Sheraton Macao Apologizes for Accusing Me of Stealing Coffee

My Sheraton Macao story was surprisingly controversial.

Mostly I thought it was funny, I’m standing in my bathrobe at 6:30 in the morning, with a hotel staff member in the room pointedly accusing me of trying to scam them for 4 free cups of coffee.

It was a minor thing in the grand scheme of things, but one of my more awkward hotel moments.

And it brought out many divergent opinions from readers. I’m often surprised by the things that get peoples’ juices flowing! (I tend to think I’ll get more comments on things like 100,000 mile bonuses, but what do I know?)

I thought I’d post a follow-up. As I shared in the comments earlier, I had tweeted the post to @spg and I received a response. They replied fairly quickly on Sunday night with an apology, and offer of 5000 Starpoints.

I replied,

Thank you, isn’t actually necessary, wasn’t my intention to complain — more just an interesting travel story… Best, Gary

Something about the possibility that the quick response and offer of compensation possibly being due to my blog post rather than just tweeting them, that it didn’t feel right to take compensation. Don’t know if that’s right or wrong but I’d rather turn down 5000 points than feel uncomfortable about it.

I also received an email follow-up last night from the hotel’s manager of in-room dining.

Dear Mr. Leff,

Warmest greetings from Sheraton Macao Hotel!

I hope this email could reach you well. Thank you for recently stay with us. It came to my attention that you have some unpleasant experience when encountered with one of our associates as mentioned in the website, we are devastated to learn that you did not experience our true hospitality during your stay with us. Please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience caused. Your feedback is very well received as it helps us keep moving in our path of seeking continuous improvements. For this incident, I have already had a discussion with the specific associate and he is well aware of his behavior is absolutely not up to our Sheraton service standard, also corresponding disciplinary action has been taken.

Please be assured that your valued comment would not go unnoticed as we truly appreciate you taking time to write and highlight the matter to our attention. Our management team takes each one of our guests’ feedback very seriously and your feedback has been shared within my team to avoid the similar situation to happen again.

Mr. Leff, unfortunately we are not able to turn back the clock and undo what has been done. We do hope that we will have the opportunity to serve you again and a chance to win back your confidence in our products and services. Please do feel free to contact me or my Assistant Manager Elle directly if your schedule brings you back to Macao so that we can personally look after your stay.

Thank you once again Mr. Leff and wishing you a pleasant day.

Warm regards,

I appreciated the note — that the feedback really was shared, and it sounded like it was genuinely received.

I’m not entirely comfortable hearing “also corresponding disciplinary action has been taken.” My sense is that the employee wasn’t really freelancing, that they were trying (in their own, ham-handed way) to look out for the best interests of the hotel.

Nonetheless at a minimum I do hope it was a ‘training opportunity.’ That’s really all I’d like to see.

If you’re not sure what the hubbub is about, read the original story here.

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 know it does seem harsh that the employee should be subject to disciplinary action…but, what happened to you is pretty unacceptable. I hope he doesn’t get fired…but, yes, he definitely should be “re-trained.” I am sure the fact you write a travel blog will intensify his punishment…but, “it is what it is.”

  2. With constant cheap supply of labour on Macao, disciplinary action is a nice term for an lay-off. About 10 years ago a hotel manager from a well known 5* hotel on Phuket explained to me that a complaint from a customer about something missing from the room is sufficient for the dismissial of the cleaning personnel. Even if it turns out later on that it was the customers a mistake.

  3. If one assumes that it’s SOP to authenticate each guest’s complaint, then I seriously doubt any action will be taken, and that the email was just a way to appease a popular blogger with a wide following. Then again, I’m a skeptic at heart. 🙂

  4. Agreed that he probably doesn’t need to get fired, but if a hotel staffer is making guests uncomfortable then disciplinary action is completely in order!

  5. This seems to be a common attitude in China. I’ve been accused of stealing a bathrobe that was on the hook behind the door and also a coffee spoon that got taken away on a room service tray. I got tired of arguing and paid for the spoon.

    I was told by my local counterparts that if something is missing they take it out of the staff’s pay, so they are pretty thorough at checking the room when you leave. Too bad they weren’t as thorough on your coffee. 🙂

  6. Good for you for not accepting their 5000 points.

    Scamming in china is a regular thing, just like breathing to them. Sometime they scam not to get anything but just so that they feel like they got over on you. Its kinda sad.. Seriously..

  7. So SOME POOR SAP may get fired, loosing their livelihood over this? Wow.

    And SOME PEOPLE are actually fine and even happy with it? Wow.

    And an instance of no-harm-no-foul is worthy enough to upset SOME PEOPLE to the point of declaring that “it should have (NEVER) happened…”?!?!?!?! Like it was some day that will live in infamy ‘NEVER’?!?! Wow.

    Like SOME PEOPLE never ever ever get accused of things they didn’t actually do? Wow.

    And normally SOME PEOPLE that are falsely accused of stealing in a place where they don’t look like everyone else have horrible things happen to them like… ‘receive apologies’ have every right to self-righteous indigantion?!?! Wow.

    I sure hope they learned their lesson.

    Some people…

    USA! USA! USA!

  8. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the letter to Gary is all fluff and window dressing. Apology emails always refer to the “specific employee being disciplined”. Like they went and found the specific guy who was the coffee runner at that minute? I doubt it. At the end of the day, the hotel probably loses more money from being scammed and stolen from than it does from upsetting an elite once in a while. Same probably goes in Vegas. They may very well have patted the guy on the back and praised him for being vigilant. I’m sure they know their business model and what works and what doesn’t.

  9. Lindsey – Gary probably should be publishing all the miles he’s accumulated lying (twisting the truth) to credit card companies – That he wouldn’t obviously!

  10. I am wondering why you (and others) are so certain that this was hotel policy, rather than one rogue hotel worker. Have others at the hotel reported similar over-the-top “investigations” regarding their complaints? I haven’t seen any reported in the comments on your original post. You say it was “your sense” that he was following policy, but I don’t really see any evidence of that. This is me projecting, but maybe it just makes you feel better to blame “the hotel” than to blame an individual guy who may or may not have just lost his job.

    Also, is there any chance you are overdramatizing the situation? Maybe it was worse in person than it sounds in print. Imagine you’re at Starbucks, order and pay for a Venti, and receive a Tall. You go up to the register to complain, and the barista says, “I’m pretty sure I gave you a Venti, can you show me the Tall?” Maybe not the most polite response, but not something that would prompt me to go online claiming to have been “accused of stealing!”

  11. Guys- obviously the original post was “tongue in cheek”- it’s a blog, not a newspaper- its supposed to be a light read in the morning.

    As others have said, the original behavior is normal operations in China. Also the profuse apologies is probably standard when a prominent blogger posts a criticism. I do think it was appropriate to turn down the 5,000 points compensation.

  12. I stayed at the same hotel and had an incident in the gym, where one of the trainers was being very aggressive with me, telling me that I was lifting weights incorrectly (I simply went to the gym to work out, and didn’t ask for a trainer to assist). I received the following response from the “director of wellness & leisure operations” (I imagine I was accidentally cc’d):

    “Leave this with me…I will sort it out and beat up the individual… As this is unacceptable…”

    Interesting hotel… but really, I loved it otherwise. We had a cheap rate and got a fantastic upgrade. And the Sheraton club was really great.

  13. Perhaps the lesson to be gained here is for all guests (regardless of what hotel they are staying at) to check the accuracy of the room service order before letting the staff member leave. That way, any discrepancies can be rectified on the spot.

  14. Sounds like a scene that plays out on Undercover Boss when an employee is observed with a distain toward customers and the Boss has to decide whether or not to reveal his true identity. Props to you for not losing your cool over this incident.
    Reminds me of three years ago when we rented a car from Thrifty at ORD. The security guard yelled at us for the car we were in as it was switched from one Kia Soul for another when delivered. “Where did you get that car! Who gave you that car!” Uh, your lot attendant 50 feet away from your booth. Apparently the first car didn’t have a full tank of gas so they switched it out. “Youz gotz to go back!” was her response. We did, but it will be the last time we “go back” to Thrifty again.

  15. Interesting. Maybe you could have offered to regurgitate as proof of amount of coffee consumed ? Any hotel or service related manager does not want any staff with this attitude, remember the customer is always right.

  16. In the past 2 months, I have had 2 unique Hyatt properties mistakenly place my Hyatt Diamond # on another similar name persons reservation, therefore I receive a check in email and a troublesome follow up, with each one probably over an hour spent on to make sure I really didn’t make the res. What would you do Gary?

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