A Sneaky Test to Determine if a Hotel’s Improvements Are Real or Just for Show

Back in April I reviewed the W Austin. I led with it being a good hotel, but I had a few beefs.

I’ve reviewed several hotels in the Austin area: the Hyatt Place Downtown, Westin Austin at the Domain, and Hyatt Regency (also here and here).

The W is my favorite of those by far — right smack downtown, but not by all the 6th street bars (so quieter) and with a view of the river.

What I didn’t like was mostly housekeeping-related. There were usually room service trays sitting in the hallway outside of doors for most of the day, and room servicing was a bit less than thorough.

At the end of May I wrote about a much, much better experience there where they had seemingly fixed their issues. But they had also given up the game: they had clearly read my review and were trying to do better. I didn’t have a way to know if they had actually improved, or were putting on a one-time show for me. Was I in a position to give any advice? I wrote about the experience because it was interesting in its own right, about the only time a hotel was clearly treating me differently because of an online review.

It turns out I’ve needed to be in Austin fairly regularly this year. I’ve stayed at the W five or six times now. And my most recent visits have been on par with the last one I wrote about, albeit without the ‘special treatment’ that had the W trying too hard (although there’s something in my profile, clearly, because they continue to put a coffee machine in the room that I do not recall being there earlier on).

Joe Brancatelli gave me some good, obvious, advice I should have thought of myself but didn’t. Since the real symbol of the issues I was having with the hotel were those darned room service trays, it’s possibly they could have cleaned them up on my floor.. but it’s unlikely they were cleaning them up on every floor, every day, and each time I stayed and yet weren’t doing it at other times. So I gave the hotel the ‘stop on every floor test’ and they really had improved, at least in that dimension. That seemed worth noting.

I don’t know whether it was my review, but the message I sent through my review was clearly heard (perhaps they heard it from others, too). And they did something about it.

Maybe that shouldn’t matter, but it was just a visible sign of a larger sense that the place wasn’t as good as it could be. I appreciate their fixing that.

And it’s my go to in Austin. It’s across the street in one direction from Lamberts Downtown Barbecue and a block in another direction from a good chain wine bar (Cru). There’s a Starbucks in the building (entrance around the corner), and across the street is one of the better minimarts I’ve ever seen.

Room rates can range from $350 to well over $400 much of the time (although they’ll frequently have AAA rates and corporate rates in the low or mid $200’s). It’s a reasonable value at category 5, but hard to justify now that it’s a category 6 redemption for those looking to use points.

Some will dismiss this impression, but taking Joe’s advice the improvements seemed real, and that struck me as worth noting.

The pool is still a scene, though.

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. Stay under someone else’s name and see how the service is. Although they probably aren’t cleaning up all the room service trays just b/c you are in the hotel, you may still be overrating it b/c they are treating you differently.

  2. Prefer the Interconti Stephen F. Austin in dwtn Austin. Have you review this one previously?

  3. Taverna across the street has good pizzas and some decent pastas. We frequent there regularly.

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