Everything I Thought I Knew About Complaining Was Wrong

I’ve always thought that the best way to complain to a travel provider was to be concise, stick to the facts, leave out extraneous details and minor annoyances. And if possible, ask clearly for what respoinse you believe is warranted.

Often on Flyertalk, on Tripadvisor, and elsewhere you’ll see long rants about the taxi ride to the airport as part of a complaint to the airline. Those are just beside the point, they make it harder to get through the letter andundersand the point. And usually the complaints are being read by customer service center agents who aren’t equipped to decipher complex arguments. You want to make it as simple as possible for the person reading your complaint to digest it, put it into the appropriate category, and act.

And yet… I read this complaint from PointsWizard about the Crowne Plaza Long Island. It’s full of just the kind of extraneous detail that I would have avoided. And yet… it worked, he got a full refund and then some. And yet.. he’s somehow still not satisfied.

Complaint #1 was that the hotel was hard to find. Ok, perhaps there’s constructive criticism but it had an address, the hotel website has directions, and Rich had a GPS, how difficult could it really have been?

Then it took him a long time to find a parking space. As we’ll see later, the hotel was booked solid.

Then check-in was “slow” but this isn’t defined. How long did it take? What seemed to be the problem? Was there a long line and not enough staff, or did the staff member just seem confused?

He got his room, apparently went inside but couldn’t lock the bottom lock. The hotel said they were sold out so they were going to fix the problem instead of just sending him to another room. But since the problem couldn’t be fixed quickly and easily they assigned him to another, better room.

His complaint? The hotel must have lied about being sold out, since they were able to change rooms for him (umm… no they just wanted to fix the room rather than re-assign him, since they expected to be full), and shouldn’t he have gotten the better room from the start? It has a microwave and a refrigerator! (Now, there’s no mention of Priority Club status, he’s staying on points, and the hotel is sold out. He’s complaining that he was moved to a better room..?)

But wait.. the new room isn’t better! The old room had real glasses, the new room just styrofoam cups! What kind of establishment are they running here??

And there’s no backup roll of toilet paper in the bathroom! And only decaf coffee was free in-room, you had to buy a $2 cup of regular downstairs if that’s what you wanted!

The priceless conclusion?

I received points because I was a Hilton Honors member I guess to try to win my business – If this is an example of your hotels would you even want to stay in this one?

Well, good to know that he’s a Hilton HHonors member, but this is a Priority Club property. And somehow Priority Club decided that they’d refund all his points and give him an additional 10,000 points.

But what does he think of this rather generous response from Priority Club?

That was a poor response knowing someone complained to IHG corporate office.

If your trying to get people to try your hotels and there is a problem you should go out of your way to make them happy not angry

Everything I thought I knew about complaining was wrong.

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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  1. I’ve always had the idea that you complained alot. It seems that way.

    I realized recently that I’m dissatisfied with alot of my stays, even on points. I frequently think about complaining, though I rarely do. When I have complained, I’ve almost always been given points that made up for it. I guess I have high expectations if the room costs over $200. Like not having the trash full. Or not having the heat go off automatically when it’s 40 degrees outside thus making me sick and ruining my vacation (Sheraton Iguazu Falls). Hmm, I should really complain more.

    his complaints were just ridiculous.

  2. Agreed. I wonder what compensation he was looking for. Free hotel stay and extra points is pretty good.

  3. @Jack I frequently complain *on this blog*, I suppose. And I’ve been known to share my candid feedback — both good and bad — with travel providers. But my hunch is that I complain a good bit less than average.

  4. LOL I read this complaint earlier today too and wanted to post a comment about how fragmented and rather nutty it was. Rather understated of you, Gary.

  5. Helix, if you read the rant you’ll see what he wanted as compensation was a few night at a hotel in NYC.

  6. Gary

    I’m a gold Priority Club Member.
    These points were given for the IHG promo a few months back if you were an HHonors member.


  7. Exactly my thoughts! I once had a terrible HIX in NY for 25k points. I complained and complained in emails to IGH. Result? 5k points refunded. I sticked to the facts, instead, I should write about taxi ride! 🙂

  8. After reading Rich’s bio, I think it’s pretty clear what his motivation is:

    “For almost two decades R. Keller, the founder of Pointswizard.com (also an educator and an MBA), has been strategizing to accumulate the maximum amount of points and miles in the shortest time possible.

    His family has traveled to countless places around the world for free or for a minimum amount of money. Stories of his free trips spread amongst friends, families and even strangers.”

    So I don’t think he was that dissatisfied with his stay. Rather, he’s looking for another freebie (even though his stay was free to begin with). There’s a Jewish expression for that, but somehow my Yiddish is failing me.

  9. Bitchy idiotic guests exist for every hotel worldwide. Sad state when we actually compensate for their bitching.

  10. Is it right to post on your blog an attack on a FT member which would have earned a suspension on FT?

  11. @UnhappyfromFT (1) this hardly seems a personal attack on PointsWizard, it takes issuew ith his complaint, (2) this has nothing to do with Flyertalk.

  12. In over 40 years of traveling a paid stay or for points – I expect a perfect stay.

    If there are problems then the hotel has to do something to make it right.
    It maybe a fire alarm at 2AM or an unmade bed when you come back to room at 4PM or a poorly run operation with a bunch of small problems like it seems this Crowne Plaza was.

    I believe poor service is unacceptable when you travel.


  13. Gary,

    I am going to guess that your post has brought him more traffic than his blog has seen in awhile. He is a hack. Most of the “content” on his blog are not his own ideas – but, rather stuff just rippped from elsewhere on the web. It is evident from his complaint to IHG that his writing skills are weak, which would explain why he would just “borrow” content from elsewhere on the Internet.

    It read like a poorly written letter, from a poor writer with an extreme sense of entitlement. This blog was not in my RSS feed, and I am pretty sure that I am not missing out on much.

  14. This is frustrating to me – I used to be on the OTHER end of customer service, making the decisions on who to help/refund/etc. Honestly, if I had gotten that email, I would have laughed, and then issued some sort of offer to him to keep him a client in the future because I had to. However, if someone sends a NICE email, stating facts and not being overly obnoxious, I would go out of my way to help them. So you are 100% correct that you are right, stick to the facts, be concise, don’t be whiny or overly dramatic please… and you will get your way more often than not.

  15. I totally thought his whine was out of line. I posted the same as a comment on his blog, and of course it was not posted. I have had some crappy stays in my time, I’m looking at you Red Roof Inn Woburn, MA, but i would never have complained about something as silly as the types of cups. And the refund of points and extra on top was just kinda nutty.

  16. @Rich, your complaints were not “a fire alarm at 2AM or an unmade bed when you come back to room at 4PM”

    Your complaints were completely bogus with a look to get compensated. In my opinion, this is pure stealing! You are a client from hell and I would not want you as a client on my properties or airplanes!

  17. @PointWizard,
    This is Crown Plaza Long Island. Not the Four Seasons. You expect a perfect stay? It already sound pretty perfect to me. No hotels is not perfect. What makes a stay enjoyable is when hotels fix their problem promptly.

  18. Priority Club typically has fair resolutions to hotel stay issues.More so with their luxury brand typically IC.
    This individual IMO was overly compensated and should indeed be thrilled with their final outcome.If they aren’t they dont belong in any brand and any hotel
    company would be smart to fire their customer if the customer doesn’t appreciate the generous good will gesture detailed here.
    Though I am on the Priorty Club Advisory Board I have never been a fan of IHG properties except with their InterContinental Hotel brand which I deeply respect
    In my 20 years of frequent travel either the points or the refund should have been more than adequate for this customer based on the case that was shared.
    I respect that failed stays should in fact be compensated
    by any respectable lodging company when a guest has a miserable stay.Guests also must do their part to be reasonable.Its a two way street
    IHG has an above average rating in my book for taking care of the customer with regard to brand assurance and guest satisfaction.Its one strong reason overall to stay in their hotels provided they live up to ones quality expectations in the first place.Many a name brand hotel company could learn from IHG how to take care of hotel failures overal and thats withot being as generous as previously shared

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