Customer Service Blunder: How Hyatt Charged An Elite Guest $137 For A ‘Free’ Gift

A reader stayed at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay for his wife’s 50th birthday weekend. He’s a “Globalist,” a top elite with Hyatt for the past decade or more. And one of the benefits of this status is a dedicated ‘concierge’ who helps with reservations, upgrades, billing and points issues and other hotel matters.

Since his concierge knew that it was a special weekend, she contacted the hotel about delivering something to the room for the occasion. The hotel did. And they charged the guest for it, at full room service prices.

There were four soft drinks, four domestic beers (Coors Light, Miller Lite, Sam Adams, and Yuengling) and the following:

The guest saw the charge at checkout, and relays that he was told the hotel ‘didn’t have anywhere else to bill it’ so they put it on the folio.

  • He contacted his concierge, who spoke to the hotel, but they would not budge.

  • They claimed it was ‘room service lunch’ though correspondence with the concierge that’s been shared with me shows that does not make sense.

  • The concierge gave him the general manager’s e-mail address. He’s e-mailed three times, he says, but hasn’t heard back.

What’s interesting is that I’ve never received an in-hotel gift from my Hyatt concierge. I’ve had one since the outset of the My Hyatt Concierge program six years ago, and I had a ‘private line agent’ for years before that.

At one point five or six years ago Hyatt was experimenting with personalized amenities, and I’d get extra bottles of water in my room. But that went by the wayside some time ago.

When I was a Starwood Ambassador I received amenities from my dedicated agent. However it doesn’t appear that Hyatt has a budget to do this. Often contacting a hotel about a special occasion might get them to do something nice. And that’s what the Hyatt concierge was trying to organize. She didn’t know, and the guest didn’t know, that there would be a $137 charge for it.

Prior to Hyatt’s elite program revamp six years ago, top tier elite members got to pick a food and beverage amenity at check-in, or bonus points. At the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay I selected a Cuban sandwich and fried plantains, since I knew I’d be famished. They were quite good, I wasn’t charged, and that was… the standard. Not even for a 50th birthday weekend.

At a minimum it seems to me that this hotel shouldn’t charge for something that the guest did not order themselves and did not have the price quoted to them. The concierge did the right thing here, but doesn’t have the tools from Hyatt to fix things since the property has decided to take the position that someone is going to pay. And the hotel manager certainly shouldn’t ignore the guest after this screw up as well.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. First, what an incredibly lousy assortment of F&B. This is shoestring college student budget levels of low class – at an absolute minimum there should have been wine, not beer. It’s an adult couple birthday, not a bachelor party.

    Second, TANSTAAFL and guests pay for “gifts” like this one way or another. So what to do? Never tell hotels what you’re there for. If it’s a special weekend, take it upon yourself to make it special.

  2. This was the hotel not knowing what to do; probably new staff or poor training.

    I once received a “surprise and delight” type gift upon arrival — I don’t remember what, but it was something the same with some local treats — and they accidentally left me an invoice showing a surprisingly large amount charged to an internal account. *I* didn’t get charged, though.

    This is a smart thing to do for frequent travelers — I’m loyal to Hyatt because of several instances of them going the extra mile. Just don’t accidentally charge the customer!

  3. I disagree, Jered. Carb, sugar, and lite beer overloads do not drive loyalty–especially if you have a decent chance of running into a billing issue. You know what does drive loyalty? Reliably clean, quiet rooms with blackout shades; high-speed low-latency WiFi; bathrooms with fast drains, high water pressure, and appropriate water temperatures; central AC instead of loud window mounted units; courteous and competent service.

    High class people don’t eat sugary high-carb foods and certainly do not drink lite beer.

  4. I’m surprised that the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay did that. I have stayed at that property dozens of times and found the service to be great. I agree on the concierge front as I have never seen a single gift and have been Globalist since the program started.

  5. Agreed on the concierge front, although I did ask mine to help us get a Christmas tree in our room at a park hyatt, and she came through for that. That was a pretty magical and unforgettable thing.

  6. I checked into the Ritz Carlton Coconut Grove late at night and in my room was a bottle of wine and and a full charcuterie board and sweets on the table with a sign that said Welcome Nilesh

    I’m not Nilesh but it was appreciated

  7. Disappointing news. Hyatt is supposed to enforce a higher standard and I’d expected the Hyatt Concierge to have the power to do something rather than hoping that the hotel would show some sense. This is the type of behavior you expect from Marriott.

  8. Hyatt customer service is so arrogant. They assume EVERY time you talk to them they’re right. They have no mechanism to accept documentation that is contrary to their view or what’s in their system. I agree EVERYTHING gets push back to property. The property says the issue is with WOH and around and around.

    This from a globalist that has 50 nights in 90 days

  9. Checked in there and had anniversary cheesecake, it wasn’t our anniversary. Told them they said no worries when we left charges for anniversary gift. We denied to pay extra charges.

  10. I don’t understand why anyone would ask MHC for help with anything other than points or reservations. MHC turnaround time is >24 hours and they shouldn’t be dealing with anything that hotel handles unless and until the hotel screws up.

  11. Personally I think its worth 500 dollars 😉
    Sad that is what Hyatt has become a stingy hospitality company
    They deserve a refund of their stay
    What a bunch of greedy creeps that manage the property

  12. Happy birthday, honey, here’s some soda, some Coors Light and Yuengling, and some warehouse club chocolate chip cookies.

    This is f&b for stoned frat guys at 2am, not a 50-yr old woman (or, hopefully, man, for that matter).

    Grand?

  13. They probably have these specials for all of their guests. Clever to have the concierge set it up.

  14. OP here (not really, Gary did all the heavy lifting)

    Within 20 minutes of this post, Hyatt Corporate in Omaha called me. They offered a full refund of the amenity, 6000 Hyatt points, and a $50 gift card. I think it’s a great, responsive offer. The hotel screwed it up, not corporate. I appreciate it.

    As far as feedback, I simply offered that my Omaha-based Concierge is THE BEST. I know there are many complaints about MHC but mine is top notch

    Bottom line is social media, but Gary’s blog in particular, gets results

  15. It’s a nice gesture if free, but psycho to charge the guest for something he didn’t order.

    Personally I wish they would either do some research or contact me ahead of time. Nobody wants second rate beer and the food they often send is inedible. SPG used to have a profile where you could specify what you prefer. Why is that so difficult?

  16. Had a weeklong globalist stay at the (category 1) Hyatt Regency Green Bay this summer. Did 2 suite upgrades. They left us a nice welcome basket with wine and snacks, the manager reached out to us beforehand, and took every single breakfast item off the final bill, no problem. The hotel is showing its age a bit but we had a great stay, would recommend.

  17. Sounds like a cheap healthcare company I used to work for long back that gave a $25 gift card to Target to all employees for the holidays only to see this same amount deducted from our next paycheck for the said gift!

  18. @Mets Fan In NC – Can you elaborate? I haven’t hit many problems but the few I have were quickly addressed by my wonderful MHC. It’d be nice to know what areas are problematic.

  19. Thanks for sharing the update Coolio and congratulations to your wife on her milestone birthday!
    Now that’s the Hyatt I grew up with years ago a first class caring company fostering
    strong relationships
    Back in the day reaching out got you the proper result
    It shouldn’t take social media to get corporate involved
    I find that today agents just aren’t empowered to help guests at the first point of contact
    The back and forth is irritating.It feels like cat and mouse

  20. What I really want to know is why a Diet Coke costs 35% more than a regular Coke. Less is more I guess?

    On the positive side, it makes David Brooks’ $78 burger at EWR look like a bargain.

  21. Shame on Hyatt. They are so bad lately and cheap. Their highest agents should have power to fix things like this. What a joke. Hyatt is going downhill so fast over last three or four years

  22. Very disappointing. Frankly stopped Hyatt loyalty after three unimpressive years as Globalist.
    . i find Marriott to be much better (at least in europe and asia). and so much easier to get status. 1. I have NEVER been overcharged like this for a welcome gift as Ambassador or Titanium. 2. I always can get access to a hotel general manager if any problems and I find they or their staff always resolve issues for top tier members. 3. their exec lounges often have great dinner type service while Hyatt lounges only have snacks in the evening with cheese and cold cuts type offers 4. Hyatts limit rooms wiht points and suite upgrades by classifying rooms as non standard

  23. The actual *cost* of all of this for the hotel would be under $15 by my math.

    So this $300+ per night hotel (where the poster likely dropped at least $1500 on this stay) has now forever lost a top-tier customer over $15, instead of just writing it off.

    Lack of business sense. The GM of this hotel needs a new job.

  24. Stayed at this property just this week, this report doesn’t surprise me at all. Very unhelpful front desk staff there. Had no hot water for the first night, absolutely no offer of any kind of recompense other than we will send an engineer to check it.

    Stayed in a different room on a different night, one of the Casitas. Would not recommend, they are right next to the runway and are incredibly noisy all night with the windows rattling when planes take off.

    Overall disappointing though perhaps reflective of the relatively low prices they ask for.

    This couple should have headed to the Ritz Carlton in Sarasota, stayed there another night this past week and had a extremely pleasant stay.

    One of the countless reasons I am no longer loyal to hotel chains, apart from the points, elite status means nothing.

  25. @Christian

    I run Americas for a software company located abroad. I have to use Egencia and pay in GBP. I am entitled to elite nights and reward points. Egencia should me nightly rate in GBP plus taxes and fees. What is posted never matches GBP rate * exchange rate. I am globalist and have banged my head against the wall with hotels and WOH CSR.

    This is a glitch somewhere that doesn’t process exchange rate correctly. It’s absolutely on Hyatt side. Tons of discussions with Hyatt who offer bonus points after being on phone for an hour and talking to two managers

  26. Looks like the charge went to code 9500 Lost Interface. Generally that is an internal house account and not a charge for a guest. There might be a glitch as this 9500 code should not show up on the guests room folio.

  27. It’s the concierges job to know whether the guests would be charged, she should have it deducted from her salary

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