I’ve been wanting to try my hand at being a consumer advocate. I always feel a sense of satisfaction when I read one of those consumer advocate articles that concludes with a sentence like “Delta apologized to Adam and Carol for accidentally seating them in the cargo hold with the caged monkey and the partially discharged car batteries and agreed to give them a coupon for 5% off a future flight.” I mean, that’s getting real results for real people, right?
So you can imagine my excitement when a friend of mine had a problem with her recent Hyatt stay. Here was my chance to exercise my skills and truly make someone’s life better! And even if I couldn’t, at least I’d be able to force the secret inner workings of an evil global conglomerate out into the open for all the world to see. Sweet!
OK, so let’s set the scene…
The Inside Flyer launch party.
For those of you who might not have heard yet, the venerable Inside Flyer has relaunched as a completely new and redesigned website, folding together the Milepoint forums with a new set of front page writers (yours truly is one of them) and a large suite of travel tools. If you haven’t checked it out yet, it’s pretty cool and worth your time, so give it a look.
In celebration of this new venture, two weeks ago a launch party was held at the Grand Hyatt New York, which is a major Hyatt property situated right above Grand Central Station. Several of the attendees stayed at the hotel, including a young lady named Jeanne who you may know from her highly entertaining blog Le Chic Geek.
During my conversation with Jeanne at the party, she nonchalantly mentioned there was a minor issue with her room. Namely, the toilet had been installed in such a way that the sink overlapped with it, requiring her to turn her entire body awkwardly to the side while using the facilities.
Needless to say, this was not the ultra high quality of service I had come to expect from Hyatt. Of course as a Hyatt Diamond I’m used to receiving the best room available, so perhaps I’m just spoiled by their excellent accommodations.
However, much to my surprise, Jeanne informed me that she too was a Hyatt Diamond! What?! Wait a minute! How could Hyatt treat a Diamond in such a manner? Something had gone terribly wrong!
The Devil’s Advocate to the rescue!
Sensing my opportunity, I asked Jeanne if she would allow me to advocate on her behalf and pursue her case with all the resources I had at my disposal. She agreed as long as I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I couldn’t tell if “don’t make a big deal out of it” meant “don’t write an extensive post about it on the Internet” but I decided to simply agree to her terms and settle it out of court later. Remember, folks, always ask for forgiveness, not permission.
So as a newly empowered consumer advocate, I proceeded to do some research. My first question was whether Jeanne did in fact receive the best room available. This is New York City, after all. Hotels rooms, like apartments, are usually small. Perhaps this was typical of all the rooms at the Grand Hyatt, and Jeanne as a Diamond Guest was in fact getting all the benefits due to her.
As it happened, I personally knew of another Hyatt Diamond Elite who was staying at the Grand Hyatt that exact same night. I’ve agreed to keep this person anonymous in order to protect his or her privacy, so for the purposes of this post, let’s just call him “Greg the Frequent Miler.”
I asked “Greg” if he would examine his bathroom layout and report whether he in fact also had a sink that overlapped the toilet in such an odd manner. Of course “Greg” is a very busy man, so it took almost 3 minutes before I received back an actual photo of his Grand Hyatt toilet.
Whoa! That is a completely freestanding toilet, entirely unencumbered by other bathroom apparatus. Clearly an equivalent Hyatt Diamond Guest had in fact received a better room, which meant Jeanne’s Hyatt Diamond benefits were not being properly honored.
I immediately contacted Jeanne to update her on my progress with her case. Upon receiving the photo of Greg’s toilet, the always timid and shy Jeanne responded with (and this is a direct quote) “I could sit on that. Heh heh. That’s what she s… uhhh, never mind.”
Going through the proper Hyatt channels.
Now as most of you are aware, Hyatt prides itself on empowering their front line staff to handle guest satisfaction issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. I had no doubt that a desk agent or perhaps an assistant manager could easily handle this issue and either relocate Jeanne to another room or offer her compensation for the problem.
So of course I didn’t do any of that. Instead I directly e-mailed Mark S. Hoplamazian, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, whom I’ve never spoken to in my life.
I know Mark is busy, but I figured I would hear back from him in a few minutes or at the latest within the hour. So you can imagine my surprise when, even after waiting an entire day, I received no response to my inquiry.
Then I remembered that the same Hyatt IT folks who are responsible for maintaining hyatt.com must also be responsible for Hyatt’s e-mail servers, which meant it was unlikely that any e-mail would ever make it through to the proper person at Hyatt.
At this point I thought perhaps I could take a cue from famed consumer advocate Christopher Elliott and just declare the problem solved and maybe run a poll asking my readers if they thought Jeanne was an overentitled Diamond Guest and whether I had wasted my time running around with all this “doing my actual job as a consumer advocate” stuff.
But something in me wanted to push forward and take one last shot at resolving the issue. So I picked up the phone and called the toll free Hyatt Diamond line, which is actually the exact same line as the toll free Hyatt Ham ‘N’ Eggers line, except that you get to be the next call up…
Hyatt Agent: Hello and thank you for calling Hyatt. Can I have your Gold Passport account number, please?
Me: Hi, actually I’m calling on behalf of a friend.
Hyatt Agent: I’m sorry, are you a Hyatt Diamond?
Me: Oh, yes, I’m Diamond but I’m trying to be a consumer advocate. I’m calling as a consumer advocate.
Hyatt Agent: You’re a consumer advocate?
Me (after a moment): Kinda.
Hyatt Agent: Would you prefer the phone number for press inquiries?
Me: No, no, I just want to ask about my friend’s toilet.
Hyatt Agent: Excuse me?
Me: Well, my friend stayed at the Grand Hyatt New York last week and her toilet was blocked by the sink.
Hyatt Agent: She couldn’t use her toilet?
Me: Oh, she could use it, but not without moving her… rump in an awkward way.
Hyatt Agent: I really think I should give you the number for press inquiries.
Me: Ummm, that’s okay, you know, I think I hear the FedEx guy at my door, thanks, bye.
The Devil’s Advocate discovered that being a consumer advocate is hard work.
Even though I was unable to resolve Jeanne’s toilet issue, I feel like we all learned something from this experience. First, even top tier hotel status at one of my favorite chains doesn’t necessarily guarantee that your bottom will be free of all encumbrances. Second, if you decide to bring such an issue to the attention of the hotel, it might be easiest to just cut out any middle men like hotel CEO’s or obnoxious blog writers and instead go straight to the front desk.
And finally, it’s not easy being a consumer advocate. From the other side it looked like a glamorous life, what with all the throwing your weight around in an effort to bring multinational corporations to their knees. But it turns out it’s just an annoying grind with little to no reward. Huh.
Maybe next week I’ll try being a customer service rep for a cable company. Now that seems like it’d be a rewarding occupation…Devil’s Advocate is a bi-weekly series that deliberately argues a contrarian view on travel and loyalty programs. Sometimes the Devil’s Advocate truly believes in the counterargument. Other times he takes the opposing position just to see if the original argument holds water. But his main objective is to engage in friendly debate with the miles and points community to determine if today’s conventional wisdom is valid. You can suggest future topics by following him on Twitter @dvlsadvcate or sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Posts by the Devil’s Advocate:
- Yeah, I Was Completely Wrong About That Hyatt Visa Deal
- It Lives! Amex Platinum Reimbursements For Gift Cards Lives!
- Why Are Points and Miles Better Than Cashback?
Find the entire collection of Devil’s Advocate posts here.