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Should I Request Compensation for a Hotel Mishap?

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TPG reader Brian sent me a message on Facebook to ask about how to deal with a bad hotel experience:

“I was recently staying at an IHG property when the fire alarm went off at 1:00am. What would you do in that situation to account for the disturbance: Should I ask for points or a discount, or should I do nothing at all and just accept that these things happen? (If it matters, I have Spire Elite status and was on a paid stay.)”

Things inevitably go wrong when you travel: Maybe your flight is delayed, the Wi-Fi in your hotel doesn’t work or your meal is undercooked. You might see such lapses in customer service as failures, but I see them as opportunities for customer service to really shine, since they give companies a chance to prove how much they value your business. When a service falls short of expectations, I think it’s reasonable to express your dissatisfaction (politely, of course), but try to keep things in perspective.

In Brian’s case, it’s important to find out why the fire alarm sounded in the first place. If the cause was under the hotel’s control (like a faulty detector that hadn’t been repaired), then some form of compensation (or at least an apology) is warranted. It’s best to try and resolve service issues on the spot, but you can also try to address problems on social media or by phone/email after the fact. Just be succinct, stick to the facts and don’t be shy about asking for what you think is fair (points or a discount both seem like acceptable options).

I’d feel differently about it if the alarm couldn’t reasonably have been prevented. It might have been set off mistakenly by another guest, for example, or someone may have actually believed the building was on fire. You can’t fault the hotel for that, and even though it disrupted your night, I think you’d have to chalk it up to bad luck and move on. After all, it’s better to be woken up on accident than to not be woken up in the event of a real emergency.

It shouldn’t matter too much whether the stay was paid or booked as an award, but having top-tier elite status will probably help your cause. Airlines and hotels take care of their most loyal customers first, and having any kind of elite status should help grease the skids — it has certainly come in handy when I’ve asked for compensation in the past.

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A midnight fire alarm is a reasonable complaint. “I don’t like orange pillows” is not. Image courtesy of Intercontinental Singapore.

My one caveat is that you shouldn’t just go fishing for points. You’ll often be rewarded for complaining, but don’t complain just because you can. Ultimately, that just makes it harder for everyone to get help when it’s really needed.

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If you have any other questions, please tweet me @thepointsguy, message me on Facebook or send me an email at info@thepointsguy.com.

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