Editors Note: Some of you may recognize this post. Unfortunately during the move to First2Board a few stories got lost in space…this was one of them. So I’m reposting it now. Lucky for me, the content is still relevant!
The Entitled Traveler: You know the one…they have a melt down when they don’t get an upgrade. They express their dismay with the agent checking them in; complain to anyone who will listen, rant at management, Tweet about it, blog about it… you get the picture.
Does having elite status with a hotel or airline mean you’re somehow entitled? Sure, earning elite status with a hotel/airline means you get more and better benefits, but when did benefits become synonymous with entitlements? Just because the penthouse is available doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed that upgrade. If you’re continually complaining about #firstworldproblems, that might be a sign that you have become one of the entitled travelers.
I’ll make a comparison to the 20-somethings who have just gotten out of school and think they’re entitled to the best job, the best title, the best salary, etc… I was recently counseling someone who graduated from college 3 years ago. She was dissatisfied with her salary and was planning to ask her employer for a raise. She said “if they don’t give me 150k I’m outta here.” I asked her why she thought she should be paid that much money (for a position where the average salary is around $80-100k.) She had no idea, she just felt like she was entitled.
So why do elite travelers feel a similar sense of entitlement?
Every hotel and airline program has a set of terms and conditions about how they administer the benefits earned. If you read all that fine print, you’ll probably see something like: Upgrades to the best room available are subject to availability provided the room was not booked through a pre-paid third-party channel. Specialty Suites and multiple bedroom suites are excluded. Best rooms are identified by each property. And: The program benefits, amenities, offers, awards and services are subject to availability and may be changed at any time without notice by the program administrator. Key Words: subject to availability. Best rooms are identified by the property. Benefits may be changed at any time. Nothing about this says “entitled.”
By the end of 2o12 I had stayed 150 nights at Starwood properties that year. There had only been 3-4 times that I can remember not getting an upgrade. Once was the Hotel Pulitzer in Amsterdam (I tweeted about this one, and now I say, shame on me) the room I was given was tiny and the only window faced a cement wall. It was disappointing. Another time was at the Le Meridien Piccadilly. I had an inside room (no window) and was disappointed with the view. I complained to the hotel (didn’t tweet this time) and was told there wasn’t any other room. In the end, it turned out to be a great room. It was completely quiet and all of my colleagues who had rooms facing the main road said the noise drove them nuts.
I December I was at the Le Meridien Khao Lak, a place I’ve stayed 4 times previously, each time getting an upgrade to a villa. This time when I arrived I was told they didn’t have any villas or suites available. I didn’t complain, I didn’t tweet. I said, that’s okay. The room was older, but still a good size and the best benefit? There were no mosquitoes in the room! On the second to last night of the say (I was there 5 nights) I got a call from the front office manger telling me that a suite had opened up and if I wanted, I could switch rooms. I said sure, and thanked them. I moved to the suite and you know what? I got eaten alive by mosquitoes. So, two things came to mind, 1) Upgrades don’t always pay off and 2) had I been rude, had a sense of entitlement, or complained publicly I may not have been offered the upgrade when it became available.
Travel program benefits are great, we all love them, we all want them – that’s why we’re loyal to a brand. We want the recognition and the rewards that come along with status. But we don’t have to be boorish when we don’t get them.
My New Year’s resolutions for 2013 was to always remember that a benefit is just that, a benefit and not something that I’m entitled to. Sure, I love upgrades, I’ll take it if it’s offered, but I’m not going to complain if it doesn’t happen. I’m not going to be the entitled traveler and I don’t want to be lumped in with those who are! So here’s my pledge to you: I will not feel entitled.
Have you ever felt entitled and do you think it’s okay?