Sunday, January 22, 2012

Check it out

One of the things I enjoy doing is writing reviews of place I go. I am now a Senior Reviewer with TripAdvisor.  I also use the TripAdvisor site when doing.....pretty much anything and most certainly before I book hotels.

I have learned the nuances of reading reviews too - you have to filter out the ranters and ravers - some people vent rather than review and although there may be a genuine issue at the heart of the matter it is lost in the rant.

You also have to read for expectations.  The people who stay in budget friendly hotels but expect 5 star service and amenities and total silence in their suite in a 400 room hotel and elevators that work at lightening speed through 37 floors over the holidays........ ridiculous expectations.

But when you read a reasoned review with genuine pros and cons and photos it can be such a valuable tool. 

And when you see a manager of said restaurant or hotel respond to EVERY review....it says ALOT about their attention to customers and their experiences and the power of review sites. 

One of the reasons I chose the hotel we stayed in in Hawaii was not because the reviews were perfect - they were mixed but better than average - but because the Manager responded to all the reviews with a well toned response.  I also made a change to our choice of suite because I did enough research to know I would be disappointed if I didn't have a view of the ocean....and I was right ......about what I needed and about the hotel...and I reviewed them honestly.

I have just booked our Spring Break trip - it seemed so awfully close to Christmas break but with only 10 weeks between the two I had to get on it.  The kids and Allan really want to surf again so we researched good beginner surfing spots along the central California coast - a place we have never managed to see and somewhere we could drive too (and see the cousins in Oregon on the way to and fro).

We are at the age and stage in our family that being in an all suite hotel works best for us on many levels.  A separate bedroom for Allan and I means better sleep all round (all 4 of us sharing a room is NOT my idea of a vacation and it's no longer appropriate for Lindsay and David to share a bed at their ages). We have found the Hilton Brand works well for us - Homewood Suites and Embassy Suites in particular.  I have become a Hilton Honours member and collects points for future stays and room upgrades.  The free in-hotel breakfasts are great - I hate going out to find breakfast and the kids love a breakfast buffet.......and having the option to eat in at night after a busy day works for us and saves money.

I was happy to find an Embassy Suites in Monterey until I read the TripAdvisor reviews.  They were quite nasty and there was a consistent thread of issues recently. 

So I emailed Hilton International with my concerns.  And they forwarded my email to the hotel with an assurance they were watching the response.  Within 2 days I got a phone call from Monterey from Connie.  She missed me at home but called me at work the following day. 

We had a good chat. She acknowledged the issues I had brought up, gave a great explanation for why those reviews had happened (8 basketball teams staying 6 to a room and pulling the fire alarms in the night three nights running and overwhelming both housekeeping and breakfast service) and saying they were both embarrassed by failing to rise to the circumstances and by the negative reviews.  She indicated they had reviewed their internal systems, notified me that there was some upgrading happening in February that should be completed by mid March when we visited and assured me they would do all they could to make our stay pleasant.

I made the reservation and know that even if things are not perfect Connie and I can talk about it and work it out.

Moral of my story - check it out if you are concerned, check the source and don't expect perfection when traveling!  Most hotels and restaurants and attractions are trying to please their customers but the saying "You can't please all of the people all of the time" is a truism.  And some of the onus is on me/you, the customer, to do enough research to know what you are getting into.  We know what we value when traveling and I spend hours finding the closest thing to our needs and wants that I can afford.

I'll post a link to my review when we get back in March!  Just counting the days until my toes hit the sand again.......and managing expectations with my family........Monterey is not Waikiki people.......here's hoping it's warm and sunny and the surf breaks just right for my guys!

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