How to Complain at a Hotel and Keep Your Cool

By Adele Sharman

25 March 2023

As an avid traveler, I know that sometimes even the best hotels and services can fall short of expectations. Here is a post about how to pitch your complaint both calmly and effectively.

Get well-informed before you go in all guns blazing

Having stayed in countless hotels and traveled enough, I know what level of service I expect. It took me some time to understand what service is high-end and what is mediocre, so don’t worry if your expectations are hazy now. Before you rush into complaining, take a moment to evaluate – maybe it is not the staff who are at fault. 

I don’t get it when people put the blame on hotel staff for some circumstances that are out of our control, like COVID-19. I am sure hotels, airlines, and other establishments are willing to deliver quality customer service, but may be bound by various restrictions.

Know what you want to achieve

What happens when that level isn’t reached? How do I handle these situations? 

You need to decide exactly what you want to achieve. Do you want an apology, a refund, an upgrade, or just better service in the future? If it is a refund, make sure to provide the hotel staff with a valid reason. You can’t simply state your complaint with no backup – it is rather rude and doesn’t give sufficient understanding to the staff. 

Stop frustration – it won’t help

Lashing out in rage won’t make you feel better, and neither will it lead to a constructive conversation. So, calm down if you are angry and go over the situation in your head. Think through what you want to say and the reasons behind each point. Don’t forget that staff are humans with feelings and emotions. Speak to these people how you would like to be spoken to. 

I HAVE DONE  A “KAREN” BEFORE and felt bad about how I spoke to another person. I was really frustrated after our conversation, so I highly suggest you not repeat my mistakes. 

Be self-aware and respectful

If things are getting heated, ask yourself – why? Are you raising your voice, is the other party doing the same, are you both listening to each other? Sometimes being a good listener is all it takes to find a common ground. If you have received a service or a product that hasn’t lived up to your expectations say so. Remember how you articulate these matters, so be considerate of what you are saying.

What shall I do if they are not bothered by my complaint?

Tell them in a pleasant manner you won’t be recommending them or their services to others. Negative reviews can undermine a hotel’s reputation which is very undesirable for the staff. 

If you’re not getting the response you need from the staff member you’re speaking to, ask to speak to their manager. Otherwise, they might not be able to provide you with meaningful feedback due to their lack of competence. Remember to explain why you want to do so in a respectful manner so that the other person doesn’t feel inferior.

I am very much a here-and-now person and I like to deal with a situation at the time. I have gone in shouting and demanding to see a manager once but believe me, it didn’t get me far. Luckily, I have learned to express my disappointment in another manner now and it has helped me find a better way out of tense situations.

Be persistent

If they still dig their heels in reluctantly, don’t be afraid to share your complaint on social media. When it’s about a hotel’s reputation, negative reviews can hit hard. I prefer to deal with the issue in house first or by email rather than turning to social media. When my attempts at constructive talk don’t work though, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram can have a big impact. Keep in mind that the complaint should be topic-related, not a personal attack on an individual. Also, if you were treated in an unprofessional manner by a staff member, speak to them or take it higher to their superior. It may not be their fault (training has to come from somewhere anyway).

Do not tolerate rudeness

You don’t have to put up with rudeness from the other side. It doesn’t mean though that you need to lash out at them right away. Acknowledge them for being impolite and patiently ask them to be more thoughtful of what they’re saying. Remain polite, and clear with what you want to achieve.

I find a lot of hotels saying: “we won’t charge you for that” or “we will give you a discount”. I don’t always expect such a reply. I prefer to offer my opinion or thoughts on how they can improve the service or product instead which usually catches them by surprise. It is not about getting free perks but helping hotels, flights, and other services give ME the best possible service they can. 

If you don’t ask, you don’t get it!

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