Tips From A Front Desk Agent: Hotels and Upgrades

I used to work at various hotel front desks across America for extra money and let me tell you, I got yelled at a lot in my job. I even had a set of brass keys thrown at me by an older gentlemen in front of the CEO. The guest then screamed at me for a good 10 minutes and called me the C word in front of his 10 year old grandson. Charming!

You want this view?  

 Here are some basic tips:

Over Booking.

Like airlines, hotels often over-book during peak season. If you have sold 200 rooms (or seats) there is a good chance someone isn’t going to show up so you sell 205 rooms but what happens when everyone does show up? I like to take a nice looong bathroom break. It has only happened to me once. The last person (room 201) showed up at 2am. Every single room was occupied. The person had been held up on a highway in the snow and showed up stressing after driving 700 miles. He had a small baby and his wife with him. We had to arrange for a hotel down the road and to reimburse him the next night when he came back. I thought we might be looking at a double murder suicide the next morning. He was not happy but it happens. Always have a back up money.

Ask Dammit!

If you want something ask for it. I have had hundreds of guests complain they wanted a queen or a king bed and were given a single. When you complain the very first thing the manager will do is check your reservation notes to see if you specifically requested it. If you didn’t he has no obligation to change your reservation but if you did and you are unhappy, the manager is more than likely going to have to explain to you what happened or work with you.

 Pre-Assigned Luck

Contrary to what you probably believe, when I am typing away furiously for 20 minutes when you arrive I am NOT assigning your room. Normally your room is pre assigned the night before. This allows the manager or reservations to take into account requests such as double beds, non smoking or package deals. What it doesn’t account for is the fact that some people make their bookings months in advance and they are – by no other reason than necessity or luck – put into crap rooms. Most people have a common misconception that if you book early enough in advance you should get the best room – first in best dressed – it doesn’t work that way. If you and 300 other people booked a room and 40 of them have special requests for their stay more than likely those 40 will get better rooms (or what they ask for). To the front desk staff, the date you booked the room has no bearing whatsoever on what room you will get. It might have gotten you a cheaper room rate but that’s about it. It doesn’t entitle you to the best view.

All Rooms Have A View. I Swear…

One of the places I worked at didn’t pre assign rooms,. We were told to look at reservation notes and if there was nothing requested (beds, view) we could put you anywhere as long as the number of beds fit the number of people in your party. I was always horrible at this. If you were rude or a jerk, I’d put you in one of the middle rooms so I could save the best rooms for the really nice people. Most people are really nice to me so all the best rooms would run out in 10 minutes. I felt horrible as everyone asks, “It’s a good view right?” and sometimes I was forced to lie. I was told to say in so many words, “every room has a view” which is a hotel euphemism. Every room has a view – of the shrubs or the car park or the mountains. I know how much people spend on accommodation. There was one hotel I worked at where everyone stayed at just for the view and paid the extra $50 a night to have it but only 40% of the rooms actually had a view that wasn’t of a 8 foot shrub.

In Bed With Three.

Third parties. Have you ever been to a Front Desk and asked for a receipt at check out, only to have the girl (or guy) pretend to type in something and stare at you and say..”Um… who did you book through?” Or “let me get the manager.” It’s because under your name is the third-party code and we are not allowed to give you a receipt. Well we could but you’d be pissed if you saw it. Let me explain: A third-party (Expedia, Hotwire) can buy a room from a hotel at a rack rate, say $99 a night when we were charging $150 directly to consumers. The third-party then tacks on their fees and profit and that $99 rack rate they bought the room from us for, is now being sold to you for $330 a night. So when you don’t get a receipt, it’s because we are not allowed to give you one as it has the rack rate the third-party paid us for and then what you actually paid them. I made this mistake once and I will never make it again. A man asked me for his receipt, I didn’t look to see if he paid through a third-party. I printed it off and handed it to him. Three seconds later the F bombs were flying, he was on his cell phone screaming obscenities and asking me to check it. He had paid $1330 for 5 nights as a “deal” but his third-party had only brought the rooms from us at $80 a night. They had paid  us $400 and they were charging him $1330. Let’s just say, I wasn’t popular that day at work with the manager who received telephone calls from the guy all day asking WTF was going on and why he was being charged over 4 times the amount the room was worth. The joys of capitalism.

 Good from a far, but heinous up close

Look at the property you are going to. If you are looking online and see a picture, add about 5-7 years to it as all photographs are the best angles of the best room of each room type. Your probably not going to get the best room. That room was photographed as it’s the newest and looks the best, the 200 others weren’t photographed for a reason.

Also take your AAA or AARP and Military cards with you. Most places offer discounts but have a do not advertise policy once on the property.

Have you had a bad front desk experience? Stayed tuned for a not so nice version.


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