TRYING TIMES FOR TRAVELERS – Marilyn Armstrong

We almost never travel these days. The last time we stayed in a hotel was when we went to a wedding in Boston. We made the pricey decision to stay overnight in a nice hotel, or at least the nicest hotel we could manage. That way, we could enjoy the wedding without worrying about the long, dark drive home late at night.

I made the reservation about six weeks in advance, just after getting the invitation. A few days before the event, I got a bunch of emails from the hotel’s parent chain. I assumed that amidst all this communication there would be a reservation confirmation. I had already given them a credit card, so there was no reason why there should be any kind of problem.

aloft hotel aerialshot

There was no confirmation or even a reference to our having made a reservation. Nor was there any information about the hotel and its facilities. Instead, when I opened the email, it told me to log-in to their “club.”

You know how it works, right? Your airline, hotel, rental car are part of a much larger corporation that includes other hotels, motels, and rentals. They want to parlay your one-night reservation into a long-term relationship. Not likely, in our case, but I understand it’s their job to generate business. I don’t mind all the rest of the stuff, but where was the information I needed?

The problem was that this login screen required a username and password. I had neither. The email also lacked a few basics. Like the hotel’s address, phone number, directions, and information about parking. All of that information was probably accessible in their application. Which I couldn’t access.

They did include a corporate phone number. No address or reservation number. No confirmation number. I sighed that huge heaving sigh I use when I know I’m going to spend the next several hours dealing with customer service.

aloft lobby

I called the corporate office. They couldn’t help me. Nor could they transfer me to the hotel, but they found the hotel’s phone number. I called the hotel. After being put on hold for far too long, a man got on the phone. I explained the problem and he said, “Sorry, I’ll send you a confirmation now.”

The email turned out to be a full 6 web pages. In full color with animated graphics.

My printer has never in its life refused a direct order, but in the face of this massive overload of data, it would not load. It tried. Gamely kept trying. Eventually, it locked up my computer and refused to print.

I called back. “Can’t you just send me a plain text confirmation? And this time, please include the hotel’s actual address, phone number, and whatever other information I will need during check-in.”

So he sent me another email. Still no address, email, or telephone number.

I called again. “Uh … an address … and the check-in, check-out times … and your phone number … would be really helpful.” I paused, pondered. “What’s the parking situation? Are you walking distance from the Sheraton?” This hotel was part of the Sheraton group, so I had a feeble hope that they were near one another.

It turned out parking was $40 per night and was several blocks away. In a lot that was not adjacent to their hotel. Moreover, the Sheraton was on the other side of Boston, so we’ll definitely need a taxi. I was getting a headache. Why was this so complicated?

“I’m disabled,” I said. I really hate having to explain, but if we have to haul our stuff blocks from car to hotel, there’s no point in staying overnight. Goodbye convenience. Hello, expensive and inconvenient.

“Oh,” he said. “Well, we have disabled parking at the hotel. You could park there. That would be a lot less walking.”

“Can you promise me there will be a space in the disabled parking area?” I’ve had problems with this before, where they have two disabled spots and both are taken.

“Oh,” he assured me. “There’ll be space.” I’m wondering how come he’s sure because I’m not.

aloft guest room

Eventually, I copied and pasted the plain text email into a document, manually typed the address and phone number, then printed it. Supposedly, they’ll save a handicapped space for us. Maybe put an orange cone in the space. All of this adds up to why the joy has fled from traveling. A night in a good hotel should be fun. Easy. Why make it so complicated?

It was a nice hotel, though it had no dining facilities, not even a coffee shop. The only food you could get was from vending machines. Still, the room was clean and bright and the bed was comfortable. It was a tiny room without a dresser or closet. Just a bar with a couple of hangers. Clearly not a place you’d want to stay more than a night. It was the airline seat of hotel rooms. Rather like the least expensive room on a cruise ship when you won’t pay extra for a bigger room.

I’m old enough to remember when travel was something to which we looked forward. I would call a hotel or motel, made a reservation, then off we went. Sometimes we didn’t even make reservations but stayed wherever we happened to be. I fondly remember the good old days when a reservation involved one phone call, not half a day trying to get basic information and confirmation. Isn’t computerization supposed to make our lives easier?

Ironically, when I later googled the hotel, my reservation came up online with a note that only I could see displaying my reservation. Why didn’t I think of that? How did the information get into Google when I couldn’t get it on my computer?



Categories: Humor, Marilyn Armstrong, Transportation, Travel

Tags: , , , ,

17 replies

  1. I do hope you at least were able to park in disabled parking Marilyn. What a disappointment I can not imagine staying in a hotel with no cafe at leas! Did they do a room service breakfast at least? Or have stuff in the room?
    I stay in Air BnBs these days. Mind You I rarely travel and last trip was to the mainland South Australia in 2018. I stayed in wonderful Air B N Bs which were cheaper and better value with parking right at the door than any hotels I looked up.

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  2. Last week I made a reservation on the phone with an actual person for a stay in a bed and breakfast we have stayed in many times. The next day I realized I had not received a confirmation so I sent an email confirming that I had indeed secured the room. They emailed me back – saying they had sent an email, but later found out there was another guest with the same name as mine and they had emailed her the confirmation. She contacted them wondering why she had gotten an email reserving a room she never booked. The woman I had spoken to never confirmed my email on the phone, I suppose assuming when she pulled up my name the name that appeared was correct. Never assume!!

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  3. It seems our “paperless” society, that has been touted since my kids were in grade school, has more hangups than the sea has waves. I find that all the time and it drives me batty! I had to make a specialist appointment. They called (well a machine called) click 1 to accept click 2 blah blah blah and in the end, when I accepted, told me I was responsible for keeping the appt I had accepted. Interestingly, no phone number, no location, no address…it could be Timbuktu for all I know. I now have to google it and hope it’s available as I have no way of contacting this “specialist” mmmm specialist huh!

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  4. I HATE that. I travel a lot and nowadays I make sure I only book with the hotel directly (no booking com or such), that I get a written email confirmation and even better, I book a B&B or Airbnb. Much less trouble. Last time I was severely disappointed was in Leipzig, a (way too) fancy funky hotel where they cheated me in every way possible (and I speak German!). My Trip Advisor comment was according to their ‘service’.

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  5. You put your finger on why I don’t travel if I can possibly avoid doing so. The dunderheads have taken over customer service for most things one does if one wants to travel. No common sense is required to be the position of ‘customer service agent’ either. The last road trip I took was to a niece’s wedding last summer. The couple did their own invites and planning, and presumed, with the arrogance of most young people everywhere these days, that everyone was plugged into SnapChat or Instagram. I’m on neither and don’t care to join. Therefore I missed the wedding dinner to which I was invited and incurred the wrath of my sibling, who was the father of the bride. When I got to the only hotel in the town where she was married, I found, to my dismay, there was no restaurant nor even a cafe in the hotel. My dining options for the night I stayed were a sandwich shop, a fast food place or to drive an addition half hour to get to the place where they kept all the restaurants. I was beat and all I wanted to do was get my food (I’d have been happy to eat in a hotel restaurant or order room service, but noooo) and go to bed after having a hot shower. I’ve experienced the off site parking problem in the past, and those hotels are usually situated in some big city where I don’t want to leave my car (a rental usually, but still!) unattended. What the hell is going on? Those hotels wonder why their patronage is dropping off so badly. Well duh. No customer service means no patronage – at least from gimpy, fairly paranoid old bats like myself.

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