3 reasons we won’t stay at a JW Marriott again

We’re in Panama now, but bare with me for a moment while I take you back a couple of days to when we were still in Curacao. One morning, as I was reading and Ella was having a nap, Katy looked up from the computer and said, “we just got kicked out of the JW!”

As you can imagine, this came as a bit of a surprise. I’ve never been pre-emptively kicked out of a hotel before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever been kicked out of one at all. So what happened? Read on family and friends, read on…

Done with the JWIt seems that a more important guest had chosen to use the hotel. As we were rather unceremoniously informed by the JW, we would be graciously allowed to stay for the first 3 nights of our 5 night reservation, after which we would be moved down the road to the Wyndham Grand.

The more important guest? The President of Panama and, judging by the welcome signs, and my poor spanish, some regional or provincial leaders. Oh and military, lots of military.

So here’s the thing. I get why we were kicked out. It’s probably tough to turn down a presidential request to stay at your hotel. The problem is how the JW management handled the need to move us poor plebs. So please indulge me while I go on a bit of a rant.

Here are just three of the things that angered us:

1) Did they really find out just 5 days before we were scheduled to arrive? 

I’m pretty sure the printer who made the sign we saw would need more lead-time than that. So why did it take them so long to tell us? What were they afraid of, we would cancel our whole reservation if we had more time to reflect on our options?

2) Why did they offer so little in the way of an apology and nothing as compensation?

The email notification telling us we would be moved didn’t even include an apology, just a note that they would honour our reservation. Except, not really since we made a reservation at their hotel. If the Wyndham Grand down the road is just as good, I guess we should have just stayed there in the first place.

Maybe I’m being unreasonable, but I think this warranted some kind of compensation, say an upgrade to a nicer room in your now essentially vacant hotel because you’ve kicked everyone out!? Eventually, we did get this, but only because Katy asked nicely. Well, you know that kind of nice request where you know it’s not really a request.

3) Why did it take the full 3 days of constant requests to find out the details of the new hotel and arrange transportation?

If you know me, you know that I’m pretty laid-back and will happily roll along with most things. Even Katy is pretty good at dealing with the inevitable hiccups that come with travelling. Ella, for the time being, removes some of that flexibility. We like to know two things with some certainty:

  • That we know where we’ll be sleeping her (even when it’s in a carrier walking down the street), and that she’ll have a safe spot, ideally a crib, at night.
  • That we can feed her on time, which these days is most of her waking hours.

Given that the new hotel was only a 5-10 minute drive, it should have been really easy to confirm a time when they would move us that fit between naps. Hell, they could have just loaned me one of the golf carts and I would have done it myself. Instead, it took days of pestering and changed plans.

Why this is such a missed opportunity for the JW Marriott

If you’ve ever heard of Scott Stratten you may have heard the story of Joshie. If you haven’t, well look it up on YouTube.

For those of you not now busy on YouTube, you presumably know that Joshie was a stuffed giraffe left behind at a Ritz Carlton after a family vacation. The father of the little girl to whom Joshie belonged did what I’m now coming to understand is the only option for a father in such a situation, he lied. He said that Joshie was just on an extended vacation and would be home soon before frantically calling the Ritz Carlton.

You’ll also know that this is where the story gets interesting. (Really, go to YouTube, Scott Stratten tells it much better). You see, most hotels might have have put Joshie in the mail, though I think most would have charged shipping. Not only did the Ritz Carlton return Joshie, they took a series of pictures showing him having fun on his extended vacation and included them.

I tell you this, not because I want vacation shots of stuffed animals, though who doesn’t, but because I think the JW did the opposite. They took an understandable nuisance and made it infinitely worse through poor communication and trying to do the minimum necessary. They sought to appease us rather than please us.

The last tidbit about the Joshie story is that the father in the story happened to be a writer for the Huffington Post, Chris Hurn. As a result the Ritz Carlton, who hadn’t know this when offering the great service, benefited from a large audience being told how excellent the Ritz Carlton is. Read the story here.

Luckily for the JW, not quite as many people will see this negative version and since it’s all too common, it’s not exactly the stuff of viral sensations.

In the future we’ll stick to independent hotels that offer some local flavour and when we do stay with a chain it will be with an SPG property. (When I stayed at the Westin in Ottawa recently I went for a run, as I often do. As I stood, sweating, waiting of the elevator back to my room, one of the lobby staff popped over with a bottle of water and a small towel.) In fact, if we had stayed at Sheraton Beach resort here in Panama, I would have maintained my gold status with SPG for next year. Lesson learned.

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