The feeling I most associate with travel hacking is "gratitude." That's because before I discovered the world of miles and points, or at least before I knew just how big and beautiful that world is, I still traveled all the time.
Back then I traveled "on the cheap," the same way many people travel today: booking flights based on the price of a ticket, regardless of the number or inconvenience of the connections, and booking noisy, inconvenient hostels. That wasn't all bad — I once stayed in a trailer park reconfigured as a hostel on the far, far, far outskirts of Amsterdam and had a great time biking around the Dutch countryside. But it also wasn't great (the steel trailer got up to 100 or so degrees in the sun).
Altogether, that means I'm sometimes confused about what conditions rise to the level of a "complaint."
Club Carlson properties are confusing
Last month we stayed in two Club Carlson properties, the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel in Budapest and Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel in Bratislava, and both properties had an ice situation that was confusing (remember, I'm easily confused).
The Radisson Blu Beke Hotel had an ice machine on our floor that appeared to me to be a Soviet relic. After I tweeted about the thing, someone apparently managed to get it working and it was full of ice the next day. Although in all honesty, I'm fairly sure they just filled it with ice from the restaurant to get me to shut up.
The beautiful old Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel in Bratislava upped the weirdness ante: every single floor of the hotel had an ice machine in a specially designed cabinet across from the elevators, and every single ice machine was unplugged, apparently permanently. I called the front desk for an explanation and the young lady working was happy to send up a bucket of ice from the bar. So that was terrific service, on the one hand, but on the other hand what were the ice machines doing there on every floor?
Hyatt Diamond food and beverage amenities are confusing
One of my favorite things I learned last month was the neologism "regranding." It's when, well, it's when this happens.
But that's neither here nor there. What I find confusing is when a Hyatt property has already installed some fruit basket or something in your room, then asks whether you'd like the Diamond points amenity or the food and beverage amenity. As a rule, I always take the food and beverage amenity.
At both the Park Hyatt Vienna and Grand Hyatt Berlin, the property then sent up a bottle of wine, which was much appreciated after a day of travel.
But under those circumstances, does the already-existing bowl of fruit in the room count as the food amenity? If I selected the points, would someone come up and take the fruit away? At the Grand Hyatt Berlin I simply told the agent at checkout that we'd never received a food amenity and he gave me the 1,000 Gold Passport points instead. Was I wrong?
What kind of feedback do hotels appreciate?
The waiters at the Park Hyatt Vienna breakfast buffet are absolutely incompetent (with one marvelous exception). The first day, we got a cup of coffee from our waiter and never saw him again. The second day, I managed to place an order with my waiter from the à la carte menu, and never saw him again. Only on our third morning in Vienna was I able to actually receive eggs Benedict cooked to order from the à la carte menu, once I shanghaied the only competent waitress in the entire restaurant (if you're staying there, e-mail me and I'll let you know which one she is).
Why I started this post by mentioning "gratitude" is that none of these things bother me at all. I tweet about stuff because it amuses me, or because I think my readers will find it amusing, but the fact that I'm able to stay in a hotel with a spa (even if the guy who does massages no longer works there) is a radical improvement over the kind of travel I did before I learned about the game.
But the response on Twitter from the brands themselves is invariably, "did you contact the hotel?" And that's a question I never have a good answer to. The Radisson Blu Carlton Hotel presumably knows that its ice machines don't work, but does the Park Hyatt Vienna know that its service staff is incompetent?
What helps improve the experience of guests, and what is just another box the property has to check when the chain's social media team tells them a guest is complaining?
I never "contact the hotel" unless my comfort is directly impacted in some way, like the time we had to get a maintenance man to fix the lights in our very strange room at the very weird Grand Hyatt New York. So I'm just throwing this out there: when do you "contact the hotel," and when do you just enjoy the ride?