Elite Members: Dropping a hotel reservation if you’re not upgraded?

Upgrades to higher room categories, including standard suites, are a big part of everything Hotel loyalty program and many times hotels are playing games with availability, refusing upgrades even to high-level elites.

A contentious issue is how to handle these situations and we have often advocated here on LoyaltyLobby to simply cancel the reservation and book elsewhere if a property does not honor program benefits.

I had another such case which was rather interesting this week because I used a Hyatt Milestone Cat 1-4 certificate to make a reservation at Grand Hyatt Seoul and on the day of arrival there was no still no visible upgrade in the app.

Rather than waste time and money in the taxi getting there and seeing how it goes, I decided to email the hotel and inquire about the allocation of the room and what time the room would be available.

Here is the response from the management of the Grand Hyatt Seoul Grand Club:

Warm greetings from Grand Hyatt Seoul.

This is Judy, assistant manager of the Grand Club.

First of all, thank you for your reservation today in our hotel.

Regarding your room, we regret to inform you that the room upgrade for Globalist will not be available as we are expecting a full room today.

However, we will do our best to arrange a standard king room with a nice view and the room will be ready around 2pm.

Once again, thank you for your reservation and we look forward to welcoming you soon.

If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Thank you so much.

Best regards,

Grand Club Assistant Manager 그랜드클럽 과장

GRAND HYATT SEOUL 그랜드 하얏트 서울

322 Sowol-ro, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, 04347, Korea

It’s really ridiculous. Besides still selling a decent amount of different room types, they advise that Globalist members cannot expect ANY type of upgrade. Not a suite, not a club room, not some sort of premium room – NOTHING!

I replied to the email that under these conditions they should please cancel the reservation and return the free night certificate to my account. They did it quickly without further questions:

Thank you for your quick reply.

The room reservation for today has been canceled as a result, as you requested.

And, we have verified that the reward has already been returned to your account.

Thanks a lot and have a nice weekend.

Best regards,

JUDY

Grand Club Assistant Manager 그랜드클럽 과장

They don’t seem at all bothered by a customer who cancels and walks away. If they are really at full capacity, that would have been a pretty high refund from World of Hyatt, close to today’s rather high rate. The hotel’s income seems to be doing well!

Here are the upgraded room categories that were available on the website at the time I received this email:

I don’t know what’s going on in this hotel, but there’s no point in arguing. Simply canceling and rebooking a new room elsewhere is the best solution when it comes to hotels cheating and not wanting to play by the rules.

I answered in a few lines and copied the general manager (who is also the regional vice president for South Korea). Of course, this whole policy is his doing, there’s no way the hotel staff will do this haphazardly without the clear direction of the hotel management, no matter where in the world.

It just wasn’t worth keeping this reservation at the Grand Hyatt Seoul, so I decided to cancel. The hotel didn’t seem to care. To pursue. Now I’m flexible and travel for leisure without pressing appointments or family in tow, which gives me more freedom to decide these things on short notice. That being said, would I be traveling with my family and need the space which would be an even more pressing reason to give up on this reservation and stay somewhere else where I can get a suite.

I should have looked at Tripadvisor before because you instantly know something is wrong, so a hotel has so many negative reviews from people who write like they know what they are talking about:

This is a very poor review distribution profile. 217 reviews think this hotel is bad versus 706 who think it is good. I tend to look at the profiles of those who submit bad reviews and see how they are written. In the case of the Grand Hyatt Seoul, most of the bad reviews seem to come from seasoned travelers, so these weigh even heavier.

Also, this property does not respond in any way to Tripadvisor reviews, whether positive or negative. This is extremely rare these days and indicates that management has decided that it is impossible to defend or blame their poor performance. Looks like I dodged a bullet here.

If you ever face such a situation where cancellation is necessary for the reasons described here, you may sometimes need to call the hotel company (program hotline) to have your reward or points returned to you. In this case, it happened automatically.

I finally decided to stay at the Andaz Seoul which was excellent.

Conclusion

It’s a difficult and controversial topic and I’ve had this discussion with people many times. My position is that these programs have rules and just as I must abide by those rules, I expect hotels to do so as well. If basic parts of booking and on-site perks are no longer available, I have no problem walking away. I have elite status with all the major hotel chains, so there will almost always be another option available locally.

Especially in hotels where it makes a big difference in value and comfort, I insist on receiving my benefits as described in the tier schedule. This Hyatt Cat 4 price can be used in a range of destinations I have coming up and even in the worst of circumstances it will be worth ~$200 (even more when the rates are over the top).

Have you ever argued with hotels that refused upgrades or other perks and canceled your reservation?

About Michael B. Billingsley

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