Talking to the Wrong Hotel Agent — Reader Mistake Story
Today, I want to share a story from TPG reader Monique, who was at risk of losing a hotel reservation due to some crossed customer service wires. Here’s what she had to say:
I went to a two-day music festival a couple hours from where I live, and figuring that I wouldn't want to drive back late at night, I booked a room for the first night. Hotel rates within a 20-minute radius of the festival were much higher than normal due to the event, so, I looked through my points options and found a room at the Aloft Ontario-Rancho Cucamonga for only 3,000 Starpoints per night (before SPG merged with Marriott Rewards). It was a steal compared the cash pricing!
Flash forward to the first day of the festival: I wasn't planning to check in until after midnight, so following a tip from TPG, I called the hotel to let them know I’d be checking in late, and they verified I was good to go. I ended up staying past midnight, and I was grateful to have a nearby hotel waiting for me. The festival grounds had limited reception, and as I was heading back to my car, I started to receive phone alerts, including a voicemail from the Aloft saying they would be canceling my room because I had not arrived yet.
I started to become frantic wondering what I was going to do for the night. After regaining composure, I called them back. The phone agent said my reservation was still available and wasn't sure why the hotel would say otherwise. Then I realized that at that point and on my phone call earlier in the day, I was speaking with a general SPG reservations agent and not someone at the hotel itself.
I asked to get transferred to the hotel, after which the person I spoke with at the front desk told me the two did not communicate with each other. Luckily, they still had rooms available and I was able to keep my reservation. I learned my lesson, however, and in the future I'll clarify with the phone agent whether I’m speaking with someone at the actual hotel!
Hotels generally stipulate that your reservation may be canceled if you don't check in by a certain time. Beyond the cutoff, you could lose your room and be charged as a no-show, so calling ahead is a good idea for late arrivals, especially when rooms are in high demand and overbooking is a concern. If you're unable to call, many hotels offer a mobile check-in service that also allows you to specify your arrival time. I prefer to get some sort of verbal or written acknowledgement that my room will be held for me, but checking in electronically is better than giving no notice.
I agree with Monique's assessment that it's good to clarify who's on the other end of the line when you call a hotel. You may be diverted to customer service or general reservations, and there's often a disconnect between those offices and the front desk of an individual property, so you can't be sure information will be communicated clearly between them. I prefer to call the hotel directly in most cases, and that's who I would reach out to in the case of a late arrival. However, customer service is your best bet if you have questions about your account or if you have issues during your stay that the hotel management is unable or unwilling to address.
I appreciate this story, and I hope it can help other readers avoid making the same mistake. To thank Monique for sharing her experience (and for allowing me to post it online), I’m sending her a $200 airline gift card to enjoy on future travels, and I'd like to do the same for you. Please email your own travel mistake stories to firstname.lastname@example.org, and put "Reader Mistake Story" in the subject line. Tell us how things went wrong, and (where applicable) how you made them right. Offer any wisdom you gained from the experience, and explain what the rest of us can do to avoid the same pitfalls.
Feel free to also submit your best travel success stories. If your story is published in either case, I’ll send you a gift to jump-start your next adventure. I look forward to hearing from you, and until then, I wish you a safe and mistake-free journey!