By Christopher Elliott Travel columnist
Tribune Media Services
updated 10/18/2007 1:05:50 PM ET 2007-10-18T17:05:50
THE TRAVEL TROUBLESHOOTER

I’m trying to get a promised refund of loyalty points from Doubletree, and I’m just about out of patience. We stayed at the Doubletree Grand Hotel, near the port of Miami, just before taking a cruise earlier this year. I cashed in 30,000 of my hard-earned Hilton HHonors points for the room.

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It was a disappointing experience. We had a horrible time at the hotel, basically because of service that we didn’t receive. Although I complained at the time to the manager, nothing was done to make things right, and since our cruise was leaving, I decided to pursue the matter with Hilton, which owns Doubletree, when we returned.

I was contacted by a hotel manager and offered a gift certificate. I declined, since we won’t be visiting Miami anytime soon. Then I was offered a 20,000-point refund, which I accepted. But the points never showed up in my account. After several inquiries, I received an apology and a promise of another 10,000 points to make up for the trouble.

It’s been nearly four months since we stayed at the Doubletree, and no points have shown up in my account. What’s more, I haven’t received any response to my last e-mail, in which I say that I feel as if I’m getting the runaround. Your help would be greatly appreciated.
— Elizabeth Klikas, Riverside, Ill.

A: Doubletree needs to refund you points, on the double. When you don’t get the service you expect and a hotel offers to make things right, the apology and compensation needs to be delivered promptly. Not a month or, God forbid, four months from now.

You say that you complained when the service problems started, but that nothing was done. Who did you talk to? Normally, guests pick up the phone and speak with a hotel operator. That’s not good enough.

Dropping by the front desk for a personal visit is a far more effective way to get what you deserve. I would have done this the minute you discovered the service lapse. Take the elevator downstairs and politely present yourself to the clerk at the front desk. If he or she doesn’t offer an immediate resolution, ask for a manager.

My point is, don’t leave until you have want you want. Because once you’ve checked out you’ve almost certainly closed the door on a speedy resolution — and maybe even any resolution at all.

Hotels strongly prefer to resolve any customer service problems before you check out, mostly because it’s far easier to make something up to you while you’re still a guest. Of course, it’s also embarrassing to have to explain a customer service lapse to your bosses at corporate headquarters.

I can’t imagine why Doubletree stalled on refunding your points. But in reading the correspondence between you and the hotel, it’s clear that the delay was unintentional — perhaps the result of a mix-up between departments or simple error. The last thing any hotel would want to do is to add insult to injury by failing to give you what it promised.

I contacted Doubletree on your behalf. It replied to you immediately, apologizing for what it called a “lapse in communication” and credited your account with 30,000 points. It also sent you a certificate good for a free night’s stay at any Doubletree hotel.

Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler
magazine and the host of “What You Get For The Money: Vacations” on the Fine Living Network. E-mail him at celliott@ngs.org.

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