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How to Effectively Complain to The Hotel's Front Desk (As Told By a Former Front Desk Agent)

June 5, 2014 at 1:21 PM | by | ()

He's told us how to book a hotel room like a boss and he's given a behind-the-scenes explanation for a common room problem but now our former front desk manager is back with the most important advice of all--how to effectively complain to the front desk when things don't go your way.

"Can you please arrange a wake up call for me?" Check. "Can you please have someone pick up my laundry?" Check. "Can you please have someone service my room?" Check. "Why is my TV not working?" It will be fixed, check.

The front desk is truly the heartbeat of any hotel. That is not to say that the other departments aren’t equally important, like housekeeping and engineering, which really are some of the hardest working departments in a hotel but, the front desk serves as the main go-to point for every single issue, good or bad, for all hotels.

The true mavericks of this department are the front desk agents, the tireless staff who are the face of the hotel and constantly get called upon to do every single task, whether it is within their job description or not. They ensure that no matter what problem, what concerning department, who the last staff member spoken to, the guest’s issue will be sorted out through one point of contact, them.

Here are some Do's and Don'ts for effectively complaining to the front desk:


Do be specific about your complaint. Try to provide as many details with regards to time and place as possible. The more information you can give about what went wrong and when it went wrong, the more the front desk can help you. They will then take this information to the other departments who can also assist in righting whatever went wrong.

Do try to remember names. If not, try to remember faces. While this seems an odd thing, it is really helpful for front desk staff to follow up with guest requests. Simply saying "I spoke to someone about my car service" or "There was a girl here yesterday" is just as helpful as saying "I spoke to everyone" While hotel staff really do know almost everyone in the hotel, being a little more specific not only speeds up the follow up process, but also gives your query a bit more credence and things can be taken care of more efficiently.

Do follow up. Yes, this is the job of the hotel and it is done most the time. Sometimes however, front desk staff doesn’t really hear of whether the guest is really happy with the outcome of their efforts. On your way out of the hotel at anytime, just stop by the front desk and give them an update. This also helps the front desk remember you even more for letting them know the final result.

Do ask for management to step in when things get really, really bad. If you're complaints have gone unheard or unattended to, now is the time to ask for senior management to get involved. The most effective way to do this is by clearly stating the times and staff with which the complaints were filed. This allows the hotel to immediately fix the problem while also going the extra mile and providing a complimentary amenity. It also allows the hotel to learn from the mistakes of where there was the communication breakdown and make sure it doesn’t happen again.


Don't talk down to or look down upon front desk agents. Remember, front desk agents are some of the most qualified and skilled multi-taskers in the industry. They not only know how to communicate effectively with guests, but also know how to get things done from making sure the concierge has the right information to make restaurant bookings to keeping the housekeeping department updated on the right time to service the rooms.

Don't immediately ask for a manager just because you don’t think the front desk agent can "handle" your important issue. In most hotels, the front desk staff is given a considerable amount of responsibility to not only address a guest concern or request, but also to provide immediate restitution for any guest problems that arise. Ritz-Carlton Hotels is one of the best examples of this giving front-line staff a dollar value limit within which they can compensate guests anywhere from a complimentary drink to a lavish amenity such as a luxury bathrobe. (Trust, these bathrobes are golden!)

Don't mock the staff’s level of English. We live in an international world. Front desk agents are impeccable at their jobs and work hard at making sure they are communicating as effectively at possible. Having a guest sneer or roll their eyes when they hear a slight accent is not only unnecessary but down right insulting. Be respectful and patient, where there is a will, there is a way.

Don't talk how rich you are, how important you are or how big a loyalty member you are. Almost always, your reservation pops up on the screen screaming of loyalty status, importance and the level of care that is required. This is what hotels do best. Trust them. Throwing down an "Amex Black" card and asking the front desk, "Do you even know what that this?" is just plain silly and does not serve any purpose (Yes, this actually happened.) Amex Black card or not, you are the guest and you are extremely important to the hotel.

Don’t ask for unreasonable freebies. Guests sometimes believe that one small problem immediately entitles them to something free, an amenity or even a room. Most hotels have clear policies and procedures highlighting what level of guest problem receives what level of compensation. A missed turn down service does not always mean a free stay at the hotel. Be fair about what you are asking the hotel for and make sure that it is reasonable. Asking for something unreasonable makes you look like an opportunist and you'll lose credibility.

Got a question for the front desk? Send it to us and we'll have our guy answer it!

Archived Comments:

One More Tip

As a former hotel guy (Front Desk, Reservations, other areas), I concur that these are all very good tips. I think the most important is the one about not talking down to the person. (Frankly, that should be applied to virtually every public interaction.)

One tip I'd add: Don't blame the Front Desk representative for the problem. In most situations, the person you are talking to didn't actually cause the problem. While good Front Desk Agent knows not to take complaints personally, it never hurts to start off by acknowledging that fact. "I know you didn't cause this problem, but I'm hoping you can help resolve it."

Good tips

Good tips indeed! Complaining is an art and mastering it is the key to obtain what you want!

Good tips


Happend to me

The Black AMX thing happened to me when i was a desk clerk at a Las Vegas property. I think i kindly told the man we do not participate in the AMX rewards program.

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Great List

Well written and considerate list on how to interact with the front desk team should a problem arise.

Dos and Don'ts

As a former hospitality employee in reservations and front desk at resorts, and now as a constant traveler, I agree with most of what your do's and don'ts say.  The one I disagree with is the matter of Front Desk Staff who's English is poor.  I don't mean an accent, I mean when it's clear English is a second language they are not really competent in.  Despite your lauding of Front Desk Staff, there is a real problem with some staff that really should not be at Front Desks.  If I feel that they really don't understand my request, question, or issue, and I keep getting a non-answer that sounds scripted back -- it is extremely frustrating to say the least.  And try dealing with this on the phone in advance of your stay!  It's a nightmare.

I'm dealing with this right now, which is what prompted me to read your article.  It see this most often at mid-level chains -- and I had to call back this national chain of Express hotels for a weekend stay, because the first person could not communicate at all.  This is the second time in advance of my stay -- and all I'm trying to do is get a credit card authorization sent to me.  I have requested this now THREE times, and this last one, finally English speaking, was curt and unfriendly, yet said I would receive it in minutes.  It's been an hour.  I will be there in 3 days, and I'm very concerned about the CC authorization.  This is in Berkeley, CA, where the lodging options are not great at all.  

So if I or anyone else gets frustrated to the point of showing it to a non-English speaking front desk person -- do not blame the guest!  These people do not belong in front line jobs until their English is greatly improved!