We have had a Hurricane here. Sandy–you might have heard of it. Unfortunately, the worst storm ever to hit Manhattan has coincided with the Magennis family’s first trip to the United States. They have spent the last three days sitting in the cold and dark with me in Itchy Ankle and are due in the Big Apple tomorrow. Our power is now back on and so we checked the website for their pre-booked, pre-paid hotel yesterday. The Marriott Downtown is of course closed until November 4, the day they are due to fly back to the UK. There is, as you would expect, a phone number for disappointed guests to call, so they can be relocated to another Marriott property. We used my US phone to call it–the family wouldn’t be able to dial from their UK phones.
The person who answered the phone at Marriott HQ seemed unaware of a weather calamity on the East Coast; that their property was closed; and that there was a message directing dislocated guests to her. We were put on hold. Twice. For a very long time. We were then transferred to a supervisor, who was irritated. She told us that there were beds at the Marriott East Side, but at a much higher rate and that she couldn’t book them. She told us to call our travel agent whose responsibility she felt it was to sort us out. At no point was she welcoming, reassuring or problem-solving. There was no “I’m sorry” or “Poor You” or “Thank you for choosing Marriott–we’ll make sure you are safe and have somewhere to sleep until you are able to get back to the UK”. The Magennis’ were left in no doubt that, although the hotel chain had their money, the Marriott felt no need to be involved.
We used my phone to call the Florida-based booking company, Turico, who have also been paid. They advised us to call the UK. “But is says to call you IMMEDIATELY if there is a problem” we whimpered, pathetically.”That’s only at check in” replied the alleged customer service person, tartly. It didn’t seem to matter that no-one would be able to get to the hotel,because of the flooding, or to check in since it is closed. We used Terry’s UK phone to call the UK. Rob at STA travel knew about the Hurricane and was very reassuring and friendly. He didn’t have a plan, but did promise to call back. He hasn’t yet, but let’s hope he will.
The Magennis family are welcome in Itchy Ankle for as long as it takes, but they will have to get to New York at some point, for they have a flight booked from JFK to Heathrow. (That will be the next problem we have to solve-United, we are relying on you to do better than Marriott. Oh dear.)
Not everyone now stranded on the East Coast or in NYC has a friend with a home to throw open. Not everyone has internet access or a U.S phone. Not everyone has gumption, and money in the bank, and kids that are able to go with the (polluted flood water) flow. The Marriott is supposed to be a hospitality leader. Turico is meant to help its customers have a great vacation experience. This was not a welcome to America. Must try harder. Must do better.