Category Archives: Advice

These are tips, hints, and glimpses from a current behind the desk employee at a well-known franchise hotel. I hope to help you save time/money and help make hoteliers lives easier.

The Anatomy of a Check-In

There is one thing that every single guest who stays at a hotel must do: check in. The check-in will vary slightly depending on which hotel/hotel chain you go to, but I’ll be going with the working knowledge of check-ins I have done/experienced. There are a few things that you need to do before you even reach the counter:

  1. Check for signs. These may include “Must have I.D.”, “No Pets Allowed”, “No Checks”, etc. – These may be innocuous, but they will clue you in to some key points if you’re just walking in. There are very few things that are more annoying to a front desk clerk than getting most of the way through the check-in procedure to find out you don’t have a credit card and want to pay with a check when a sign clearly displays “No checks allowed.”
  2. Have your I.D. and Credit Card ready for inspection. – This step is done for your protection. We check photo I.D. against yourself and the credit card to prevent credit card fraud. It helps nobody for you to get offended when we ask to check the physical card and the matching photo I.D.

These are not the days of a handshake contract and cash for a room. Many hotels nowadays will allow cash payment… but you HAVE to have a credit card on file. It’s not that hotels don’t trust YOU. It’s more that they can’t afford to trust anyone. Gone are the days when you can sneak out with a hotel towel without anyone noticing. At our hotel, we inventory every item in the room before you check-in and after your check-out. If you damage the room, take any items, make long-distance calls, etc. – you will be charged “incidentals” and that is the reason why you’re required to have a credit card on file. Know this: You won’t be randomly charged, but you will be responsible for anything out of the ordinary you do to the room.

For example, just recently at our hotel, I had a gentleman who happened to leave with one of our green throws. This led to us charging him $45 for the throw. Of course, this is exactly what it costs us to purchase a new one. Anyway, a week or two later, he calls, furious about the $45 “over charge” that our hotel posted on his credit card. We researched the situation and calmly explained the charge and he denied taking the throw. Standard procedure for our hotel when something is taken is to bring in the Housekeeping Manager and General Manager to confirm with the housekeeper who found items missing. When I did further research, contacted all those involved, and called the guest back to inform him of this, he took about 3 minutes and then he let us know that he HAD found the blanket, his father must have taken it and he’d be sending it back to us. When it came through the mail, we quickly refunded the charge off of his card.

All of this to say, there ARE reasons why the hotel needs your information, even if you are the most trustworthy person around. It’s not about YOU, it’s about other people who might have less morals than you.

So to recap, for a smooth check in have:

Your payment and I.D. ready, and read any pertinent signs. This will make your front desk staff pleased with your knowledge of the routine and more amiable to you in general.

 

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Negotiation Etiqu-ation

Etiquette. The word itself conjures up some 1950’s outdated idea, doesn’t it? We all have to learn correct posture and the correct pronunciation of our “H’s” and run about singing about where the rain in Spain falls, right? Well, not exactly.

You see, etiquette is simply the unspoken rules of conduct within society. It’s not physically wrong to put your face in your soup and slurp it up like a dog. The sustenance goes from outside your body to inside and provides the nutrients you need to stay alive. You seem to be doing pretty well actually. As a matter of course though, if you’re in the company of other human beings though, you’d be getting horrified looks or everyone would be pointedly looking everywhere but at you.

We’re going to discuss how not to be slurping your negotiation soup when haggling for better prices at a hotel. Of course, you can apply this to other areas as well, as you choose.

  1. Research – Prior to your trip, find out some information about the hotel you are going to. What is their undiscounted price? What is their standard discount? Do you qualify for this discount? Does that discount satisfy you or do you want to put in more work for a cheaper room?
  2. Research the competitors – All that information you just learned about the hotel you want to stay at? Now you need to do it again, for all the comparable competitors in town. If you come in figuratively armed for bear with the competitors’ information, you now have a distinct advantage in negotiations… You show the hotel that you are NOT limited to just this one hotel, but you came here because you PREFER to be here. (If you’re not a jerk about the presentation, this can come across as a compliment. Of course, if you bludgeon the desk clerk with your information, either physically or figuratively, then you’re still armed, but it’s the next Cold War of price negotiation).
  3. Know your price range – Is the hotel you’re wanting to stay at/within your price range? Are you trying to stay at a $200 for $100? Not gonna happen, buddy. But if you’re looking to get a $10-$20 discount, that may be more obtainable.
  4. Be reasonable – The price range advice follows this, but also be reasonable with the front desk attendant that has to help you. He/she may not have the authorization to adjust that rate more than a tiny little bit. I know when I was just a standard clerk, I could modify the rate down by 10%, give or take some for special circumstances. If you want your best chance of a better price, a member of management should be present. They can modify the rate to whatever is needed to keep a guest and they are the ones that will be praised or punished for revenue and room totals. Of course, they will be harder to get that price from. Usually some type of commitment is required to push the right buttons. If you will guarantee to come back only to our hotel, then maybe we can negotiate a standing rate for you.
  5. Be kind, considerate, but firm – For the actual negotiation, you want to be as nice as possible without actually grovelling. An “I appreciate all you’re doing for me” while your front desk clerk researches rate and profile information will help grease the wheels, so to speak. If you’ve followed the previous advice by knowing the competitor’s prices and knowing what you’re looking to obtain price-wise, then you are standing on the high ground. When you come armed like this, it’s easy to be kind and firm. You know exactly what you want and won’t settle for something far less than that.
  6. Ask for a lower price than you realistically expect – Let’s say a hotel room costs $100 (plus tax) a night and you want to pay no more than $85 (plus tax), then ask for $75-$80. This is why it’s called haggling… there will be offers and counter-offers. You know the price you want. You also have to know if you are willing to leave if you don’t get that price. You have to be firm but flexible in this. For example, if this were our hotel and I was the one at the desk, I only have certain rates that we offer, and we DO have a set “Absolute lowest you can go for anyone but a VIP who’s stayed here more than 10 nights in a year”… once I hit that number, unfortunately it’s either my way or the highway. This isn’t because I want it that way, it’s because we have to make X% of profit on a room, and you have to factor in that the cost per room includes a WIDE variety of things. All that to say, we can’t just offer these rates willy-nilly.

In the end, a hotel is a business. It will try to beat it’s competitors out for your business, but it will still have to make it’s profit margin as well. If you come armed with knowledge, then you can fight a good fight and get the best rate possible (though possibly not the best rate that you wanted). In the game of negotiation, knowledge truly is power, so invest a little time in research at home and you’ll save a some money on the road.

Do any of you have any great tips for negotiation that I missed? Any behind-the-desker’s want to weigh in on the matter? Feel free, leave a comment, follow the blog! I’m looking for an audience to share good advice with!

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Merry Christmas, Here’s a Post

Well, it’s Christmas time here in Texas and the hotel is bustling with holiday business. Hotel holidays are interesting creatures… some holidays you can expect the hotel will be almost empty (usually Thanksgiving on this one), but some are just jam-packed (usually 4th of July, oddly enough). Christmas and the other end of year holidays are a middling affair. You can usually count on being half full (or half empty, you pessimist!). This year did not disappoint.

Here’s a couple of hotel hints for your holiday travel:

  1. This especially applies to holidays, but is great advice any time of the year: Book around a month+ in advance, if at all possible if you need to guarantee a room.

1a. A little addendum here: If you are an extreme bargain hunter and can live with the risk of not getting a room, you can gamble with this advice. Some hotels (ours not included in this) will offer discounted rates (if you ask) to get more heads in beds, but only if the holiday numbers are looking a bit low. If you gamble on this, it could come back to bite you. If the numbers are high, then you might not be able to get any truly significant discounts (or any discounts at all)! It’s your choice, but know you run the two risks: High prices or the hotel not even offering a discount for the season. I highly recommend calling the hotel (directly) a month in advance and ask what their policy is, or ask if they could offer you a discount on the spot.

2. Always try to negotiate or haggle. I hate giving this advice as a behind-the-counter person, because there’s nothing more annoying than someone who doesn’t know when to stop haggling. I will post a follow-up post in the near future about price negotiation etiquette. Hotels don’t always have a cheaper rate available! They may have offered you the lowest they could go when they began. Often, that is not the case though. It does not hurt to ask. If they say there is no cheaper rate available, then either accept that and pay the man/woman behind the desk or you can gamble.

(The following advice is a really low move, just letting you know ahead of time that it will garner negative feelings and MAY cause an unfavorable situation, such as a room right next to an elevator shaft, facing the busy highway, next door to the party of 8 in a room that should be holding 4, etc.). You could gamble, as I said, and use the “Well I guess I’ll have to leave if I can’t get a lower price” line. Note: I do not recommend this! You may find that a lower rate has miraculously opened up or you might see a blank face and hear a “I’m sorry to hear that, sir/madam. We will miss your business.” (I do hope you realize at this point where you went wrong and that they sincerely do NOT miss your business).

A final point on negotiating prior to my next hotel post, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The worst they can tell you is no. It CAN hurt if you ask in the wrong way, so we’ll be helping you avoid that.

3. Realize that there are real, living, caring, breathing people behind that desk and cleaning those rooms. If it’s a major holiday, chances are that you have somewhere to go and something to do. The thing about hotels is that they never close. So chances are, the people who are working probably have somewhere to go and something to do. I know the difference a guest can make by acknowledging that the hotel staff have a life beyond these walls… it made all the difference to that housekeeper. She was truly touched by the guest’s sincerity when he stopped her from what she was doing, quickly told her “Merry Christmas, and I hope your granddaughter has a great Christmas” and handed her a small Christmas gift.

Like my last hotel post would tell you, being a nice, decent human being will make all the difference in your stay. If you go out of your way to show that you care about the hotel staff, they will go out of their way to make your life as pleasant as possible while you’re staying at their property.

So for all who celebrate Christmas, Merry Christmas! If that’s not your cup of tea, then happy holidays! And if you don’t like that, well good tidings and well wishes go your way as well!

Thanks to all who read, I hope to continue providing interesting content!

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A Few Hotel Hints

For my first post, I’m going to give you some “behind-the-counter” tips on booking a hotel. Many people in my generation (and a surprising amount from earlier generations) don’t have the first clue on booking a hotel. Many people find themselves in a situation where they realize they need a place to stay all of a sudden, and shortly afterwards they are fighting medieval sized rodents and making alliances with the roaches to hold what territory they have in the room.

1) The idea of “SuperSavingsBookings.com.net.url.whatever” saving you a ton of money by sticking it to the hotel and getting you the best price possibly available is no more than a clever ploy. Speaking from personal experience, many times that I’ve seen guests coming into our hotel with third-party booking site reservations, they end up paying more than our most basic discount would have netted them. Not only do you end up paying more than you would have, you’re also paying a commission fee to the site for booking the room for you. Where we would have made (let’s just pull a number here and say an even $100) from offering you a discount, we end up only making say $80 and you end up paying even more. This leads right in to my next point.

2) ALWAYS book directly through the hotel, if at all possible! Did all-caps and an exclamation point not convince you enough? ALWAYS. Let’s say you are using “SuperSavingsBookings.com.net.url.whatever” and they quote you a price of $110 as the best deal ever. Well, if you do a little more research and find the local number to the hotel (not some 800-number because that likely leads to an outsourced reservation line) then take the time to call the hotel and say “Hey SSB.all-that-jazz quoted me the price of $110, can you make me a better deal.” I can tell you right now, that 99 times out of 100, the hotel will make that better deal. The reason: You save more money, which leaves you happy. The hotel makes more money than they would have had you booked through the third-party site. Everybody’s happy. Except for the 1 out of 100. The next point will describe how you can avoid being the 1/100.

3) Be friendly with the hotel representative that you are talking to and you’re more likely to get unexpected perks, whether this is a discounted rate, a complimentary upgrade, a free breakfast voucher, or it could be nothing at all. Just like anyone who deals with a large amount of people in any given day, the extra nice/friendly people make our day. If you are friendly to us, then we are MUCH more inclined to go out of our way for you. The inverse of that applies as well. Let’s take the previous example of calling for a negotiated rate. If you call with a ridiculously low number, we know you’re making it up, because we are familiar with what our third-party booking rates are. If you try to scam us, not only are you not getting a better rate, you may get unfavorable room assignments. (I don’t do this personally, but I know quite a few hoteliers who would). Also, don’t call in with a sense of entitlement: “I know you get a worse price than I’m offering to pay you, so go ahead and give me a discounted rate and we’ll both be happy.” I did personally have this happen to me, and unfortunately there was nothing I could do about the rate. “The computer would not allow me to change the rate any lower than $XXX.XX.” Which is true… we would have to personally override that. Long story short, you go out of your way and be friendly to your hotel staff, and they will go out of their way to take care of you.

4) The house keepers are not the only staff at the hotel. They work hard and appreciate your tips. If you’re staying at the same hotel a few times a year, tip the front desk clerk and you’ll be guaranteed to get the best possible room he/she can give you. Does your hotel offer breakfast or a happy hour? Take time to give $2-3 to your server, personally and not just on the table, and you’ll be certain to receive preferential treatment any time you come through. Here’s the thing: Tips are not expected by most of the staff, but they are awesome to receive. A concierge person or house keepers may expect a tip, but the rest of the staff are always pleasantly surprised by any kind of tip and that will reflect in the service you receive.

More wisdom will be following, but listen to these words. This is (un)common sense that may seem obvious to one such as myself but is fairly uncommon knowledge “in the real world.” If you go a little out of your way to show you appreciate the hotel staff, they WILL reciprocate.

~Grand Landing

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