I was very excited to stay at the Westin Times Square this past weekend. It is the second to last Starwood property that I needed to visit to round out my mission of staying in every NYC Starwood property. I was equally excited because I got a suite upgrade – well, it was a junior suite upgrade.
Upon arrival, everything seemed like it was falling into place for a great stay. The front desk agent was extremely nice and friendly. Check in was smooth and I was off to my room quite quickly.
Upon arriving to my room on the 38th floor I discovered my keys didn’t work. I tried both of them a few times just to make sure. I walked back to the elevator bay and used the house phone to ask if someone could meet me at my room ( I didn’t feel like dragging my suitcase back down.) The person who answered said they ‘could’ send security, but they had no idea how long it would take and that I should just go back to the front desk. This should have been my first clue that staff was not service oriented, but I was tired and looking forward to my NY weekend so I didn’t pay much attention. I went back to the front desk and the person who checked me in was with another guest so someone else assisted me. This agent decided to lecture me about how sensitive the keys are and that I must have put it next to my phone or a credit card and that I should be more careful. His tone was really unnecessary. After I told him that I’d just checked in, had my suitcase in one hand and my passport and key card in the other he shrugged and reset the keys.
Back to the 38th floor I went. This time the keys worked.
The room was nice – not spectacular, but nice. The junior suite was one room divided by a partial wall. Each partial room had a flat screen TV. The lounge area had a couch and chair. The furniture looked kind of dated but it was in pretty good shape. In the bedroom area there was a desk, king sized bed and nightstand. Inside of the closet there was a mini-bar and safe. The bathroom was larger than you might expect in NY, however it did have a bathtub/shower combo (great for families, but I prefer stand alone showers.)
My only real complaint about the room is that the blackout shades don’t really do a great job of blacking anything out. There was a ton of light that came through and at one point, it looked like there was a laser light show on the wall from all the lights of Times Square. I guess that’s the risk you take at Times Square, but I’ve stayed at plenty of Times Sq hotels that have really great black out shades. Aside from that, the room was fine – nothing to write home about – but completely adequate. The best thing about the room – the view!
On day two I really started experiencing problems. In the morning it dawned on me that no one had told me about a lounge or breakfast options. I asked a bellman who told me there was a lounge and to ask the front desk about it. Instead of asking the front desk, I just called service express. They said there was no lounge. Now I was really confused. A fellow blogger, Frequent Travel Lawyer, told me she thought there was a lounge, so I called the front desk and they told me there wasn’t a lounge. I asked about breakfast and they said that I could buy breakfast at Shula’s Steakhouse, from room service or at the coffee shop next door. I wish the person checking me in had offered breakfast as my amenity because Shula’s prices were so shocking that I went to Starbucks.
I called Service Express and asked them to notify housekeeping that I didn’t need any service, they said no problem. That didn’t stop housekeeping from knocking, twice.
In the afternoon I noticed there was a lot of noise outside my room. It didn’t really bother me since it was mid-day. When I left to go shopping I noticed dozens and dozens of stacked chairs lining the hallway. When I came to get ready for dinner, I discovered folding tables up and down the halls.
After dinner I came back to the hotel. Around 10:30, there were several people working on the floor moving furniture (desks, beds, etc…) out of rooms and lining the hallway with them. The noise was pretty annoying at that point. I called service express to ask if they were doing renovations or constructions and they said no. I asked why the noise, and they said they had no idea, nothing was happening on my floor. I have photographic evidence, there was a lot happening. At 11 pm I called back again and this time the person said they weren’t aware of anything going on, but they’d send up security right away.
Somewhere around 11 or 11:15, as the noise escalated, I called the front desk and asked for a duty manager. I spoke to a woman named Allie who apologized and said she would find out what was happening and call right back. She did just that. She apologized, said that there was a communication and housekeeping didn’t know there was anyone in the room. Now, remember, housekeeping knocked on my door twice that day even though I’d requested no service. So someone knew I was there, plus, there was a do not disturb sign on my door.
After Allie took charge the noise stopped. I just wish it hadn’t taken 3 calls and a tweet to Westin to make it happen.
The next morning the noise started up again, bright and early – I’m not even sure if the sun was completely up! So needless to say, I was grumpy when I woke up. I spent the day working in the room and listening to clunks and bangs all day. When I went out to grab lunch it seemed that they’d transformed the 38th floor into a meeting facility. Every door was wide open and I could see that each room had a large table and several chairs in it. The tables that lined the hallways were now covered with linens. In the elevator bay there was a small table, two chairs and some stands for signage (I assumed that would show up later.)
At 4pm I checked out of the hotel. This was one of the stranger experiences of the day. It started with what I thought was a simple request – could I leave a UPS envelope that was already labeled for UPS to pick up. Oh no! Absolutely not. I was told by three separate people that they ONLY work with FedEx and that I could pay the business center to to ship it FedEx. Um, no thanks. I also had to pre-stamped envelopes that I wanted to have sent via USPS. I walked over to the business center and they said there was a handling fee for each envelope. Are you kidding? I had two envelopes, with stamps on them – what type of handling did they need to do? I went to the concierge and told her about the situation, she said she’d mail them at no charge and looked up some nearby UPS locations.
As for the checkout experience, the same person who lectured me about the sensitivity of the key cards proceeded to help me. After telling him my room number, the first thing he asked was if I needed a copy of the bill. I told him I hadn’t received a bill at all. He printed it out and I payed. As I was about to walk away he asked how my stay was. I told him nicely that it wasn’t so great but that I’d already emailed the GM about the issues. He asked if I could tell him what the issues were anyway, so I told him about all the noise. He apologized.
I sat in the lobby on the first floor while waiting for my town-car to the airport. This is where the circus began – I had no idea I’d get a free show along with my hotel stay!
If you’ve read the book Heads In Beds by Jacob Tomsky, and you’ve read my blog, you know what I thought of that book. This one experience was enough to make me say oh s*&t, that guy might not have been exaggerating as much as it seemed!
The first thing that happened was a young woman walked up with a baggage claim ticket. The bellman came out of the backroom with 1 bag. She asked where the rest were. He said, in such a rude tone, do you see this writing here (pointing to the claim ticket) it says 1 bag. That’s what you get, 1 bag. She looked as shocked as I was. She said the person who took the bags from her only gave her 1 claim ticket. She went on to describe the bellman who gave her the 1 ticket in great detail and she went on to describe every single detail of her 2 suitcases. The bellman who was helping her was obviously annoyed and having a bad day (maybe someone woke him up by moving furniture around too!) His behavior was really unbelievable
About 10 minutes later there were several bellman all standing around the desk. One, who seemed like he might have been a supervisor, was speaking very loudly. He told the group that the woman had complained and that you can’t treat guests that way. After that he walked into the back room. The remaining bellman had quite a chuckle and very elaborate discussion about the woman, the complaint and how they really felt. I was stunned. There were 6 people sitting in the lobby observing the scene or circus as I called it.
Next, the same bellman who gave the woman a hard time started ripping into a much younger bellman. Apparently he thought that the younger bellman had stolen a $25 tip from him. There was a lot of discussion between several of the bellmen about a $50 bill and the man who gave it being “good for at least a hundred each visit” and how he had cash flowing out of places I’d prefer not to repeat on my blog. There was a security guard who looked like he was so embarrassed this was occurring in front of guests that he just walked away shaking his head.
This could have been a scene right out of the book. I could not believe my ears and I was dumbfounded that this was happening at the Westin in the lobby in front of guests. As a guest, you like to believe that the staff is honest, friendly, and somewhat interested in doing a good job. This weekend I saw first hand that my expectation couldn’t be further from the truth.
I imagined being a first time Westin guest, what impression this scene must give. I wondered if any of those people who sat and watched with me would ever go back to the hotel. I won’t go back based on my experience. But I will be back at Starwood and other Westin hotels. In reality, I felt really embarrassed for the hotel and the brand.
In the whole of 2012 and first 1/2 of 2013 I can really only say that I had one other really bad experience at a Starwood – I’m not saying that every stay was perfect, but only 1 compared to this (that was the Sheraton Langkawi.)
I started this post by saying that I wanted to stay at the Westin because it was one of the last two Starwood properties in NYC that I needed to stay in to say I’ve stayed in them all. Now, having been to every hotel except the Chatwall, I can honestly say the Westin will rank at the bottom of my list – below the FourPoints, below everything. It’s such a shame becuase I love the location (yes, I know I’m crazy, but I love Times Square), the hotel was very nice inside – well kept, modern, and inviting.
So what are the takeaways? I should have probably requested a room change when they were moving chairs into the hall mid-day to avoid the noise that night and the next morning. The hotel should have been more coordinated and organized and not have put a guest on a floor they knew would be turned into a meeting facility of some sort. The bellman said there were some type of interviews and auditions happening. Westin’s social media team it was nothing so exciting – just tables and chairs being set up for guest use. I’m leaning toward believing the bellman since they were candid in the lobby! Bottom line, I was very disappointed in my stay, but I’ll still be a loyal SPG guest for years to come – one back experience isn’t enough to turn me away.