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OtherI am a manager at a 4-star hotel. Ask me anything!

Jan 7th 2017 by zariex • 48 Questions • 218 Points

I've done this for 5 years now.

I've learned lots of things about people, and seen lots more things.

Proof provided to mods.

Ask me absolutely anything!

Q:

Funniest thing you have seen?

A:

A WHILE ago, in san francisco.

It was halloween night, a couple of years ago. I was a night manager at a 5 star property.

This guy comes in the door at like 3am, no reservation. Swear to god, the guy is dressed like Neo from the Matrix. Black shades, trenchcoat, everything.

He drops the black amex on the table and says give me the best suite you have in the hotel, and it has to have a jacuzzi.

In my head I'm tired and I'm like, dude I don't have time for this.. But I look at the name on the Amex -- 'Elon Musk', I'm like who the heck is this guy.

I check him into the suite, its like $11k a night or something, to have it til noon.

Like 20 minutes later, the valet calls me and they can't figure out how to start this guys car. So I say okay, I'll call the guest. So I call him, and he answers and I ask how to start his car. (One of the teslas, before they were stock). He literally said "Just sit on the seat" and hung up.

It worked. Funniest thing I'd ever seen.


Q:

The robot?

A:

Was pretty close.


Q:

What on earth could the valet have tried beforehand that didn't involve sitting on the seat?

A:

There was no key slot, or push to start. And when the car starts, it's electric so it makes no noise. They couldn't even tell when the engine was on, because it was silent.

They just weren't used to it.


Q:

What happens to the stuff that people forget in their rooms and don't claim?

What is the most memorable of such things?

A:

Lost and found for 30 days, then we let the housekeepers have at it. When a staff member turns in an item, their name goes on it. At the end of 30 days, if no claims, that employee gets it.


Q:

Serious question...it seems like that policy provides an incentive to steal (turning in something nice but plausibly lost as "lost"). Is that a concern at all?

A:

Ontop of us having cameras everywhere, the staff we choose to hire are very honest, good people.

When we have guests calling insisting that, "I know I left my macbook pro in my room, how did you not find it?" -- it's really not much of an incentive.

Honesty and selflessness are rewarded. They have to be, or we wouldn't grow as a hospitality company.


Q:

How can the lowest cheapest motel have free wifi but the ritz makes you pay?

A:

I've worked for ritz carlton, they charge for everything.

Refill on your water? That'll be $9 sir.


Q:

Stayed there one time, dont know what people think the differnce is, it was no nicer than a hotel 1/3 the price

A:

That's often the case. You have to understand too that there is a diminishing return with the hotel price.

At that point, you are paying for the brand, and the truth in saying that you stayed at a Ritz Carlton. There are so many brands that aren't as huge, that are just as good, if not better. I've worked for way lesser known brands that surpass Ritz Carlton.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

St Regis is my personal favorite. W is a great brand too.


Q:

[deleted]

A:

I completely agree on your St. Regis opinion, the NY and SF properties are my favorites. I've loved every Westin I've been to, their Villas are awesome!


Q:

Any tips to get free upgrades?

A:

Totally!

Be friendly with everybody! The bell staff, the doormen, the front desk and the concierge!

They deal with a lot of turmoil, and they are very good hearted people. Give a little, get a lot. :)

Ps. Sometimes it helps just to ask. Don't be that guy who complains that "Well, the room is just going to be empty anyway..."


Q:

What do you have to do in order to be a five star hotel ? Why not go the extra distance and be a five star ?

Are there options for free breakfast ? what are they? do you do free breakfast ?

Saturday Night Bonus material : https://youtu.be/EKue7O_xGFw?t=1h35m56s

A:

Really good question.

There's a lot of differences between that 4th and 5th star. Simply, that 5th star is consistency. Having that emotional connection, and deep service committment to each and every guest, 100% of the time.

We do not offer free breakfast, except to Platinum guests, who stay over 50 nights a year at our properties.

We charge crazy amounts for breakfast! $30 for an omelet! (a really good omelet!)

EDIT:

I also should add that Forbes audits 5 star properties. Think secret shopper. They book usually 2-3 nights, go to every single outlet, and interact with every guest facing staff member. They're checking consistency, and guest skills. The morning of their departure, they email the GM and ask for a meeting, to which the GM will make himself/herself available. They are very hard to spot, they're good at what they do.


Q:

What if the GM doesn't take the meeting?

Three star rating?

A:

If the GM wants to keep being the GM, he takes the meeting.


Q:

What happens if the secret shopper gets walked upon arrival?

I know this might sound like a smart ass question, but surely sometime, somewhere, this must have happened.

A:

There's almost always a 'better' guest to walk. The Forbes agents typically book multiple nights in an upper category room, and have status with the company. Guests with this profile are very rarely walked.

It's a good question.


Q:

How can we (customers) make you guys and the staff in general like us more? I travel a lot for business and mostly stay in 5*. Reception and staff are very friendly but i always have the feelings their smiles and over friendliness is fake. I'm not an ass at all and always am very polite with everyone but i really want them to like me for real and not becausr the "customer is always right" sort of behavior?

A:

Thanks for asking this question!

People(hotel staff and guests alike) can usually sense genuineness. People know when people are being fake.

First know, that smiling and being friendly is expected of them. A lot of them take pride in their work(I've worked with veteran doormen-30+ years). Treat them like people, and you will get the genuine respect you are looking for, then that smile will actually feel like a real smile, not staged.

If you want people to be real with you, be real with them. We're in hospitality because we like people. :)


Q:

How can you get away with eating from the mini bar for free?

A:

More people need to ask this. $8 for a coca cola!?

Just take the stuff from the mini bar, then dispute it at checkout, or a day or two after you leave. Hotels rarely have deep tracking systems for their mini bars. And if you call and dispute the charge, 95% of the time, I'm just gonna take your word for it and take it off.


Q:

Hello! Where I'm from, asking for an upgrade, a discount or things like that is considered as (very) rude / impolite. However, in every post about hotels and stuff, employees are like "yes just ask nicely, we often do it". Is it a cultural difference? Do you provide such offers? How is it perceived?

A:

Hello!

It's in the way you ask, not what you ask.

"Hey I was just curious, I don't travel often, this is what I booked, any chance of a tiny upgrade? If not no worries."

And mean it. Don't be disappointed when you don't get it. My team(And most teams) are very good people readers, and have high empathy levels. They know when you're up to no good. :)

Good luck!


Q:

What's the worst condition you've known a room to be left in?

A:

Easy.. My very first hotel.

I started in housekeeping, I must have been like 2 months into the job.

Room 417, dear lord. When you walked into the patio, there was easily +100 empty crushed beer cans, spills all over the patio, all sticky. You could tell they had some people over.

Inside the room, the entire floor was sticky, to this day I still don't know why. There was blood on the sheets, blankets were ripped, the TV was on and had a huge crater in the middle as if someone punched it. There was birthday cake on the walls, the entire mini bar was emptied($300+), and the bed frame was broken.

Damage bill passed $10k. And it was a smaller 2 star hotel, so that was a ton. I think I still have pictures somewhere. We made a super funny book detailing the great legend of room 417. We used to laugh anytime someone checked in there.


Q:

There's a lot of fear of bedbugs in hotels. How serious a problem have you found them to be?

A:

We have a codename for bed bugs. 'Pixies'

We, like any 4 star property, take these claims extraordinarily seriously. I've worked in a property where we had them take over 4 rooms.

At my current property, I have never seen them. It's not in their optimal environment, which can eliminate a lot of the fear. Generally though, when people come to a 4 star property, that's not really a fear they have. Now the motel 6 a couple blocks over...


Q:

Do you always keep at least 1 room available?

A:

Ha! No, but...

At my property, we will often sell out. And with our ambassador guests and VIP platinum guests, we are obligated to guarantee them a room at the drop of a hat.

There have been instances where I have been sold out, and I get a call that says so-and-so is going to be there in an hour, book him a room and upgrade him.

We will walk a 'regular' guest to make that room available. Not my favorite part of the job haha.


Q:

What do you mean by 'walk' them?

A:

'Walking' a guest is:

Sending them to another hotel property(usually of similar caliber) when you do not have a room available for them.

Last week I had to walk someone to a ritz carlton. We pay for their accommodation, transportation there, and breakfast. We also invite them back to the property with an upgrade on a future stay.

Getting walked isn't so bad, you get a free night out of it. It can suck when you've been travelling all day though and walk up to the desk to find out they gave your room away.


Q:

As a checked in guest, I obviously can refuse the "walk" though, right?

A:

If you're already checked in, you can refuse, yes.


Q:

I don't think you can legally kick someone out of a room they've already booked just because you need it for someone else. Or, if you did that despite their objections, there would be media hell to pay.

A:

It gets contractual. Reservations holds the room until you get here to check into it. Checking into the room guarantees you the room until departure. We can't break the contract, and neither can you.


Q:

Getting walked isn't so bad, you get a free night out of it. It can suck when you've been travelling all day though and walk up to the desk to find out they gave your room away.

Do you have any legal obligations like airlines do when the plane is oversold? Or is this just a courtesy thing?

A:

Legally? We owe you the cost of the room, which we cover through the walk. Legally we're clean. It's your future business we care about.


Q:

What's your educational background? What does it take to become a hotel manager?

A:

My background is a bit mismatched, I come from software development. Sitting in front of a computer, coding for 10 hours a day eats at you after a while.

This career is highly rewarding. The people you meet, the connections you develop, that means much more to me.

What does it take to become a hotel manager? Learn everything. Go into work with two goals in mind: Work hard, learn. The best hotel managers I have worked with have been the people that had true connections with every person on the team, real leaders.

If your goals are to learn, and work hard. The rest will come to you. I love my job.


Q:

What was your gateway into the hotel industry? Did you start out totally entry level or something higher?

A:

I started in housekeeping, then worked in bell, door, front office, concierge, sales, conference services.


Q:

What's your opinion of the major high-end hotel companies? E.g., which ones are fading? On the upswing? Overrated or underrated? Have scumbag management?

A:

I am a man of many opinions, since the Marriott and Starwood merger, the company has been growing.

The best companies will be the companies that know how to treat their employees. If you treat your employee's like they are gold(they are), that will trickle to your guests, and your guests will be well taken care of.

I won't name names, but I would stay think twice about companies that manage hundreds of properties, the employee-care philosophy can get lost in the money. :)


Q:

I hide dollar bills all over the room when I leave, does the maid get that ? I hope so.

A:

Me too!

That's hilarious.


Q:

What's weirdest request you've fulfilled?

A:

One of my other properties.

This guy booked the penthouse for like 4 or 5 nights. Something like $25k a night.

He wanted us to turn the entire suite into a discotec, so we did. He paid for everything. The floor, the lights, the DJ, the authentic disco ball. His bill broke $250k at the end of his stay.

I also had a sultan stay with us. He could not(did not) bathe in 'regular' water. He had to bathe in Evian water. So we would bring up cases of evian water, and fill his bathtub with evian water, like twice a day.

We charged him $600 a case. They probably cost us like $30.


Q:

So how did you warm the water up?

A:

His servants(?) heated it up on the stove. All we did was deliver the cases.


Q:

What's the most memorable reason first responders (cops, fire, emt) have had to come your hotel?

A:

I had to evict a guest around 1am one night. He was threatening one of the restaurant managers. He was super calm until the police showed up. He told me that I had to refund his room "or else" right in front of the cops too... I didn't press charges, I just wanted him out. Oh, and we didn't refund his room, fyi.

Not me, but one of my colleagues. Years ago in the hotel I was working at, in one of the restaurants. A gentleman came into the fine dining outlet. Sat down, ate a nice meal, nice bottle of wine, took his time. Pulled the restaurant manager over and told the manager to call the cops, as he couldn't pay for his meal.

Turns out the guy just had his wife leave him and take everything, and wanted one last good meal. The guy ended up doing like 3 months or something, then we hired him as a dishwasher. He ended up becoming a server a couple months down the road, he was a good guy.


Q:

Have you had guests stay for months / years? If so, can you tell us a little about them (situation / demands etc)

A:

Rarely but it happens. Because of occupancy taxes, we cannot have a guest stay with us for more than 29 days. So what we'll do is we'll just make a new reservation for them on the 30th day.

There is this one lady that will stay at our property for 14-21 days at least 4-5 times a year. Her bill regularly breaks 30k$ everytime she stays.

They just grow attached, they like the people, that's what they come back for.

People don't pay for products, people pay for feelings.


Q:

Craziest request from a visitor?

A:

I gave a couple of interesting stories in some of the other replies.

The sultan one was interesting. The discotec guy takes the cake, he was an oddball for sure. But with money.


Q:

What is the most disgusting thing you ever have seen/heared when working?

A:

Some guests are really creepy. They have money but they're creepy.

I've had a complaint of a guest trying to invite kids into his room. I found him and spoke to him immediately. The second you start making other guests feel uncomfortable, regardless of circumstance, I take that very seriously.


Q:

Are you on the Marriott or SPG side of the merger?

What can you see on my profile when I am checking in if I am platinum (i.e. number of $ spent, number of nights, number of nights at this property, etc.)

Are you doing keyless checkin? If so what do you think about it?

A:

SPG.

I can see your status, how much money you've spent, how many nights you've stayed across starwood properties, how many nights you've stayed at our property, how many points you have.

I can also see every note from every single rep you've ever interacted with. They record phone conversations, they note literally everything. Literally. We know a lot.

Keyless checkin is fine with me. I'm kinda giddy about the Botler, I think the Botler is the shiz.


Q:

Well thanks for all of your work - I've stayed 700+ nights with SPG all over the world and it is my go to brand. I also love using botler. I remember when they were first rolling it out and I got to watch them test it.

I do love the keyless checkin also. If it is a property that I stay at frequently then I don't need any info and would rather bypass the front desk. The only downside is sometimes the splash screen takes too long and I can't get the elevator authorization in time.

A:

Thank you for your loyalty! We're always looking for feedback to improve your travel experience!


Q:

So, my only experience with a higher end hotel, was a gaming convention at the Hilton Anatole... re convention hotels generally operated different than other's, and what sort of unique challenges do such things present?

A:

Oh my gosh I love big events!

Planning everything out, coordinating and making sure every cog in the machine is oiled and everything goes fluidly, is amazing.(If it works like it should)

They typically require a lot of planning, lots of manpower and foresight. We just finished a pretty big convention event, I love it. I can't wait for the one next week!

We have just as much fun as you do, to be honest.


Q:

Well, the Hilton doesn't seem to agree... Lol... But apparently, someone poisoned the koi one year...

A:

I have fun in whatever I do, you have to.


Q:

do you guys ever have available rooms and tell customers that you dont?

A:

Sometimes we don't have the room you are looking for available. But the hotel is oversold and we still haven't sold the most expensive suite.

Hopefully that answers the question?


Q:

Oh, if only corporate thought like you, maybe things would get better.

Of course, I've started where you posted. I wouldn't have made it this far up the chain if didn't do that sort of thing. Honestly, I'm not specifically bothered about this guy as by the trend he's a part of.

The main problem I have is that someone with a fancy MBA but no idea how to actually run a hotel decided to try to copy the Hilton by implementing a 100% guest satisfaction policy, where if the guest complains about anything, they get their entire stay refunded. Sure, this is great for corporate, but it stinks here at the hotel level (franchise).

Actual example:

A guest complained to me personally about a dog barking. I called the owner, who was outside at the pool, who came in five minutes later to calm their dog. The rest of the night proceeded smoothly.

Unfortunately, this event turned into two complaints and two free rooms. Dog lover is bothered that he had to come in to take care of his dog, and silence lover complained that he heard five minutes of barking.

At the property level, we've been thrust into a no-win situation and are forced to hemorrhage money. As a franchise this is killing our profits. Worse, guests have been making up things and posting them all over social media in attempts to get their free nights. This has been killing our bookings. If not for the fact that we are along the I-95 corridor in a very traveled section of Florida, we'd be dead in the water. (In fact, corporate has already closed down many corporate-owned locations with plans to close down several more this year.)

So yeah, it's not so much this one guest, but the fact that I have to deal with so, so, so many guests like this who know that they will ultimately get their rooms for free, and a corporate office who will gladly give the guests anything they ask for.

A:

If it's any consolation, branding is more difficult than it sounds. "Hey, think of how many people would spend money here if we guarantee their satisfaction or their money back!". Sounds good, tough to implement.

Don't get yourself down over the pile-up.

Try to remember why you got in the business in the first place. Sometimes corporate is going to slap your hand, they slap my hand all the time.

I try to stop as many things from getting to them as possible. Think of someone you look to as a rolemodel, think of what they would do in your shoes.

There's things you have power over, which is a lot. And there's things you don't have power over. Usually it's better to focus on the things you do have power over, and that you can affect change in. Remember when you started, the reason you're doing this. It always helps me.

Edit: One last thing. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received: Nothing. Absolutely Nothing, is more important than your staff.


Q:

Hello there, hopefully you're still answering questions. I currently work as a front office manager at a high end private club, and have worked at a Marriott property before. Most places I've worked have been small (Marriott was 126 rooms, the club is 59) and I feel like it takes forever to move up in management in these properties. I've been at the private club for 3 years having started as a doorman. Do you have any suggestions for moving up in the hospitality industry? Should I try working at a larger property? I feel like if I wanted to move up to senior management where I'm at it'll take 20+ years, because that's how long all of them have been working here.

A:

Sometimes you need to move around properties and expand your experience to move up. Sometimes you have to know people higher up that can 'vouch' for you. Getting a 'pull up' is fine, if you know you can do the job.

If your goal is to ascend, moving properties and expanding your circle could be the best way.

Work on your financial acumen. Senior management is training people to train people. Work on your relationship building. The rest follows.

Good luck, you'll get there.

Edit: big properties, small properties, different cultures and locations. That's what builds your experience, your resume, and your acumen.


Q:

Thank you, also it's encouraging to see someone else who likes this field so much.

A:

Love what you do. And love the people you work with. Treat your staff like gold. Nobody is more important than them.

I'm tagging you so I can hold you accountable a year from now.


Q:

Know any stories of cleaning services trying to get even on customers? Like if the room is a super mess they might give you dirty sheets and you wouldn't even know.

Do they peek at people's belongings? I know it isn't right to do so but I usually never have anything important inside the duffle bags.

A:

Some housekeepers at lower end properties, I've heard of fishy things.

In general though: housekeepers are among the hardest working people I have met in my life, truly. They're like my family, we look for honest, good natured, empathetic souls to be on our team.

They won't touch your belongings or even enter your room if your dnd sign is on. But if you make a hell of a mess, they may talk some smack with us in the cafeteria. :)


Q:

[deleted]

A:

No one is ever in trouble.

They would be talked to, bodily hair on any guest furniture is unacceptable.


Q:

Do you ever room upgrade a SPG gold? I was briefly platinum (thanks to the challenge) and was treated on a whole different level compared to my gold status now. I think gold status states room upgrades when available but I've never gotten one while gold...Also, does booking with a AMEX platinum help with room upgrades? I've heard good things about that CC and curious if it's true. Thanks for doing this, big fan of SPG properties!

A:

First of all thank you for your loyalty with Starwood, gold or platinum!

Gold status upgrades are not obligatory by the hotel like Platinum status upgrades are, SPG properties are more likely to upgrade you than SPG affiliates are. Gold status upgrades are upon availability.

AMEX platinum does not really help if I am telling the truth, the CC has decent rewards though.

SPG recognition is big. Our entire staff has access to the master list of guests inhouse and arrivals that display status. Many gold & plats will go out of their way to,"Just so you know.. I'm gold.. I'm plat... I stay x nights a year". Yes.. we know... in fact we can see down to the digit how many nights and down to the cent how much you've spent. We appreciate it, we do, but we have some bounds!

I think the CC is worth it, be be careful! Not every property participates! The amount of nights you are staying / the avenue you booked(via points/room rate) / and your stays with the property can often play a bigger factor in you getting upgraded. eg. if you are staying for 1 night, in a king bed room, booked at a high rate = way more likely to be upgraded when we're going over our arrivals list in our operations meeting.


Q:

You said you were once a housekeeper. How much time did they give you to do a room?

A:

I wasn't ever a housekeeper, I was a houseman. We needed to assist housekeepers with stripping rooms, running supplies, etc. they get about 15-25min a room - based on its state. Could be more could be less. Then a supervisor has to inspect the room and sign off on it, then they put it in the front desk inventory as a sellable room.


Q:

How do I get out of paying if I throw up in the room?

A:

Don't throw up on anything that can stain. Best way.


Q:

If I tip the maid will they tell you guys or just clean it? Like a $50 tip

A:

*the maid has to spend extra time cleaning your yakk.

*the hotel has to spend money to replace the linens you soiled.

They'll tell us either way, how much you think the tip should be is up to you.


Q:

Favorite Starwood hotel in the US that isn't yours? Favorite hotel in US that isn't Starwood?

A:

St Regis.

Amangiri. So cool.