The Compensation Clinic makes a stop at the Westin Beijing, Chaoyang (P.R. China) this week where your truly stayed a few weeks ago. The hotel was recommended to me by a friend and I decided to give it a try.
I had really high hopes for this hotel, given the price point it usually has and the reputation it has among friends and other regular Beijing visitors I talked to. Since I made my reservation on short notice I also emailed the hotels reservations to proceed with the room assignment as SPG Platinum so that I don’t have to negotiate a possible upgrade at check-in. I’m visiting China long enough to know that these things are better done in advance. The upgrade was available and assigned.
My arrival at the hotel began rather interesting with no bell staff outside. No big deal since I only traveled with one carry on, nevertheless this shouldn’t really be the first impression of a five star hotel anywhere.
The check-in went rather smooth with nothing noteworthy. I asked for the details in regards to lounge location, service times as well as breakfast. Information was given verbally, no welcome letter was provided and neither was there any inside the room.
The suite itself was nice with a spacious interior, a massage chair and a TV that could be moved up/down electronically inside a console. Unfortunately after trying to get it up some cable shifted and the TV got stuck half way and couldn’t be moved any further. I called the Service Hotline to no avail and afterwards went to fix it myself which took about 20 Minutes since the culprit (a cable that detached from the power source) sat deep inside the console.
Afterwards I went up to have a look at the Club Lounge and to inquire about the welcome letter or anything of that nature which outlines Club/Platinum benefits. A welcome card had not been delivered to the room either. I learned there is indeed a letter that contained all necessary information (incl the benefit of a laundry pressing service) and had had it printed. The Club Lounge looked nice and spacious, I visited it again in the evening where I found the food options rather sparse but the beverages decent including Champagne being served.
In the evening I needed to leave the hotel for an dinner function. Again no bell staff was present outside the hotel entrance to hail a taxi. After some time two gentlemen showed up, communication was close to impossible. I ended up using UBER and a car picked me up 10 minutes later.
Returning later that night I was greeted by a wet foyer and semi-flooded adjacent guest bathroom. I used the Service Hotline again (this time it was answered) and asked to be connected to the Front Desk. The phone was idle for 5 minutes until I had enough and went down myself. There was no guest at the F/D, I inquired why the phone is not being answered and that I want to meet management the following day. Considering all the communication issues so far I asked for the General Manager of the hotel, who I knew from the reservation email, was a western gentleman so that excludes any further miscommunication.
Next morning I went to the restaurant for breakfast which I was told was available until 11am. Surprise, it was actually 10:30 and already closed. The lounge however still had breakfast options that were very good.
I then asked again to have my meeting with the GM. I kid you not, they sent 3 different line managers (local) until finally learned the GM was on holiday. The Front Office Manager was in charge of the whole hotel which I found rather unusual. She was nice and competent but I find this a rather strange management structure that there is nobody in between to take care of a 5 Star Westin Hotel (where the U.S. President stayed before) while the GM is on a vacation.
I expressed my frustration with the operations, defects and miscommunication. It was agreed to that the charges for that night (~ 1100 CNY) are being waived. I also received a follow up email to this meeting
Please kindly accept my sincere apology for the unpleasant stay with us. About room conditions, housekeeping, engineering and I will go to the room to fix it after you depart. About service quality, especially the communication cycle, we couldn’t accept it either. It’s not our normal service practice. I find no excuse for giving you less than satisfied The Westin Experience. Your valued feedback allows us to further improve our service commitment to valued guest like you. We will re-train the related associates to make sure to deliver the high quality service to our customers.
I also received a short email from the General Manager David Ness to recognize the incident which in my opinion displayed at least some professionalism in the whole chain of events.
I would have rather paid a higher rate in full at the St. Regis (which I really like) and have no issues of this sort… but at least I got to know a new property. I think the Westin is a nice hotel as far as the hardware is concerned and the issues are once again based on the human factor: staff. Last week I wrote a piece about an article in the China Daily (access here) that identified the difficulty of obtaining and maintaining good staff in China at the moment. This seems to be the issue at the Westin as well.
LoyaltyLobby has monitored and covered this matter extensively over the years as both John and I are frequent visitors in mainland China. Bottom line is that things will not change, even at these luxury hotels, unless the guests revolt. The rates are high and one would think that the owners should have enough funds available to ensure a decent operation or that the chain requires a certain standard. Reality is however that many owners put a lot of pressure on their General Managers to keep the lit on staff expenses. I personally don’t think that anything will change unless guests are consistently start to demand better service.