I’m no expert in hotel management, but it seems reasonable to expect that, when a Wyndham property becomes a Sheraton, there would be a transition period — even just one day — during which the hotel would be closed to make various changes. That didn’t happen in Miami, and hundreds of guests are still being disserviced as a result every day.
I stayed at the Sheraton Miami Airport last week and was stunned how easily a hotel can get away with charging high rates but failing to provide basic necessities, such as heat. I’m all for letting the market determine prices, except that guests book rooms at the Sheraton not knowing they will be cold and their TV won’t work.
I realize it’s warm in Miami this time of year, and the temperature reached the low 70s the day I checked in at the Sheraton — but at night it fell to about 50F. For me, that’s cold. Moreover, most U.S. hotels are obsessed with air-conditioning, and my rooms are often frigidly cold when I arrive. I expected to be warm in Miami — if I wanted cold, I would have stayed in DC.
The heating capability of my air-conditioner in Miami was disabled, and the only thing I could do was to at least turn off the cold, but not much had changed three hours later. The temperature outside dropped, and cold air from the hallway was coming in through the unusually wide gaps under my door and on the side.
I had work to do but wasn’t being very productive, so I thought I’d watch a little TV to take my mind off the cold. Another surprise: Most channels on the fancy flat TV didn’t work. I approached the desk to call guest services and realized there was no phone on it. There was one on the nightstand.
By the way, I was in one of the hotel’s best rooms, according to the clerk who checked me in. I’d used my Starwood points to reserve an upgraded room, even though I should have received a free upgrade as a Platinum Starwood member.
I went down to the front desk and alerted the same clerk about the phoneless desk, thinking it was probably an oversight. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d stayed at a hotel of that category that didn’t have a phone on the desk. I’d been at the Hampton Inn at the Miami airport the night before, and that much cheaper property had two phones in the room. Obviously, it’s not a big deal, but there are certain standards hotels are required to respect to maintain their category.
The clerk said he’d never heard of any hotel room having two phones. Minutes later, an engineer who came to my room told me a different story. The hotel had been a Wyndham property until Dec. 15, 2010, when it became a Sheraton overnight. The new management decided it would keep it open and save money by fixing things over the following few months with guests in the building.
There had been desk phones, in addition to those on nightstands, but the new masters got rid of them — it wasn’t clear if they will be replaced. The TV problems were due to some work being done as part of the transition.
As for the temperature, the engineer said the heating equipment in most rooms had been dilapidated for years, but the previous management decided not to fix it. Moreover, they also ordered all portable heaters disposed of. Only 14 of the hotel’s 405 rooms still had a heating capability, and I was eventually moved to one of them. I lost the upgrade I’d paid for, but that was no longer important.
Perhaps the Sheraton’s new management could have been less greedy and closed the hotel for a few days until all problems got taken care of. It would have lost some revenue, but it would have been the proper thing to do.
- Nicholas Kralev is an author and expert on diplomacy, world affairs and global travel. He hosts the weekly program "Conversations with Nicholas Kralev." A former Financial Times and Washington Times correspondent, he has traveled around the world with four U.S. secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Madeleine Albright. He has flown over 2 million miles and visited 84 countries.
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