The Westin Seattle and How to Frustrate Me When Ordering Room Service #FirstWorldProblems

I used to stay at the Westin Seattle fairly frequently, but hadn’t been there in nearly three years until a one-night stay a few weeks ago.

It’s still pretty much as I remember, of course. Rounded, two towers, some decent views.

I prefer the location of the Sheraton usually, and also the W, within the Starwood space. And I love the breakfast at Hyatt Olive 8. So I don’t make it back often at to the Westin.

Still, it works just fine. It’s an escalator ride upstairs to the large lobby. I’ll never forget Wandering Aramean opening about half a dozen bottles of wine in the lobby after the bar closed. Years ago there used to be a Roy’s restaurant off the lobby, but that’s long gone.

I have no beef with the rooms, they’re perfectly comfortable though the bathroom is on the small side.

Here’s what struck me as odd though. It’s truly the ultimate in #FirstWorldProblems and isn’t actually a problem, just a process that surely could be improved and yet is something that was obviously done on purpose.

I arrived at the hotel around 1 a.m., and by the time I woke up and got moving it was the business day on the East Coast. I had a ton of stuff to do while I got dressed, and wanted to order room service. So I looked around for a menu, and found none.

Finally I called down to Service Express. After being transferred around, I was able to ask where the room service menu was, figuring they’d need to send one up (thus delaying my breakfast ordering).

Instead they told me what television channel to find the menu on.

Now, I’ve been to hotels where you can order room service on the television. That’s how you submit the order.

And I’ve been to hotels that don’t have paper menus, they put the menus on an iPad in the room instead.

But this system wasn’t either of those. You flip your television to the room service menu channel, and you wait for the page you want to come around. The first time through it didn’t pause long enough for me to figure out the options and decide what I wanted, but all of the other pages took way to look to cycle since I had no interest in those. But I had to stay by the TV, lest it cycle past the page I needed to see. And so there I sat like an idiot, getting dressed and not able to work, sitting there transfixed so I could decide what to order.

I could have just put the problem on whomever was on the other end of the phone, I suppose, ordering something generic that they must have and not in the way they’re used to having things described and then hoping they could just figure it out. But I didn’t want to be that guest, so I decided to wait and wait — and wait — and wait.

Surely this is ripe for a business process improvement…

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. It sounds like the process just wasn’t working right. As a general rule, Westins leave a Post-It note on the screen to let people know where the menu is. I’ve found the menu easy to flip through on the screen. It sounds like this hotel just has some sort of glitch in their system.

  2. Interesting.. did they also not have a hotel service guide in the room? Westin usually put the room service menu on the flip side of the service guide.

  3. Cool menu… but it should be noted somewhere. I used to always stay at the Westin in Seattle but their parking fees are beyond atrocious especially with the city parking tax… Belleview for me now.

  4. I’ve noticed my last couple stays that the backup printed menu was nowhere to be seen. If I didn’t remember that it was on the TV, I too would have had to call.

  5. Hotel TV guides/menus/etc are my least favorite part about hotels and they irk me to no end. I just want to turn the TV on and watch it, not have to try to figure out how to get past the dumb menu that comes up every time you turn the it on.

    AND, why do most hotels (at least the ones I stay at, Hyatt, SPG) not have high definition? HDTVs but no HD service? Come on! It’s 2013.

  6. I fail to understand the obligatory apology, and I certainly don’t mean just on this blog, for mentioning anything that isn’t life threatening as a “first world problem”. This hotel is a First World hotel, with First World prices, and First World competitors for our business. It should provide First World service. When it fails to do so, why should it be up to the blogger to apologize for pointing that out?

    The idea that a guest should have to call the front desk, and get transferred around before someone could tell him the menu was on the TV is absurd. If they are going to do it this way, there should be a large card on the desk that tells you “Room Service Menu on channel X”.

    And then adding insult to injury is the barely functioning menu where you have to sit there waiting for the right page to come on screen. With nightly room rates in the $200 + range, it’s reasonable to expect better than this.

  7. Physical copies of menus are very underrated, especially if you want to order from your bed first thing in the morning. Nothing beats that.

    Yea, 4/5 times I’m stuck watching a poorly re-sampled HD channel in SD. There’s one time the resolution was so bad I couldn’t read the tennis score properly. Could tell if it was 1-4, 4-1 or 4-4.

  8. “Surely this is ripe for a business process improvement…”. You just experienced their understanding of a “business process improvement”. It is absolutely amazing to me that people who spend the vast majority of their waking hours working in the hotel business can completely fail to recognize and understand even the most basic perspectives of guests. Technology is not always better.

  9. In these situations, I guess when I’m cranky, I will make “my problem” their problem. That is, keep the person on the phone will you turn on the TV, find the right channel, wait for the screen to cycle around, then umm and err over your decision. Don’t let them hang-up! Their management created this situation, not you. So, I feel it is their responsibility to help you solve it.

    (Another similar approach is to call the kitchen and have them read you the menu!)

  10. I stay at the Sheraton Seattle a lot and have Gold Status. I stayed one time, not too long ago, at the Seattle Westin and I was treated like royalty – even though there was a major “teen education” conference staying there at the same time (aka overrun). It sounds like their interactive people need to work out some bugs perhaps?

  11. That is a good reason to stay at a tavelodge where breakfast is always out for you to grab and either run to your next meeting or take it back to your room for a fraction of the cost and way better customer service!

  12. I am at the Westin Seattle right now. I’ve been here before when they had print menus. I want to order room service. I don’t see a menu. So I Googled it and found this post. I turn on the TV to the hotel services menu. Still no way to get to a menu. I call the front desk. She says to turn to channel 63. I do. I wait for the pages to cycle through, but can’t read/decide fast enough before my pages cycle again. I’m not going to wait for another full cycle. So I call down to the Relish restaurant (there IS a flyer for that in my room). No answer, but I can leave my name and number if I want someone to call me back. This is epic. In all the wrong ways. Sorry, Westin. I’ve always been a fan, but have to say this is making me rethink where I stay in Seattle.

  13. Right now it seems like BlogEngine is the preferred blogging platform available right now.

    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you are using on your blog?

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