Customer service done poorly by Ramada

This post is more than 3 years old.

Earlier in life I had a job as the senior front desk clerk at a national hotel chain. I made reservations, served breakfast, transferred calls, checked people in, checked people out, cleaned the pool, cleaned rooms when housekeeping had left for the day, chatted with vacationers and placated frustrated guests. The experience has instilled in me a great deal of appreciation (and sympathy) for those who work in any sort of hospitality business, but it has also made me acutely aware of particular lapses by the same when I visit. Earlier this week I was traveling through Eastern Pennsylvania and ended up having to stay in a Ramada hotel when the camping plans I had (which I was really looking forward to) didn't pan out. Ooops. Here's what happened:

  • On walking up to the front desk, the attending clerk acted like I'd interrupted her dinner, and made no effort to be welcoming. To be fair, the phone was ringing and she clearly had a lot going on, but even after she got those things taken care of, the vibe was still that she wanted to get rid of me as soon as possible. Yikes.
  • When she quoted me a room rate and I asked about a discount from Better World Club that was supposed to apply (but that is kind of obscure so folks usually have to look it up), she responded right away that there was no discount. I didn't bother to challenge her on it, but it would have been nice to hear more of an explanation.
  • I tried to prompt her to tell me about some of the hotel amenities and "sell" me on the rate, but she wouldn't play. I got short yes/no answers, and no helpful suggestions. The two main ones were "Do you have high speed Internet service?" (Yes) and "How late is your restaurant open for dinner" (11 PM). When I finally reserved the room, she had me sign a piece of paper and said nothing about where the room was, how to get there (I had to park two times before finding the right entrance), checkout time, how glad they were to have me there, etc.
  • When I got to the room, the high speed Internet service didn't work. I acquired a wireless connection but couldn't get any network traffic through, and my computer was telling me that it was a weak signal. I called the toll free support number and for 20 minutes walked through some diagnostics with Tess at Guesttek Solutions, Ltd., who was very helpful in confirming that the wireless signal quality was worthless in my room. She called the front desk, who called me back and moved me to a new room. In the new room, the wireless connection was a little better, but still had 15% or higher packet loss, high round trip times and spotty signal strength.
  • When I arrived at the restaurant for dinner at 10:35 PM, they looked at me like I was crazy and said they were closed. I politely mentioned that the front desk had indicated that they were open until 11, and that their sign in front of the entrance way also indicated they were open until then. This seemed to trigger a series of events involving at least three of the restaurant staff, conferring about how messed up their relationship with the front desk was (30 feet away) and what they would do. There was some yelling and clanging back in the kitchen. Finally, they shuffled me over to a table and started the metaphorical timer on my dining experience. (They messed the order up and the food was mediocre, but that's a weblog entry for another time.)
  • When I went to use the bed, there was a beetle of some sort in the sheets. When I took the beetle to the front desk (kind of melodramatic, I know...I was mainly curious about what the reaction would be at this point), the new person on duty said, "Huh, that's interesting. What do you want - new sheets, a new room, what?" Apparently, I was bothering her too. I just said that I wanted them to be aware of it, smiled at the people in line behind me to check in (they were staring at the beetle and looking a little worried), and walked away.
  • When I checked out in the morning, the same clerk who'd checked me in was back (no wonder she looked annoyed if she's working evening and morning shifts...that explains the "help wanted" sign in their driveway) and asked if the Internet connection got any better. I mentioned that it didn't really, and she only said "oh" and then proceeded to quietly check me out. I'm sort of glad that she didn't say "well how was your stay with us in general?" because I probably would have wanted to tell her. (And since she didn't ask, I just rant about it on my weblog...seems fair, yes?)

Obvious customer service lessons:

  1. Every small lapse in customer service can add up to a larger sense of poor quality. There is no such thing as a trivial problem in customer service; for all you know, it's the straw that will break the camel's back for your customer.
  2. If you are in an industry where logistical details (like hours of operation) are central to the product or service you provide, you had better make sure you're absolutely clear on those details, and that they're well documented and widely shared. It is all too common that the left hand of a given entity advertises something incorrect about the right hand, giving off an unprofessional appearance.
  3. Don't advertise a service you can't deliver. If you say all of your rooms will have high speed Internet access, they should all have it and the quality of that service should be the same for each room. You never know who's going to care that they happen to be stuck in the one room where it's not so great.
  4. Don't forget the importance of saying that "I'm sorry," even if it's about something you need not apologize for. Taking a genuine interest in the customer's concerns and letting them know that you're affected by them can go a long way toward ameliorating a situation. Ignoring those concerns or appearing annoyed by them just amplifies any sense of dissatisfaction.

Obvious lesson for me: I really should have gone camping.

12 thoughts on “Customer service done poorly by Ramada

  1. The initial response from Ramada appears to be a form letter:

    "Dear Mr. Hardie: Thank you for contacting us concerning your stay at the Ramada, Lake Harmony. Please accept our apology for the problem [sic] you encountered. I appreciate the time you took to contact us. At Ramada, we are committed to providing you with high quality services and facilities. Feedback like yours helps us improve. The information you provided has also been forwarded to the hotel's General Manager, and you can expect to hear from him within 7 working days. Again, thank you for bringing this to my attention. We appreciate your staying at Ramada and look forward to seeing you again, many times.

    Keith J. Pierce
    Ramada Worldwide, Inc."

  2. Last week I got what appears to be the final correspondence on the matter:

    "Dear Sir or Madam, I am writing to apologize for your terrible stay at the Ramada Inn Pocono Pennsylvania. I am giving you a 20% discount on your entire bill. I hope that you will continue to do business at our facility. If you have any questions, comments, or concerns please feel free to call me anytime. Thank you and have a wonderful day.

    Jessica A. Wentz
    Sales Manager, Ramada Inn Pocono"

    It was a nice enough letter, I guess. It looked like it had been xeroxed a few times, and that with the "dear sir or madam" part makes me wonder if it was a form letter too. The enclosed credit notice let me know that Ramada Inn and its affiliates may contact me about their goods and services unless I call or write to opt-out; it would be really disappointing if they follow through on that.

  3. You are waaaay luckier than I!

    I just had the dubious pleasure of staying at the Ramada Palms de Las Cruces in Las Cruces, New Mexico (November 12, 13, and 14). I had a funeral to attend and had no other choices as to hotels; next time I’ll sleep in my car. The hotel is older and run down, but I tried to put a positive spin on it by reminding myself that it was convenient. The hotel is not super-clean, but I tried to put a positive spin on it by reminding myself that it was convenient. The hotel is under-staffed, but I tried to put a postive spin on it by reminding myself that it was convenient. I stopped trying to spin things when I checked out and discovered I had $22 in unexpected phone calls on my bill. Now there’s no denying the hotel is just shabby, dirty, and has poor service.

    You see, apparently every phone call from the room of the hotel, whether local or otherwise, is billed like an old-fashioned long distance call. I know that happens. Well, I knew that USED to happen. I thought hotels had stopped such racketeering some time ago. But, apparently, ethical business practices have not made it to the Ramada chain.

    Now, I can afford the $22. But, that’s not the point. Hidden charges are sleazy and cheesy and show a distinct lack of character. The hotel management didn’t post any indication there are charges associated with phone calls, so they are deliberately trying to hide the charges—to slip them in and gouge travelers who are too frazzled and time-constrained to be able to make a big issue of things at check-out.

    Well, I’m making a big issue now. I called American Express and protested the $ at eleven. I also wrote to Ramada via their website form and quickly received an email reponse that began: "Thank you for contacting the Ramada Customer Service Department concerning your stay at the Ramada property located in Las Cruces, NM. We sincerely apologize that the property did not meet your expectations of Ramada's high standards of guest service. This property is independently owned and operated under a Ramada franchise, and its management is responsible for meeting Ramada standards. We appreciate the time you took to let us know where this property needs to improve." Hmmmm. Apparently if a franchise hotel's management does NOT meet Ramada standcards, that's okay.

    In a phone call a few minutes ago, a representative of the Ramada Palms de Las Cruces explained to me that:

    1. The long distance charges applied to my bill for three calls made from my room were not the hotel's fault---the phone company determines what is and isn't a long distance call. Interesting! One of the calls was to a home maybe three miles away from the hotel and lasted less than two minutes ($4.39), one was to a home maybe eight miles away from the hotel and lasted maybe three minutes ($4.39), and one was to a home probably 40 miles from the hotel and lasted about 15 minutes ($13.49). In all three cases I dialed 9 for an outside line, not 8 (which is what the phone directions indicate one must dial for a long distance call). In no case did I have to dial the area code in order to make the calls go through. Sounds like local calls to me! Oh, and I did try to make one long distance call (to Wyoming), but could not get the whole dial-8-for-a-credit-card-call process to work, so I just used the calling card on my cellular phone.

    2. AND, they were not hidden charges---the policy is spelled out in the booklet in each room, even if it is not anywhere out in the open nor anywhere near the telephones.

    3. AND, they are standard charges within the industry---calling "all the other hotels" (I assume within the Ramada chain, but who really cares), they determined they rip off guests the same way everyone else does.

    So, here's an interesting marketing study, don't you think? The lessons here, I suppose, are:

    • Don't make it easy for your customers to know what your products or services cost and then deny that the inflated bottom line was achieved through fine print.
    • Don't worry about repeat business; there are plenty of suckers out there for you to scam.
    • Follow the crowd, even if the resulting behaviour is sleazy; there's safety in numbers (or, at least numbers offer credibility if used as an excuse with enough force and conviction).
    • Oh, and one last thing! Be sure to allow anyone with a dollar to dilute your brand (franchise revenues today outweigh customer satisfaction tomorrow every time).

  4. I am going through a huge issue right nw, I am on the phone/hold right now. I booked a trip via Ramada vacations, I called to book today. Here goes:
    I been transfered to 10 people, and am still on hold. I have been on the phone for 2 hours. I can't seem to book my trip because I keep getting transfered, I can't get my money back, which I think I got hosed on, and I can't seem to find anyone to help me! I was in tears today, I am at my limit. I can't believe that this is acceptable Customer Service.

  5. We made the mistake of staying at the Ramada Inn in Costa Mesa, Calif., last weekend, only to be ripped off. We had changed the date of our reservation two weeks before arriving but the hotel evidently never bothered to change it in its computer and charged us for a night we never stayed there. Mistakes like this can happen, but what was truly offensive was the stiff-arm response when I discussed it with the general manager, Edgar Santos. Instead of apologizing for the mistake and taking the charge off our bill, he insisted that "no one called" to change the reservation, in effect accusing me of lying and in effect taking $100 of our money dishonestly for a night we never stayed there. My wife warned me in advance against staying at Ramada and I'm afraid it turns out she was right. Won't make that mistake again.

  6. The San Diego Ramada Inn next to the old NTC is older but well maintained and immaculate except for the attached lounge. They cater mainly to customers from the fishing boats across the road and other non-hotel guests. If you stay there and don't like ill mannered foul mouth people you should probably avoid the lounge.

  7. We stayed in a Ramada Inn in Elk City, Okla. on 10-28-08. We had reserved the room a couple weeks in advance. When we arrived we checked in only to realize that our aarp discount wasn't applied. The receptionist said she would have to cancel that registration and make a new one.
    result? We were billed for two seperate rooms when we got our American Express bill. So for they have not tried to help us with the over-billing.

  8. We stayed with Ramada Limited in Scottsdale, AZ on 3/26/2009 and we were evacuated at 7am in the morning for a fire that happened in room 106 - right below our room 206. I was not going to make a big deal out of this situation and just wanted our money back for the stay. We have a 2 year old son and decided it would be safer to go to another hotel. The firefighter suggested that we leave as soon as possible for our safety. All our clothes and luggage smelled of smoke so we decided to leave. The worst part is that the customer service at the Ramada was horrible. I just received a phone call on 3/30/2009 at 1030am and they were rude about the situation - telling me that they did not start the fire. I apologized for the misunderstanding but he stated that it wasn't his fault. When something happens at your hotel, you take responsibility, or so I thought. We could have been really hurt. My family could have been injured if it wasn't for the other people staying in the hotel waking us up. I am very disappointed in the response from Ramada and will take this action further. Threatening your family’s life brings out the animal in all of us. Ramada should do what it takes to keep their guests safe especially in the economy where Americans do not have a lot to spend on vacations and trips. I do request action back from Ramada.

  9. I travel frequently (once a month) and I usually stay at those popular hotel chains such as Marriott, Hilton, or Sheraton… My family and I recently made a short trip down southern California. This time we decide to stay at the Ramada Plaza hotel, Garden Grove, because my Mom would like to stay at a hotel that run by a Vietnamese management. My Mom had stayed there once last year and she said the place was new and clean with reasonable price; also it is nearby Vietnamese town.
    When checking in, I asked the front desk gentleman that if we could have two rooms that connected each other. He told me that he could not do that unless we were willing to pay more. I was shock because (1) other hotels don’t do that (at least with those we’ve stayed) (2) I called the hotel directly before booking and someone had told me that if those rooms were still available by the time we checked in, there would be no problem. We ended up getting rooms across the hall instead.
    The first morning was that when the nightmare started. We were waked up by some kind of lousy banging noises at 8 a.m. in the morning. I was told that the hotel was trying to fix the water pipeline. Great!!! I was on vacation and I could not sleep in. We then were notified that there would be no water between 1 to 5 a.m. Guess what? Those people (whoever were trying to fix the water problem) started working again at 1 a.m. in the morning. That was so ridiculous because our rooms were just two doors down where they were working. We suffered for about an hour and finally I had to call the front desk, asked them to stop working. The noises were stopped about 20 minutes later. The story was again repeated at 8 a.m. We checked out the hotel two hours later. That was my first experience with Ramada and would be the last.

  10. Stayed at the Ramada Inn in Bangor on October 24/10, we were quoted $89.00 and when we got there they said oh 3 people that's $10. more.
    We phoned down to the desk for more towels just after we got there as we were driving all day and finally we went down in the morning to get more towels, no apology or anything. We moved odut of the Ramada and went to the Hampton Inn and it was a much nicer room and we had food and lots of towels. Looked in the Room saver book after and it said $69.00 per night at the Ramada for up to 4 people.

    We were truly disappointed with Ramada Inn. Thank You

  11. I am looking at the letter they sent to you. Wowwww it is a form letter. And I have to tell you that the letter means nothing, "an attempt to public relations". This is what they wrote to me, tell me if it looks similar.
    Dear Jeffry,
    Thank you for taking the time to bring your concern to our attention and allowing us the opportunity to address your needs. We are sincerely sorry to hear we did not provide you with an excellent Ramada Worldwide experience. You can count on our team to help resolve your concerns.

    To assist you in reaching a resolution, I’ve informed the Ponce’s general manager of the situation. The general manager will contact you by 08/21/13. As a company, we’re committed to delivering a great experience every time you stay with us, and I sincerely apologize this did not happen in this case.

    Jeffry, please know that we truly appreciate your feedback and the opportunity to respond to your concerns.

    Count on Me,

    Customer Care
    Internet Specialist
    Wyndham Hotel Group
    Phone: 800-828-6644
    Fax: 888-565-7707

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