Did You Wonder What a Hotel Has to Actually Do For You If You’re Dissatisfied?

I’ve found that Starwood hotels are the best overall at responding to complaints. If something goes wrong on a stay, an email to Corporate Customer Service (customercare -at- starwoodhotels.com) generally takes care of it. I find that most of the time a meaningful complaint yields points equal to a free night’s stay at a given hotel.

It seems that Starwood seems to have the most control over its individual properties, and corporate headquarters is the most empowered to make things right unilaterally. The hotel itself, of course, it the one that’s going to wind up paying for any ‘make good’.

Most chains aren’t quite as responsive as Starwood. But thanks to the Hilton brand standards documents we know exactly what Hilton hotels are responsible for.

Hilton has separate documents for each of their brands and regions, and the guidelines vary. Hotels in some chains are supposed to have cards on hand for free breakfast, a free dinner (excluding alcohol) or free in-room movies for service recovery.

There’s generally a process for how any member’s formal complaint gets handled. Here’s the version for Embassy Suites.

The Brand maintains a Guest Assistance Department to facilitate guest satisfaction. The Guest Assistance Department will acknowledge and resolve any guest complaint received in the corporate office via the Brand website, telephone or email related to Service, Cleanliness or Product issues.

Comments/complaints are to be handled in the following manner.

Comments received via post stay surveys (SALT, HHonors) or complaints related to Safety/Security, Billing or Legal matters, will be forwarded to the hotel for resolution.

The hotel must respond to guest complaints and/or inquiries within 48 hours of receiving the complaint/inquiry. (Failure to respond within 48 hours will result in Guest Assistance resolving the complaint and billing the hotel the cost of compensation plus an intervention fee based on the guest’s HHonors status).

A response to all guest complaints, whether received by mail, email, in-house comment card, or posted on the Satisfaction and Loyalty Tracking website, must be made within two business days. Complaints and responses must be kept on file for at least three months.

The hotel will be billed the cost of compensation plus an administrative fee for these resolved complaints.


When Guest Assistance issues compensation on behalf of the hotel responsible for the complaint, the hotel will have access to all backup documentation and will be invoiced for payment of the amount compensated or at the predetermined “Be My Guest” card rate (Plus applicable fees).

Payment will be due upon receipt of the invoice.
The receiving hotel that accepts the “Be My Guest” card will be reimbursed for the actual cost of the guest’s room and tax for the night, as booked on the reservation. The accepting hotel will be reimbursed for these room / tax charges by submitting an original folio and “Be My Guest” card…

Also fairly uniform across these documents is what is required for on-property service recovery if a Hilton HHonors Diamond member is disserviced.

They have three categories.

Paid Stay

If a Diamond Member is dissatisfied, the member must be immediately satisfied and compensated. Compensation is defined as either a refund “up to” a night’s room fee and tax or other appropriate service recovery based on the nature of the complaint.

The member must also receive full Points & Miles credit for any refunded amount of room and tax, and the hotel will pay for the Points & Miles. This may be done by completing the electronic submission form on the Focus HHonors website or, for OnQ PM hotels, use of the Revenue Service Recovery functionality will ensure that the guest receives full credit for the stay.

The hotel’s General Manager or General Manager’s representative must contact the member by telephone to apologize personally for the service failure.

The hotel must retain and make available a 30-day rolling record of these transactions. For OnQ PM hotels utilizing the Service Recovery functionality, the Service Recovery report will replace the need for a manual log.

Award Stay

If a Diamond Member is dissatisfied, he or she must receive an immediate (same day) refund of the points redeemed from the reward. The hotel must pay for these points. The hotel will not receive reimbursement credit for the reward, as the points were recredited to the member’s account. The hotel must complete the “Re-credit of Points for Reward Stay” form, which can be found on The Source.

The hotel’s General Manager or General Manager’s representative must contact the member by phone to apologize for the service failure within 48 hours of notice of dissatisfaction.

The hotel must retain and make available a 30-day rolling record of these transactions. For OnQ PM hotels utilizing the Service Recovery functionality, the Service Recovery report will replace the need for a manual log.

In order to support customer satisfaction and loyalty, the Hilton Worldwide Guest Assistance Department has the discretion to grant Diamond Members up to two complimentary future nights. The cost of these room nights will be charged back to the hotel.

Dishonored Reservation

Seriously, not a good idea for a hotel to ‘walk’ a top tier elite member of the hotel’s loyalty program.

Diamond VIP (and Preferential Gold VIP) member must be the last guest to be relocated.

Relocated guests must receive the best available accommodations if returning to the hotel on a multiple night stay after being relocated.

For relocated Diamond VIP members ONLY:
An immediate inconvenience compensation of $200 cash must be paid to the member.

The hotel must also provide the Diamond VIP member with Points & Miles credit for any nights the member was relocated.

The hotel must pay the normal cost of the points and miles.

The hotel must retain and make available a 30-day rolling record of these transactions. This may be done by completing the “Reservations Emergency Stay Credit” electronic submission form on the Focus HHonors® Web site.

The hotel’s general manager or general manager’s representative must immediately telephone the Diamond VIP member to apologize for failing to honor a reservation.

Starwood compensates a top tier elite with points equal to a free night (in addition to providing the night’s stay free somewhere else, and transportation) in the event of a walk. Hilton pays out $200 cash.

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. This seriously just happened to me over the weekend. I am an IHG Platinum member and, last March, I booked an awards stay for Intercontinental Da Nang for this upcoming April. Over the weekend, I got an e-mail from the hotel’s “Director of Revenue Management” who said that the hotel is overbooked and I must either pick a new date (all other dates are unavailable for award stays) or go to another hotel.

    I am pushing back against him as much as possible and have already warned him that I will get corporate involved, but regardless of the outcome, my continued allegiance to IHG as a whole is already doubtful for this shenanigan (among others).

  2. Club Carlson appears to have minimal control. They forward complaints to hotels. I almost never complain but just had one in London. Right to the hotel it went.

    And over Thanksgiving, when the Radisson Blu Phuket, a day before arrival wrote to demand documentation including employee supervisor’s signature for Carlson Friends & Family rate (rather than terms of providing employee’s name at check-in), Club Carlson worked hard to fix it, but could not manually do anything, the hotel had to do it all, they fought for me and got it resolved but it took several days of back and forth as I insisted on a full refund (hotel has 2 week cancellation policy). Took my business elsewhere for that stay.

  3. At least from the Hilton perspective, I can say that theory certainly differs from practice. Hilton properties are like spoiled elementary children that run amok with complete disregard for the parents/teacher (Hilton corporate).

  4. I’ve worked at Hilton Properties, the 200$ cash for diamond members is not true for all properties.

  5. I’m forwarding this email to inform Jeff chin that employees at embassy suites Milpitas need training on simple customer services this place is out of control!!! See all current review if you care I want all my money back and a free booking at another location.

  6. Looks to me like there is no use for a corporate Hilton as they tell you it is all up to the individual motel on how they want to handle situations. Being a lifetime diamond and only calling for rescheduling help once for a family death must not mean much when you make a scheduling mistake. Very disappointed ☹️

  7. I am a Diamond member. Pretty close to what’s going on in late 2018. I had a terrible billing dispute for five days with a Hampton Inn. Had to get AMEX to intervene. The hotel failed to accept my Hilton direct booking confirmation price for the stay and it took several days to resolve. More, the hotel’s management never called me or emailed me. I also sent emails to three senior executives in McLane, Virginia. Today, I noticed my AMEX was finally credited AND I also noticed 32,000 additional Guest Assistance points, worth maybe $180 give or take, had been deposited to my Honors account.

  8. I have had a stay stolen for me, and the hotel is blaming me? I have tried to escalate but they dont seem to care. This is as a Diamond member

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