In today’s modern world of WiFi, iPhones, texting and the like, we don’t expect to encounter major Internet difficulties when traveling. Sure, there are still remote destinations (especially here in the Great American West), when good, fast and reliable Internet connections can be a little sketchy, however, even in those remote areas, access to email and the worldwide web is being improved upon almost daily. In any event, “getting away from it all” is part of the allure of a lot of those places—you just have to be prepared to “unplug.”
But if you happen to find yourself in a well-developed area within the U.S. on a four-night stay in a large hotel—one that regularly holds conferences to boot—I find it pretty normal to expect that I’m going to enjoy flawless high-speed Internet access as soon as I fire up my laptop. Not. That was most definitely not the case during a trip to Utah last week and instead, I spent four agonizing days trying to do something as simple as logging onto a website or sending an email with an attachment (a very small one, mind you).
My travel companion and I voiced our grievances from almost minutes after check in when we settled ourselves into our rooms following six long hours of travel and realized we were going nowhere with the hotel’s Internet service. We took little solace in the fact that we were told that “no one else was having problems.” In fact, that short and totally invalidating line seemed to be the mantra of every front desk person we complained to at this property, a less-than satisfying response that we heard as much as three times a day. After the first twenty-four hours of aggravation, we were told we’d be given 10% off of the room. We were also lead to believe that the system had been checked out and that all was well from their end. (Hence, the difficulties must have been due to our Colorado karma.)
Instead of wearing myself down with what seemed to be an unresolvable situation, I set up my work station in the hotel lobby where, although it was far from ideal, I managed to accomplish some of the work I had to do until almost 2 a.m.. (Indeed, it would have been much nicer to stay in my room to get my work accomplished online in a fraction of the time instead of in this cold, uninviting space.) I decided there would be no blogging and my newsletter that was to be sent out to the 5,000 people on my list announcing the publication of my new book, “A Tour of the Heart: A Seductive Cycling Trip Through France,” would have to be delayed. Indeed, the announcement of this travel memoir more than a decade in the making, would be put on hold.
But when I tried to create the eVite that was to serve as the invitation for the book party I was having back in Telluride and that became impossible, I blew my top. I didn’t have the luxury of running to the nearest coffee shop for easy WiFi access and truly, I had had it with this hotel. Instead of going through the Alice in Wonderland bit of everyone seemingly lying to me, I decided to ask for the hotel general manager directly. The Front Desk Manager (this person considerably more accommodating) passed him to me on the phone from the busy hotel lobby. I didn’t care if the other guests at check in listened to my upset—I had had enough.
Two IT guys were sent directly to my room and after just a few short minutes of checking the Internet speed and other settings, sheepishly admitted there was a big problem on their end. Upload speed was virtually nonexistent. And the famous work order that had been submitted after my first complaint was only half carried out, having determined that downloading was working great.
The G.M. called me back, kindly following up on the complaint, however, he was not especially apologetic about my trying week at his hotel. He offered a complimentary dinner at the sister hotel’s restaurants to make up for his establishment’s shortcomings. We already had plans elsewhere and although that was a nice gesture, I found it less than adequate. No, I asked for a full comp on the room for all four nights, something I thought was more than fair and also a demand that my hotel-general-manager-boyfriend agreed to be the minimum “to make it right.” This G.M. hesitated on that, then finally agreed, perhaps because he knew I was a travel writer and he thought it best not to have the name of his property printed along with this story. Not having to pay for the stay took away some of the sting but I can tell you that I would have preferred to have accomplished my work in a peaceful manner. Now I have a lot of catching up to do and my stress level remains high.
Here’s the moral of the story: Never settle. If you’re not happy about something, make sure the hotel or other service provider either fixes it within a reasonable amount of time or makes it right for you. I’m not shy, and although I spoke out from the get-go, in retrospect, I think I should have gotten the G.M. on the phone within the first twenty-four hours, especially since no one else paid much attention to my situation.
In this day of social media and TripAdvisor reviews, the client really is king. You don’t have to be a travel writer to get someone’s attention. Speak up, state your case and obtain results. Don’t just roll over and take it like I did (until I couldn’t put up with it any more). As the consumer, you have the power. Now use it!