An Upgrade Meant for Someone Else.. Gets Me the Biggest Room I’ve Ever Seen at the Westin Stonebriar

I needed to be in Dallas over the weekend, and more specifically I happened to need to be in Plano and I flipped a coin between the Hyatt House Plan and the Westin Stonebriar — which is to say I actually picked the Westin because it was cheaper.

When I pulled up in front of the hotel to check in, the valet asked my last name. When I gave it to him, he said, “Welcome back!” That’s odd, I thought, I’d never been here before. I actually said so, and he replied “we were told to expect someone with your name, who was last here in 2012.” Umm, ok.

I proceeded to the check-in desk, gave my name and drivers license as well as my Starwood Preferred Guest Business American Express card. The woman at the desk said, “Welcome back! I understand you haven’t been here in awhile.”

Now things were getting strange.

I have an uncommon name, but I’m not the only one who has it — in fact, when I lived in Arlington, Virginia there was another Gary Leff in Arlington; an Endodontist. I’ve gotten calls over the years intended for him — a hospital needing emergency dental surgery in the middle of the night, a collections agency.

There’s also a restauranteur based out of Chicago who oddly enough went to business school with a Senior Vice President of MasterCard who was recently on a panel I moderated. I once made reservations for one of his restaurants (not knowing it was owned by a ‘Gary Leff’). Suffice to say I was not the guest the restaurant was expecting.

Years ago I read a great wine book by a man named Leonard S. Bernstein who explained that at the time one did not make restaurant reservations in New York under the name Leonard Bernstein even if in fact that was your name.

Clearly they had me confused with someone else (I got the same thing at checkout) despite having my Starwood number in the reservation.

I’ll take it, though. Because they had an impressive upgrade waiting for me.

Starwood Preferred Guest guarantees the best available room at check-in up to and including ‘standard’ suites. These exclude special named suites, and can even exclude special view suites. Mostly they’re your basic suite.

Starwood also offers their Platinums who stay 50 nights per year 10 ‘Suite Night Awards’ — an opportunity to request a suite in advance, and have it confirmed up to 5 days prior to arrival if available. What this means is expressing a preference for 10 nights a year where you’d like to have priority for the upgrade, rather than having it be luck of the draw which Platinums get upgraded on any given night.

In practice, though, everyone wants to be upgraded at the same hotels on the same nights. Rather than requesting upgrades at the Sheraton Tucson on a Wednesday or Friday night, the Westin Maui is far more popular… over school breaks. Combined with an economy that means business travelers are on the road, and many suites are being sold, these Suite Night Awards can be difficult to use.

I didn’t use them for this stay and they only get you a standard suite in any case. And the hotel had upgraded me to the… Chairman’s Suite.

When I got upstairs I was immediately impressed, and tweeted.

The furnishings weren’t to my aesthetic preference. But the place was huge.

Off the entryway was a guest (half) bath. Directly ahead was the living room.

To the left was a dining room, and off the dining room was a kitchen that had a door to outside the suite.

The kitchen, oddly, had nothing at all in the drawers or cabinets. Although there was a coffee maker on the counter.

To the left as well was an office.

To the right was the bedroom, and just past that a dressing room.

Beyond the dressing room was the bathroom.

The separate toilet room was built a little strange, though — you had to open the door, step to the left between the wall and the toilet, and then close the door. If you did anything else, you’d be blocking the door and could not close it.

There was both a shower and a large whirlpool tub.

The suite had a balcony stretching nearly the length and width of the room itself. Oddly, though, the balcony had no furnishings.

The views were lovely.

The resort grounds were well-maintained.

Here you can actually see my room on the second floor.

There’s a bar, Ernie’s, and a main restaurant at the hotel.

I opted for breakfast as my Platinum amenity. They give you a coupon good for two people, and handing that to the waiter I wasn’t ever brought a check.

The buffet is modest for an upscale resort — just four trays of hot items and a few pastries and meats and cheeses, some fruit and yogurt, and an egg station.

Everything was quite good though, certainly generous as a complimentary Platinum breakfast (since Starwood only requires a hotel offer continental).

The restaurant overlooks the resort pool.

I wouldn’t choose to go to Plano per se, but needing to be in Plano the hotel was perfect. And for obvious reasons I much enjoyed the stay — this is the largest suite I’ve ever had. It’s not the fanciest, most modern design, or the suite with the most amenities. But for pure square footage, well, I suppose everything’s bigger in Texas…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I got the 4500sq foot presidential suite at the Phonecian as a complimentary upgrade. I was there by myself too.. 2 hot tubs, 3 balconies, table for 12 and a grand piano. One heck of a view from the balcony and the fire pit was amazing. Gotta love SPG…

  2. I’d think twice about putting on a public webpage information that would lead people to conclude that a wealthy man of a particular name and occupation might have collection agencies after him. He might not appreciate it, and he might have lawyers.

  3. That happened to me once. I got surprise upgraded to the Presidential Suite at the Crowne Plaza in San Antonio when I stayed there in November 2010.

    It wasn’t quite that luxurious, but it was really close.

    Some of the details of the layout of that suite were confusing to me, until I realized that they existed so that a security team could search and verify people before they were permitted to entire the main suite, and to also be able to separately guard the private bedroom and bath area of the suite. Exactly what one would need for a “Presidential Suite”.

  4. @James – You suspect people in collections often take the time and money to hire lawyers to sue travel bloggers? Also, truth is a defense to libel. I also wonder why you suspect he’s wealthy… Is there any chance you’re actually the second Gary Leff? 😉

    @Gary – I don’t think any pics of your Bellagio suite upgrade are still online. Would have liked to compare.

  5. @Sunrise089 – good point! It was 2 bedroom, 5 bathroom, so the same number of rooms but actually smaller if I recall. Sorry that the old system that hosted those photos disappeared, I should see if i can dig those out sometime.

  6. A friend of mine looks remarkably like our school’s football coach. It’s a close enough resemblance that my friend has quit wearing a visor.

    Over the Christmas break a few years ago my friend took his family to a local teppanyaki restaurant for dinner. The place was empty because school wasn’t in session. The owner couldn’t be friendlier, bringing over several free items for him to try. My friend thought they were just being nice to the kids.

    Then it came time to pay and they refused his money. It was their treat for his winning the Cotton Bowl. They don’t speak very good English, but my buddy insisted on paying, added a nice tip and left. They still think he’s a football coach, and I think he’s been afraid to go back.

  7. Did you feel guilty accepting the upgraded room knowing it was intended for someone else? What room did the other Gary Leff get?

  8. @Mitch Cumstein – I pointed out that I hadn’t stayed at the property previously and that they must have assumed I was someone else. They gave me the room anyway. As a result I did not feel guilty. No false pretenses involved.

  9. I’ve never understood the point of en suite kitchens with completely bare cabinets and drawers. The liquid hand soap in the guest bathroom is curious. Also, what’s with all of the fan-folded towels and tissues? Looks like something out of a Holiday Inn.

    Otherwise, nice upgrade.

  10. Or perhaps they knew EXACTLY who they were giving the royal treatment to – i.e. Gary Leff the widely-read travel blogger, figuring this would get them a nice write-up on the blog and plenty of free publicity.

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