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Bad Behavior by Big Business (Marriott)

This column often rails against government at all levels for their heartless failings, lack of responsiveness and lack of taking responsibility for ill-fated actions. Occasionally, big business deserves a slap across the face for errant behavior or worse.

When the customer has a bad experience, 95% of the time it is the fault of the business. Let me remind you of a Bialoskyism: There are three steps to resolving an issue. First, apologize. No matter how irate the customer is, saying “I’m sorry” almost always halts them. Second, take responsibility. Third, promise to fix it.

A second Bialoskyism is that people (businesses) make mistakes. It is not that you make a mistake; it is how you fix the mistake that is important. A quick response and remedy to the mistake is mandatory and gains customer respect (and continued loyalty).

We are life-long followers of UCLA basketball as BW’s (the Beautiful Wife) father was co-captain of the 1947 team when 6-foot-tall Jews could still play college basketball. The team frequently gets into the Final Four and most years we make plans to attend.

The BW made a reservation, which she made sure was cancellable, at a Fairfield Inn (one of many Marriott hotel divisions) in Metairie which is about a half-hour drive to the New Orleans Superdome, locale of the event. Under the Cancellation Policy area on her written confirmation it states, Changes to your reservation are not permitted. Please note that you may cancel your reservation for no charge before 11:59 P.M. local hotel time on April 2, 2022. Pretty unambiguous language. She filed the confirmation away.

Unfortunately, the Bruins lost which immediately prompted the BW to cancel the reservation. She received a confirmation on Fairfield letterhead that the cancellation was made on March 25, 2022, way before the deadline. She thought the issue was over until she received a charge on our credit card for $812.78.

She contacted the hotel who then told her that the reservation was not refundable, citing some additional language in the correspondence. She focused on the unambiguous language printed on the confirmation directly under the words Cancellation Policy. They were unwilling to budge on their interpretation.

She started to pursue other paths such as contacting her credit card company and the Marriott Bonvoy corporate customer service number believing that she would have some leverage with her platinum elite status. The credit card was a no go, but surprisingly the customer service people even at the supervisor level were talking in circles. They told her she had to go back to the hotel. The general manager of the hotel was less than helpful. She felt stymied. That is when the “Hammer” stepped in. I do this kind of stuff for a living. I welcome the description that I am Ray Donovan without the blood.

I spoke to a supervisor on the customer relations line who happened to be named Charlie Rose (not that one). He agreed that we had an excellent point and that they had certainly created an ambiguity, promising to alert the appropriate folks up the food chain. Then he disappeared. I spoke to the GM of the hotel in Metairie who was expressing displeasure that he had to spend more time on this issue and was less than helpful except until he stated it is a Marriott-owned property.

That should not matter much because Marriott sells you on going to one of their hotels whether company owned or franchised. Marriott certainly had more leverage with their own property.

We had hit a wall when BW asked if we’re done. “Have we met?” I hate when capitalist companies behave badly. Then we start hearing the socialists wanting to assert new rules and the companies are fined. The money goes into government coffers to hire more employees who do next to nothing. I tracked down the CEO of Marriott, Anthony Capuano, and his email. I wrote him a letter making clear that because of the ambiguity the corporation was responsible for the problem.

We received a call from a Corporate Liaison three days later. The woman we spoke to may as well have been a recording. The policy was on the website, etc. etc. etc. We asked to speak to her supervisor, but she refused to have us speak to anyone, except another Corporate Liaison (Stepford Wives). She did finally cave and said she would call the GM. She called back with a “generous offer” of a 10% refund.

Why do companies do this? By the next day, BW deleted three future Marriott property reservations and converted her loyalty points to airline miles. This column will be read by an untold amount of people. The BW is giving her take on this in her travel blog. A sizable number of people will be exposed to Marriott’s errant behavior.

I refer you back to the two Bialoskyisms above. First, always follow the three steps. They had clear culpability and only two low-level employees admitted that, but then did nothing about it. Always judge a business by how they manage things when matters go south. If they manage problems well, you know they are a well-run company. Mr. Capuano is no Bill Marriott.