Whine Wednesday: Low Hotel Standards In North America – Case: Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Vancouver

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This weeks Whine Wednesday is about the rather mediocre hotel standards in North America which are always quite apparent when coming back after spending extensive time in Asia or even Europe.

I’ve had a reservation for a one week stay at the Marriott Pinnacle Downtown Vancouver which I ended up cancelling on the spot after a brief look at the room which was offered to me as an ‘upgrade’.

Sometimes I can’t help but wonder how some of these properties stay in business but then a city such as Vancouver where you have extensive cruise ship traffic and limited brand footprint (except SPG – they have plenty of hotels here) hotels can put off renovation and guest service for a long time.

I’ve had one of my Marriott travel packages laying around since last year which is always good for a max Category 5 hotel but decided to upgrade it to a Category 7 package for a supplement of 60,000 Marriott points. The rates in Vancouver this week are at times beyond CAD $500 a night so it appeared to me a good deal on the surface of value, though I felt somewhat uneasy about this redemption knowing how bad most run of the mill business hotels in North America are. In the very least they are nothing special at all.

I’m just not getting warm with Marriott to be completely honest. I’ve used the chain for occasional stays over the years but never ever discovered a stellar property except the one time at the Marriott Miyako Osaka.

The Marriott property was a foreseeable failure when I contacted the property 2 days ahead of time via email asking what room types would be available for my stay (keep in mind that Marriott as well as other chains now modified the cancellation policy for awards to 2 days prior to arrival as well).

The answer from the hotel was:

We look forward to upgrading you based on the availability on the day of your arrival. As part of your platinum member benefits you are guaranteed a king bed for your stay.

Great reply. NOT! Is this a joke? Anyway I decided to leave the reservation as it was and arrived around 12pm to check-in which I did ahead of time via App Mobile Check-In.

I was assigned a room on the top floor with a harbor view. The view was nice indeed. The room itself was a disaster. Small if not to say tiny with smelling carpets and dark red sofa chairs. No large window, only a small chute. No balcony. I declined this room immediately and was told this is one of their best rooms. Seriously? Then I don’t want to see their worst.

I’ve had a look at two other rooms with the help of the front desk manager who was professional and polite, can’t really say anything negative about the staff at the hotel that day. Unfortunately all other rooms had the same characteristics so I decided to call Marriott and have everything instantly refunded and my package downgraded back to a Category 5 so I got my 60,000 points back.

I used the points for a SPG Cash&Points redemption at the Sheraton Wall Center instead where I was able to get a newly renovated Junior Suite just 30 Minutes after leaving the Marriott. I rather pay some money on top instead of having to stay at the dreadful Marriott even though one has to be careful as the North Tower at the Sheraton isn’t renovated either.

A redemption such as the one I did shouldn’t be made for North America if you have a choice. The properties will almost always disappoint compared to what you can get for the same amount of points (or less) in Europe or Asia. A friend just had a fantastic Marriott redemption in Greece which offered great value. Mine was ok because rates were high but in all honestly the room isn’t worth more than US$100 a night and even for that I wouldn’t stay in it considering the scent.

Conclusion

It’s really hard to find decent hotels in North America if you stay in the four star category which is usually your plain, run of the mill business hotel of the big chains. There are a few good ones in the five star field such as Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, ShangriLa or Fairmont if those are available at your destination.

One of the worst things you can encounter in any hotel room is smell. And lots of fabric such as the hideous red sofa chairs at the Marriott make it even worse, especially if you can’t properly open a window.

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