This week the Compensation Clinic makes a stop at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok where I stayed on a booking made through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts last week.
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American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts comes with a US$100 (or local equivalent) “experience credit” that the guest can use at designated outlets but what to do when said outlets don’t offer any seating for in-house guests due to being fully booked?
I had one such case last week where I stayed one night at the Waldorf Astoria Bangkok booked through Amex FHR and encountered several issues along the way.
Here is a detailed article about American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts I wrote up a few weeks ago:
Confusion With American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts: Why The Expedia Booking Designator, Are They Points Eligible?
What happened this time?
The reservation was originally supposed to be a couple of days later but due to bad weather in Phuket and a flight cancellation by THAI I moved it forward to February 14 which was Valentine’s Day. The rate was the same ($192++) and the hotel actually not very busy but it should become a problem as far as the use of the F&B credit was concerned.
Here are the details and benefits for FHR Guests as provided at check-in:
Since I’m also Hilton Honors Diamond many of the benefits are duplicates and therefore don’t make much difference.
I did receive an upgrade to a Deluxe Suite with a city view (roofs with air conditioners) and a really noisy air condition that turned the room either too hot or too cold.
The hotel has several F&B outlets including The Loft which is a popular bar and I called the day before to reserve a table for the evening. I didn’t plan to spend $100 on alcohol though, however it would come to exactly that.
When I inquired in the evening (6pm) where to get something to eat I was told that all F&B outlets are fully booked and that there was no option to eat anywhere on property. I remarked the credit and told them I can eat in the room if absolutely necessary but they declined as “the credit isn’t eligible for room service”. Seriously?
The hotel didn’t have any senior management for the entire week. There is no General Manager at the hotel despite the welcome letter being (electronically) signed by Mr. Simeon Olle who is apparently the GM there. He might have missed appointing a qualified replacement when he’s away but the hotel was left in the hands of a local Duty Manager and the Executive Chef. In what way these individuals are qualified to run a hotel is anyone’s guess. The Executive Chef is definitely an expert in his field but running the hotel isn’t his job. The concierge directed us to dine at either a nearby hotel (Anantara, St. Regis or Grand Hyatt) or to “try our luck” at Central World. We ended up going to Grand Hyatt and eating something there, incurring a $55 bill for the dinner.
The reservation at The Loft was the next curiosity. Despite the reservation, it wasn’t a table but a seat at the counter and even that wasn’t really a reservation as the hostess asked where we want to sit, at the bar or the counter by the window. In the end, we decided to do a bit of cocktail tasting since the credit became all but funny money at this point. One cocktail is 400 Baht, order six of them and the credit was gone. Realistically we’d have ordered maybe 2-3 and sparkling water.
Breakfast was actually rather nice but nothing extraordinary. I did enjoy The Brasserie as a location though, probably the strongest item during the entire stay.
the same Duty Manager from the day before refused to reimburse the dinner bill from the Grand Hyatt so I just left with the note that I’d be opening a file with Hilton Guest Assistance which I promptly did.
The next day the Front Office Manager emailed and offered 5,000 points compensation which in her view have a value of US$50 (LOL!). I declined and asked them to cease communication with me and go through HGI instead. They had their chance to regulate it and chose not to.
Hilton Guest Assitance replied:
Thank you for contacting Hilton Guest Assistance. It will be my pleasure to assist with AC issues.
I understand your frustration and appreciate you contacting us to share your concerns. I apologize for the inconvenience you have faced.
I have validated all the details of the case and the inconvenience you have faced due to AC issues. I have taken the charge to assist you with the best possible resolution. Hotel team have apologized and working on to fix the issue for future stays. Hotel team have credited 5,000 as token of apology which cost equals to 50 USD as per the purchase cost of Honors points. I have also additional credited 5,000 as goodwill gesture.
As a valued Diamond member your feedback is very important to us and it is highly appreciated that you have taken the time to share your concerns with us. We at Hilton Corporate thank you for bringing this matter to our attention and for your loyalty to our Portfolio of Brands. As a gesture of goodwill, I am pleased to enroll you in the promotion under which you will earn 2,500 points on your next eligible stay within 60 days only. …
The response doesn’t even mention the issue with the FHR credit. In the end, the total compensation I received was 10,000 Hilton Honors points and some strange sign-up for a separate promotion, offering 2500 points on my next stay within 60 days. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of such a thing but I guess we learn something new every day. I decided to rest my case at this point and rather add the property to my Do Not Stay list.
After notifying American Express about this I received the following response from them, including a US$100 travel credit for a future reservation (hotel or flight) elsewhere:
This wasn’t Amex’s fault, they just negotiate with the hotel the benefits a member is supposed to receive. Hotels can very well include blackout dates or initiate a stop-sale for this kind of reservations on specific dates of high demand if they see fit. Revenue management didn’t choose to do so.
There are way better properties in Bangkok, especially at this price point and during these days. Waldorf was 4x the price that Conrad charged.
I wouldn’t call this a satisfactory stay by any means. Considering it’s Hilton’s premier property in Bangkok the service experience was shambolic. Even the Conrad would have been a better experience and definitely a lot better value for money. Since this was an FHR reservation an alternative would have been the St. Regis next door where I have stayed previously and they allowed me to use the credit for room service.
Waldorf Astoria is a strange brand. It’s really hard to put a finger on it as far as brand standards are concerned. I loved staying at the original WA in New York City but then it became a brand of it’s own capitalizing on the famous name. The experience in Shanghai, the Maldives and now in Bangkok has always been lackluster at best. The fact that there wasn’t even a GM or Hotel Manager at the property is mind-boggling as well. Thankfully this stay was over quick and 10,000 points are a small token compensation but better than nothing to just move on. The $100 voucher from Amex Travel is a nice gesture especially since it wasn’t their fault.
This kind of customer service resolution makes it easier for me to justify the rather high annual fees on my Amex charge cards (US, ICC, Japan).