Lifestylist® Suzanne Felber advises you on where to have a fantastic customer experience, and where you might want to avoid. As a lifestyle expert she can tell you where to go to have the time of your life!

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Does Marriott Understand the New Millenial Consumer?

What a crazy few months it has been! May started with us attending The MHI Congress and Expo where we were awarded Best Interior Design and Model Home Merchandising for a home that we did for Clayton Homes, A clubhouse that we merchandised for YES! Communities was named Community of the Year, and we gave a well received speech on how Clayton Homes of Desoto changed their approach and started listening to and appreciating their customers like never before and the sales that were a result of that.
We went from there to visit the Riedman Companies and saw their spectacular new community on the Erie Canal - The Residences at Canalside. While we were there we decided to go and visit  and FLX Weinery - both owned by Master Sommelier and Chef Christopher Bates that I was fortunate to meet at the TEXSOM International Wine Awards this year. All of these are experiences that I need to write about and share, but I haven't been at my computer long enough to get my thought on paper!
Something happened last week though that I decided needed to be written about sooner than later, and that's the mistake that some hotel chains are making when understimating the intelligence, wealth, and potential loyalty of millenials.
My sister and beautiful, talented niece needed to be in Austin with a group of her close friends for a bridal shower. All were either college grads with great jobs or were in graduate school, and the youngest was 24. They talked about staying at the Driskill Hotel - a hotel with lots of charm that I just saw is now run by Hyatt, but since my sister has been a gold Starwood member for over 10 years she thought it would be fun if they got the extra service that her status should provide, and they decided to stay at the Westin Downtown Austin. This was Memorial Day weekend, and when a few of them decided to check out the rooftop pool and bar to catch up, one of them was singled out and told that her Oklahoma license didn't look valid and told her he would have to take it to the police station to validate it. When he came back over 30 minutes later, he said they couldn't tell if it was authentic or not, and rule following, non-confronational ladies they are they decided it wasn't worth it and went back to their rooms.
This is when it gets odd - the hotel then delivered a bottle of inexpensive prosecco to her room that they all laughed about - their rooms were over $300.00 a night, and the quality of the bottle did not reflect the image of the hotel. When my sister found out about how they were treated the next day she was furious, especially since it was her idea to stay there. When she got a survey she made them aware of the issues and got this reply (names removed)
Dear ,

Thank you for taking the time to complete the Guest Satisfaction Survey in regards to your recent stay at the Westin Austin Downtown.

I understand your frustration about the situation and apologize for any confusion that might have taken place. You are right being diligent about underage drinking we take very seriously here at the Westin and have strict measures we take to ensure those that can properly and safely consume alcohol of which we can control do. I was the manager that took the ID not to the station but the police officer working 6th and San Jacinto to have him use his scanner to validate the ID. He was not able to validate the ID. The girls that were with her confirmed with me that sometimes Oklahoma ID's don't work properly as I trust and understand. They even asked if a second form would work and I said yes if she had one which she did not. I would like to point out there was at least one other girl in the group that was underage during this time. These scenarios prohibited us from selling alcohol to your daughter. I promise I was cordial and stayed with them to explain everything as I understand potential sensitivity however I cannot and will not risk our establishments reputation.

If you would like to talk further about this scenario I am readily available at your convenience. Upholding our commitment to provide a memorable experience with exceptional service, we hope to have an opportunity to better your experience with us whenever your travels bring you back to Austin.

Talk about throwing fuel on the fire! He wrote my sister's name in all caps which means screaming on social media, then he wrote his name using all lower case which I stopped doing in grade school. There were NO underage people in their party, and if he was so concerned, why did they then send a bottle of Prosecco to her room?
This is when my sister shared this with me, and I started seeing how a hotel presumes that younger guests are there to party and don't give them the respect that I only hope they extend to other guests. Before I wrote this I thought I would reach out to Westin and Starwood, but since they have been purchased by Marriott my request for their side of this went to them. Even though I told them I was on a deadline, I received no response from Marriott. I did receive this from the hotel manager that caused the issues:

Dear Suzanne,

Thank you for taking the time to reach out as Starwood and Marriott have connected me with you. I appreciate you reaching out so we can share more color in a story such as this.

Firstly we were delighted to have the party stay with us. We understand how exciting a bridal shower can be!

At check in we are required I.D. the person who is on the reservation; however once we have confirmed that an adult is present the legal requirement is fulfilled. At the time there was no reason to question if age verification for Ms. R would be in need.

As I’m sure you can appreciate, the welfare and safety of our guests is extremely important. There were a number of groups and individuals at the rooftop bar at the time in question. The group was engaged with was with a number of others who confirmed that they were underage and were not looking to have drinks from the bar. Although it can sometimes be very easy to identify individuals when they are frequent guests of our hotels it is not always abundantly clear within a social space.

The reason why my bartender and then i asked about her I.D. is because we’d prefer to be safe than sorry. Because our guests and the service the receive is important I took the extra step and did took the ID to a police officer with a scanner to read ID’s to confirm the validity. Whilst I was there the police officer was unable to confirm its validity and recommended that the hotel not serve R. The police did say that the I.D. should be returned to her as they could not verify if it was valid or not. If it was identified as invalid they would have confiscated it. Unfortunately we do not have the same access as the police department and therefore could not check the ID ourselves. This is why I physically left the hotel to seek advice. Upon my return, the group shared their concern about if the ID would be accepted elsewhere while I could not confirm if other establishments would upon their request I offered to take other ID’s just to make sure they were valid. The group did deny the need however.

We do take our responsibilities extremely seriously; this includes our service to all our guests. We accommodate a number of guests and are proud to have the flexibility to meet the needs of those who walk through our doors. It is therefore extremely disappointing to understand that the gestures extended to the room did not meet with their expectations. It should be noted as well I did not send a bottle of Champagne to their room nor do we have record of a bottle being delivered to their room that evening.

With respect to the greeting and signature these are design options which was created and supported by the Westin brand after a guest of the hotel fills out a satisfaction survey. This is very good feedback however and as you can see below this is our normal and standard signature that we have.
REGARDS,
Not to be the grammar police but Marriott is letting this person speak and write for them? It's so unprofessional I don't know where to start. There were no underage people in their party, and someone sent a bottle of Prosecco to their room - it would seem like they should be able to figure that out.
It never had to get to this. All manager "N" had to do was say we are so sorry to inconvenience you, please accept our apologies and move on. Instead they underestimated how all of these professional women could be the people who can afford to stay at their hotels and share a great experience with their friends for years to come instead of remembering the weekend where they took my license and did who knows what with it for over a half hour then sent "champagne" to my room. I'm thinking these up and coming millenials will be loyal to a brand that respects them and their buying power, and all that Marriott had to do to keep them was to say I'm sorry.

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