? Do you have any advice?
Answered by The Penny Pincher
Thanks for writing me again. I recall your letter a few months back inquiring how to get hotel upgrades. First of all, I applaud you for asserting yourself and insisting that you receive the quality service you deserve. I must tell you that the service you received was completely unacceptable and I suggest that you contact Simon Cooper, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, at 4445 Willard Avenue, Suite 800, Chevy Chase, Maryland 20815, (301) 547-4700. Most likely you will speak to an executive assistant. Take this opportunity to tell them that you had all the intentions in the world to cultivate a long-term loyal relationship with the Ritz-Carltons Hotels, however, your first three attempts ended up in disaster. Be sure to tell the representative that on one occasion the club lounge closed early, and when you voiced your concerns to the management staff, they were indifferent at best. Continue by stating that you did not feel that you were treated with respect or dignity, that you did not feel welcomed upon arrival, that you felt your needs were ignored and that your overall experience was devoid of satisfaction. Then pose the question, “Why should I return to a Ritz-Carlton Hotel?”
The service that you received from the Ritz-Carlton does not surprise me. I have personally noticed that the quality of the Ritz-Carltons has degraded significantly. I first began to notice a quality decline in 1995 after Marriot International, Inc. acquired a 49% ownership stake in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. Three years later Marriot International, Inc. acquired the remaining percentage of the Ritz-Carlton Company. It seems to me that the Ritz is no longer the Ritz of Cesar Ritz. Fortunately, for us, the consumer, we have a wide range of choices and if the Ritz-Carlton will not deliver the service, well, we can choose a competitor who will.
With respect to your Valentine’s trip with your wife, high prices are to be expected due to the holiday weekend. So you have a few choices: call now and speak directly to the reservation manager and inquire if they can offer you any special incentive. Be sure to tell them about your past three experiences with the Ritz-Carltons and mention that you and your wife are both graduate students and that you anticipate that your travels will increase especially with luxury hotels after you graduate. With this said ask the manager if he can offer any special rate or at least confirm a special upgraded room. Incidentally, it is always best to try to confirm your upgrade before arriving at a hotel as I described in the hotel chapter of my book. Your other option is to travel the week before or the week after. Even if it is not on Valentine’s Day you still can make it a very special occasion. This is keeping with the contrarian theory.
Thanks for keeping in touch and look for a newly revised edition of my book in April of 2004.
All the best.