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How to Express a Complaint to Your Hotel

Aug 17, 2007
If you are an international visitor or student traveling in Canada and the U.S., you may at some time need to lodge a complaint at a hotel where you have booked a room.

In the U.S. and Canada, if you are too polite or submissive, your request may be ignored. If you are too assertive or angry, you will also probably not succeed.

So, to lodge a successful complaint, you should:

1) Describe your problem calmly and with dignity.
2) Use a modulated tone of voice. You will always have more success in North America if you control your temper.
3) Throughout the negotiation, remember that you want to resolve a problem, not win a skirmish.

Always take your complaint to the front desk clerk first. Note, too, that hotel clerks are not considered servants in North America, so be sure not to talk down to them.

How to phrase a complaint

Suppose you check into your room and discover that it's not clean. Here's an ineffective way to communicate this problem to the hotel clerk:

[yelling] "You gave me a filthy room! I want another room immediately, or I will report you to the manager!"

Now here is an effective way to lodge this complaint:

[spoken in a controlled tone of voice] "Excuse me, but my room was not cleaned after the last guest. May I have another room?"

Escalating a complaint

If your initial request brings no result, say, "May I speak to the manager, please?" and start over in the same calm way. Continue to be polite and reserved.

If the problem is still not resolved, you could say to the manager, "I am very sorry, but without a clean room I will have to ask my credit card company to stop payment. For the record, your name is Mary Cafaro, the manager? I will also need to report what has happened to American Express and to your head office. I do not want to do that."

When you say, "I do not want to do that," you leave an opening for the hotel to move toward resolution.

Being treated fairly

Don't give up too easily.

Suppose a hotel tells you it cannot honor your reservation because it has overbooked. This is not a situation you should have to endure. So, stay in front of the check-in queue until you are offered a fair solution.

Expect a good hotel to find you an alternative room at a similar hotel, immediately refund your full deposit, pay for a taxi to the new hotel, and pay for a call to your friends or relatives to let them know your new location.

A few hotels might claim they do not have a reservation in your name. If you have brought along a written confirmation of your booking, you are in a far better bargaining position.

The 3 best strategies for avoiding problems at hotels

1) Check into a hotel as early as you can. Remember that most hotels overbook to protect themselves.
2) Carry written confirmation of your room reservation.
3) And, when you must lodge a complaint, remember to speak firmly but calmly. Keep your dignity and your cool!
About the Author
Ruthie Hutchings currently writes articles for online newsletters and websites, such as Dr. Voyageur, a site dedicated to helping international students and travelers visiting Canada and the U.S.
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