Travel tips – Hotel reservations and waiting

I haven’t done one of these in a while, but it’s now time to vomit some hate share my knowledge with you. In the travel tips and hotel wisdom section of today’s event, we’re going to look at two aspects of the hotel industry that are often a huge cause of headaches for both the traveler and the hotel employee.

Hotel Reservations
I’m sure a lot of you have stayed at a hotel before, so you’re familiar with the reservation process. You can either call in and reserve a room, book one through various means on the web, or just show up and ask if they have rooms available (called a “walk-in”).

Of the three, the third is the least preferable for the hotel if they’re busy, but great if they’re trying to fill rooms.

I’m sure that the following situation has happened to a few readers, and I know that I’ve been a part of it (from the desk side) on many, many occasions. You show up to check into your nice hotel, expecting to get the King Sized bed (or two doubles) that you requested, only to be informed by the front desk that “I’m sorry ma’am, I don’t have any of that room type available”.

That’s usually followed by one of two things, either they don’t have any available because they oversold that room type (happens a lot with busy hotels) or they don’t have any available because housekeeping hasn’t finished cleaning them yet. In the case of the latter, you’ll end up waiting for your room – and we’ll address waiting in a moment.

Hotels routinely oversell room types, whether it’s King sized beds, or smoking rooms hotels count on a certain percentage of their reservations to not arrive. That means that there are times when I could have 25 reservations for King sized beds on the books, and only 20 rooms with King sized beds available. Assuming that there’s no wash, that means that five people who want a king sized bed aren’t going to get one; that’s not even counting the people that booked as “No specific room type – request king”.

This puts the hotel in the situation where we have to decide to whom we should give the king sized beds. The hotels I’ve worked for have used variations of the following methods to prioritize their overbooked room types.

1. VIPs
This should need no explanation. If a VIP needs a room type, they get it.

2. Points Members
If you’re a member of HHonors, or Priority Club, or Gold Passport, etc that generally means that your reservation is “more important” than a non-member. Hotels try to keep their regulars happy, because it costs roughly five times as much money to attract a new customer as it does to keep an existing customer. Plus, repeat customers spend more money than “non-brand loyal” customers, which makes them even more valuable. Additionally, in certain organizations, some points members (Hyatt Gold Passport Diamond Level for instance) can ascend high enough on the food chain to qualify for VIP status.

3. Call-in confirmations
Two days before you’re scheduled to arrive, call in and confirm your room type, and asked to blocked to a specific room. The hotel (if it’s good) should note your reservation and set aside a specific room to match your request for you. Bear in mind that calling in and getting blocked to a specific room could increase your wait time – and you’re lower on the totem pole than a points club member.

4. First come, first serve
For people that don’t get special treatment like those above, it’s generally based on a first come first serve basis. If I’ve got the rooms and you’re here first, congratulations.

The key thing to remember is that your reservation doesn’t necessarily guarantee a specific room type (unless it says so in the Terms), it guarantees that you’ll have a bed in the hotel.* The best way to make sure that you get what you’d like is to be someone that gets special treatment, and show up early.

Let’s say you’re in a situation where you have to wait for your hotel room. Most hotels advertise that their check-in time is at 3pm (or sometime around there). If you show up before 3pm and they have rooms available, great. Sometimes (when the hotel is busy) rooms are coming available only as fast as housekeeping can turn them around, and it’s after 3pm. This means that you may have to wait to get your room.

Hotel employees don’t like making our guests wait for the room that they’re paying for, because people get all pissed off about it. That poor kid behind the front desk is actually more frustrated than you, because he’s completely powerless. He’s probably refreshing his screen every 10 seconds while praying to Jesus, Allah, and Buddha that housekeeping will hurry the hell up and clean some fucking rooms. Additionally, since the 3rd Church of Christ Holy Congregational Meeting of Revival Holiness Convention buses arrived three hours ahead of schedule, he hasn’t any clean rooms since noon. He also hasn’t had a cigarette in five hours, and might kill your for some nicotine right about now.

The point I’m trying to make about waiting is that sometimes, even at the best of hotels you have to wait. It usually means that someone screwed up somewhere, which happens. The thing is that the guy that screwed up 99% of the time isn’t the guy that you’re yelling at behind the desk. Take it easy on him and be cool, his day is probably sucking a lot worse than yours.

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