Why do hotel front desk clerks lie?!

We’ve all been there after a long day of travel. You get to the hotel front desk and you’re ready to get checked in to your room. You’ve looked at the hotel website and you can see that there are plenty of upgraded rooms available. The next part comes as no surprise to many the frequent traveler…

Clerk: I’m sorry sir, we don’t have any suites or rooms for upgrade available.

You: You don’t? That’s funny, because I can see that there are plenty available for sale on your website.

Clerk: That’s odd, because I don’t have any available.

You: So you mean to tell me if I was to book this room on my phone right now you wouldn’t have a room to give me when I approach the front desk?

Clerk: Umm…

BOOM. You caught them in a lie. It happens so often and rolls off their tongue so easily that sometimes they probably don’t even know it’s happening. But why do they do it? Here’s a few things that bounce around my brain as to why.

Check out the tweet that created a little bit of a firestorm today with the SPG Assist and SPG twitter team. Some of the responses from those in the Twitterverse weren’t kind to the hotel either:

Keep rooms for sale

If you’re checking in early in the day, keeping those upgraded rooms available for sale, especially in a hot market with low inventory, is a way for the hotel to make extra cash. If the only rooms they have left to sell are the fancy rooms and you really want to stay there, you won’t have much of a choice other than paying for the expensive rooms.

I was shocked when I asked a friend who works at the front desk of a large chain hotel about how people make reservations. He said that you would be blown away by the number of people that either call the hotel at 9pm and ask if there are rooms OR, even worse, just roll up to the hotel, walk in, and ask for a room. I’ll never understand that!

Sometimes the view doesn’t match the room inside…

Take a while to clean

Larger rooms take more time to clean, obviously! If you’ve got a presidential suite that takes 5x as long to clean, that’s a housekeeper that can’t clean 5 other rooms. I remember overhearing someone say (in Spanish in Miami once…) that they agent shouldn’t give me the room because it took their staff an extra hour to get the presidential suites ready. Wow.

Haywood Suite Living Room

Haywood Suite Living Room

Sell upgrades

Airlines do it all the time, so why not hotels? Ah, I see you’ve reserved a deluxe room. For only an extra $35 a night you can have our club room! If they give that to the Gold/Platinum guests, they won’t be there to sell as upgrades. 

Know what’s available

You’ve GOT to know what is available for your stay. Just like the tweet I sent out earlier, I knew that there were rooms available, and I also knew that as a Platinum guest, I was entitled to the room. Eventually the front desk got their S!#^ together and gave me the upgrade, but it was a bit of a “Do You Know Who I Am” moment.

Fight for what is yours

If you know that you’re supposed to get a room upgrade, fight for it! Be kind, but be firm. Ask for management. Call the hotel’s loyalty program. TWEET. If all else fails, take the room downgrade and then deal with upper management in the morning. Make sure to take names of those people who were helpful, and especially those who were unhelpful. I mean after all, if we don’t help those people get retrained, when will it ever change? 🙂

Have you had a bad upgrade experience with a lying front desk agent?

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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  1. Why is it that domestic hotels seem to always be thinking of ways to stiff their customers? I have no problem when traveling overseas.

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  2. I just had 2 back to back incidents in San Diego. When I checked in the front desk agent advised me to wait until the upgrade room was cleaned and that they will call me once it’s ready. A few hours later I received a call. Once I got back to the hotel they advised me that the room they promised was not available. They even told me that they had no notes about me being upgraded. They said that they were sold out for the night and no upgrades were available anymore. This is after I received the call about my upgraded room being ready. The manager stepped in and offered me 2,000 Marriott points for my troubles and said there is nothing more they can do. They even offered to cancel my reservation at no cost if I wanted (seeing I booked it several weeks ago at $110/night when they were selling for $299/night). I bet they were hoping that I would cancel. The next night I stayed at another location. I booked a room at $100/night and upon check in I asked about upgrades. The agent advised that the only upgrade available was only for sale for an additional $279/ night more. Being SPG/Marriott Gold was nothing. She said they usually don’t offer complimentary upgrades to anyone below platinum. That’s crazy! The hotel was not even sold out. Ironic how this was a back to back incident. Has elite status changed and no longer hold weight at these SPG/Marriott locations anymore?

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  3. So many of hotels are vague about what they consider as an “upgrade”. For example, they’ll say that a higher floor or a view counts as an upgrade. It’s completely understandable that they would want to sell that suite at a higher rate – but why mislead elite loyalty members? It would be better to just award more points to higher tiers versus lying to them or making excuses… after all, the point of the program is to build loyalty.

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    • I agree, and that’s why I am writing this post!

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  4. My experience has been that SPG Platinum is worth pretty much squat. I wouldn’t bother.

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  5. I hate SPG. I avoid them like the plague. I know the points are valuable but everything is a fight. Hyatt is so much easier to deal with. I don’t have time for SPGs constant nastiness. When we stayed at an SPG in SF we were put in the wrong room (double beds, I booked a king and the wrong building, one has a view, one doesn’t) yet the woman at the desk had the nerve to tell me it was an upgrade. You’ve got to be kidding me. When I complained she said she didn’t know what I was talking about. It took talking to management three times the next day to get a new room. In constant, I complained about a room mistake at a Hyatt once and was switched within the half half, with the manager escorting us to the new room.

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  6. Airlines basically do the same thing. They dont want to give out upgrades. They want to sell those rooms. The difference is that flights leave at a certain time. If everyone checked into hotels at a set time of day you’d see the same sort of process. Also with hotels you may be dealing with an untrained franchised owned property so experiences vary. The other reason they lie is so they don’t have to give you the true or long answer. So instead of saying sorry no upgrade rooms are available. They would have to tell you how the manager has told them that on mondays they have to hold on to the suites later in the day as that location gets more last minute resevations or whatever. Remember they dont fet extra money by giving us nicer rooms.

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  7. It happened to me at the Courtyard by Marriott in Glassboro, NJ. I checked if there were 1 bedro, om suites available for sale and there were. When I checked in, in the evening, I asked about getting upgraded (Marriott Platinum). They said I’m already upgraded in a larger standard room. I asked if I could be upgraded to the one-bedroom suite that I saw available. They said there were no suites available and it’s strange that the website is showing it is available. Since it was late and wanted to get settled for the night, I just took the room they gave. The interesting thing is that when I left a review of the hotel, I addressed this issue in the review. Then a few days later, I noticed the review was deleted. Although the hotel was very nice, I was disgusted with how they lied and handled my situation. Thank you for posting on this and exposing these issues.

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    • Haha – deleting a review! Marriott DOESN’T guarantee a suite, but SPG sure does. It’s a bit of a property by property basis I suppose.

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      • I’ve been upgraded to 1-bedroom suites before at Courtyards and 2-bedroom suites in TownePlace suites when booking the cheapest room. From a simple experience like the one I mentioned previously, it makes me rethink my loyalty to Marriott. If they did favors like upgrade me to suites, especially when I see them available, I’d be more open to giving them more loyalty. When I see them deleting reviews, that makes me rethink things even more. I think the loyalty programs could work very well with keeping customers loyal, but when they don’t deliver on providing benefits to their loyal customers, it can easily lead to people becoming free agents. I could potentially see the SPG/Marriott merger causing the company to become so large that the individual properties will just get away with doing things like this more and more outside of Marriott’s guidelines. Marriott may become so big that they may not be able to enforce their loyalty benefits. It could become bad for Marriott in that way as this merger develops more.

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  8. Regarding your comment about who checks in a 9pm without a reservation: I understand that this blog mostly focuses on trips that include air travel, but twice I have walked in late evening without a reservation. Once on a road trip where my first hotel was quite unacceptable, and once when the A/C stopped working in my apartment. Possibly abnormal circumstances for the majority audience, but there are reasons to be a late night walk in.

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    • I suppose that’s true. Just out of curiosity, before you left your hotel, why didn’t you use a site like Kayak or Expedia to book a room before heading out? I ask only for my own sheer curiosity.

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  9. I generally hear 2 excuses:

    1) The room isn’t cleaned or ready yet
    2) The rooms for sale aren’t a “standard” suite. We only upgrade to a standard suite and those are taken
    3) We did upgrade you to a suite. (we just called a corner room or slightly larger room a suite, even if our website has different room types)

    I think the front desk people are just doing what they are told by franchise owners who want to increase Revenue Opportunity (last room availability is most expensive, or upsell someone), decrease cost (less housekeeping), or save the rooms to accomodate special guests or other service failures.

    Corporate hotel management (the Brands), need to step in as hotels have deviated too far from the brand promise. Airlines seem 95% compliant with upgrades and status benefits happening automatically. Hotels seem to be under 50%.

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    • and I should learn to count…

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    • 1) I call BS. Get someone to clean it. I’ll wait.
      2) Sure they are. Also would not fall for that. There is nothing called a “standard suite” in the world. That would be the worst name ever for a suite, no? 😉
      3) Also BS. Happens ALL too often.

      I agree with you about the airlines and how the hotels need to step up their game.

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  10. As a new SPG Platinum, this has been incredibly frustrating. I stayed at the Sheraton Fisherman’s wharf in SF and was given the same BS. I received an email requesting feedback from the manager afterwards and I did as much. It’s been two weeks and no response. Thinking about emailing the GM.

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  11. I hate to be such a cynic, but the value of it all (loyalty programs and average customers) for airplanes and hotels, is decreasing. Hotel companies are merging and leaving fewer options, and ditto for the airlines. So they really don’t need to make anyone happy, or loyal, because someone else is going to come along and take that seat, or room, and if we don’t like it, there’s only a couple of other brand options, and they will act the same way.

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