How I Became A Brand Ambassador For Westin Hotels
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How I Became A Brand Ambassador For Westin Hotels

Paul Holmes

I have on occasion (ab)used this space to complain about my own bad customer experiences, so I think it’s only appropriate to share one story of exceptional service—at the Westin Vendome in Paris this week. Due to a combination of bad luck and bad decisions (mine) I found myself stranded in Paris on a night when no hotel rooms were available. Two of the staff at the Westin—Lone on the Platinum service desk and Stephane on the concierge desk—saved my ass. My wife and I are on a summer tour of favorite European cities with two teenage nieces from Iowa. We had booked a train from Paris to Venice, thinking it might be cool for them to travel in a sleeper car. Unfortunately, the sleeper car we had reserved was broken, and SNCF could only offer to have us share a sleeper with another group or travel the next day. They offered us a hotel room, but given the quality of the sleeper car, I had a feeling the hotel room would be less than elegant, and figured I could do better myself. Big mistake. Because unbeknownst to me, a storm on the other side of the city had grounded almost all flights out of Paris a couple of hours earlier, triggering a mad scramble for hotel rooms. Having learned that the Westin—where we spent the two previous nights—was completely full, we tried other Starwood properties: the Prince de Galles is closed for renovations; the Meridien in Montparnasse is no longer a Starwood hotel; the airport Sheraton was also full. I checked my Five Star Alliance website and started trying to make a reservation: 4 Seasons, full. Bristol, full. Le Meurice, full. And so on. We headed back to the Westin, just to have a base of operations, and found Lone at the Platinum desk, who said she would do what she could. At first that appeared to be very little. Literally every hotel in the city, plus the airport hotels, completely full. Stephane on the concierge desk started calling his contacts at other hotels, using the super-secret concierge network to find a room, any room, so we would not have to sleep on a bench in the Jardins Tuileries. By about 10.30, an hour and half after she was supposed to have left for the night, Lone found us a small room at the Westin due to a cancelation. It was big enough for the two girls, which made me feel better. My wife and I could wander the streets of Paris if necessary, or camp out in the lobby of the Westin playing cards. But Lone wasn’t done. A hotel suite consisting of two bedrooms, either side of a large reception room, had been sold as two rooms, which meant the two bedrooms were occupied but the reception room was not. It had a couple of sofas in it, and they looked a lot better than the floor, or a chair in the lobby. Several people pointed out that the hotel had never done something like this before, but Lone improvised a solution that saved our asses and helped me look much less of an idiot than I felt when the decision to jump off the train blew up in my face. There are very few brands for which I am an advocate: I love Virgin Atlantic, the Kindle, Cadbury chocolate, Sam Adams beer and my iPhone. Add Westin to the list. This experience turned me into a brand ambassador, rather than a loyal member of the Starwood preferred guest program.
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