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Friday, August 9, 2013

A Holiday Inn fan gets crushed (case # 37973108)

Everybody who knows me thinks I am Miss Holiday Inn. Ever since I can remember, I've been hooked on Holiday Inn hotels. I thought the green letters were nice, and they have great locations like San Francisco Fisherman's Wharf or on 208 Friend Street, that's across from the Boston Bruins stadium. Or on the corner of Yonge and Carlton Street in downtown Toronto - with Tim Horton's and Starbucks practically next door.









In 2000 I became a priority club member, and in the years to come, we have been to North America 1-2 times a year for 2-3 weeks at a time, always happily staying at a HI or HIE - Holiday Inn Express.
We witnessed the transformation of the HIEs. Stay smart. The round shower curtains, the firm and the soft pillows and the warm cinnamon rolls at the breakfast buffet, yum! 




From the lakes of Minnesota,

to the hills of Tennessee.
Across the plains of Texas,
From sea to shining sea.

From Detroit down to Houston,

and New York to L.A.

We've been to all those places, and more. That's a lot of traveling. That's a lot of bookings.

H***, we got engaged at the Yipee-ei-o Steakhouse in Tusayan, AZ, while staying at the HIE Grand Canyon location! 




We warmed up milk bottles for lil Colin a couple of years later, made laundry at countless locations, he is growing up thinking that going on vacation equals staying at HI. A couple of weeks ago we witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup - on a HI Chicago Downtown hotel TV!



So then, what's the matter?

I made a mistake. For our most recent trip I booked a room at the place near Houston Hobby Airport instead of George Bush Intercontinental Airport. I realized it, canceled, booked at the correct location and got appropriate confirmation messages within an hour. 

Case closed you might think. To my surprise upon our return - as if going home, unpacking, doing laundry and suffering from jet-lag wasn't bad enough- I found a credit card charge for the stay that didn't happen. 



Surely there must have been a mistake, and I know they can happen.  So I get online and find a customer service number in Switzerland. Actually I don't think the guy I talked to was sitting in Switzerland, but he was listening to me and said he would forward my case to the appropriate people in Houston, and they would get in touch with me within 48 hours. That was mid-July. Haven't heard from them until tonight, August 9. 

The time period within which you may object to your credit card bill was about to expire, so I filled in an online from and got an auto-response that said:

Thank you for contacting Guest Relations for IHG. Your email will be
forwarded to a Case Manager and you should expect a response within the

next 10-14 business days.

Kind regards
EMEA Birmingham Guest Relations 

OK, now I had started a CASE. I also filled in an online form with the credit card company   explaining my situation and they got back to me saying they made a provisional credit voucher until the hotel will come back with their statement. 

In the meantime I got my August IHG Rewards Club eStatement, and there weren't any points for the "wrong stay" - of course not, because I did not stay there. 

The guy with the Czech name working out of the UK guest relations office sent me a message a couple of days ago, apologizing that the Houston hotel had not gotten back to me, so he contacted them again on my behalf. This is what they replied to him:


Ms Gerber cancelled it in time. However, her reservation was an advanced 
purchase. Her phone # is international and I am unable to call her. We 
are emailing her now with this information.

He went on explaining that unfortunately the booking class I used was an advance payment tariff, and therefore no reimbursements could be made. 

The guy was very polite, explaining that it was beyond his control, thanking me for my patience and understanding, and offered to recontact Houston for me and to make sure they got in touch with me directly this time. 

Clearly he had been to customer care school and actually listened.

But hey, I beg you pardon? They can not call international phone numbers? Aren't they part of an international organization!? I know for a fact that there are Holiday Inns as far as in Australia! We were there for our honeymoon!



And frankly I don't remember what category I chose, it was a room with two double beds which I cancelled more than a month before the actual stay, and then they went ahead and sold that room to other people and charged them the amount! They charged two parties for one room! And I just want my money back. how hard could it be? In my book payments are made for stuff or services you actually get! And during my years working for Starbucks I have learned a thing or two about how to handle unhappy customers as well. I think one was "make sure they come back happy." Or "it's not only about your transaction in your store, it's about the reputation of the company and the brand as a whole." There are also other simple things like "win / win". 

So tonight, the Houston HIE General Manager  dropped me a note:


Ms. Gerber,

I understand your frustration with booking a hotel near the wrong airport.  However, our hotel must uphold our advance-purchase policy.

I understand you are a IHG Rewards member and you frequently visit the states, however, this policy must stand.

I am also forwarding this information to Guest Relations, so they can make note of this on your case.

Respectfully,

I hear policy. I hear "the rules are for everybody - even for the regular guests who made a tiny little mistake". And clearly I hear "I could help you, but I don't want to." Now this makes me sad. 

Their Facebook page says: "We strive to make every interaction you have with us simple, smart and refreshingly engaging."

I think I need Tom Hank's help - he is refreshingly engaging alright:


So please, dear Holiday Inn - zip, zip! 

Happy Back to School, Happy Labor Day, Happy Holiday Inn Day!