For those who don’t speak French, the English title of today’s post is “Joy of Life” or “Suffering of Life”? Keep reading to understand why…
(This is a long post, but I’m hoping you will bear with me and help me out by reading it through and offering your opinion at the end.)
A few days after posting a (very) positive review of the book “Peak” by Chip Conley, CEO of Joie de Vivre Hospitality, I realized that I needed to plan a business trip to the Bay Area. What better way to see if the lofty promises in the book match the true customer experience when staying at one of Chip’s hotels?
I frequently have meetings in San Jose, CA. When I do, I usually stay at a nice Larkspur hotel, a competitive chain to Joie de Vivre. After researching a bit, I found that Joie de Vivre happens to have one of the top rated hotels in San Jose. That’s where I was headed, so it was perfect!
Turns out, JDV Hospitality is sorely lacking in meeting “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” when it comes to booking a room. It took 5 DAYS to book a reservation. Not exactly what I would consider “meeting my basic needs as a customer”.
Here is the story:
Feb. 5th I started to book a reservation using the hotel website. They had a king room for $153 with my AAA discount. WOW, what a great deal! Then, I noticed the company had a frequent stay club called the “Joy of Life” club. I decided it would be a good idea to join, since I planned on staying at Joie de Vivre hotels a lot based on what I’ve read. I registered for the club, figuring it would be better to book my reservation as a club member. Upon clicking “Submit”, I received the following notice “Please allow us 3 Business Days to establish your on-line account.”
3 days? Really? That’s seems awful silly when the competition can do the same thing immediately. But ok, I’ll wait.
Feb. 9th (Four days later) I receive a “Welcome” message saying my account has been activated. As a special “thank you” for joining the club, they are offering me a 10% discount on my first reservation if I use a special code.
I go to the website, enter the code, and get an error saying it’s not valid. Thinking perhaps I did something wrong, I spend the next 20 minutes trying every possible way of using the code. No luck. I also notice that the regular King room isn’t showing up as available. Now I’m only seeing the “Club level” King room…for $180.
I finally give up and send an email message to customer service asking what’s up with the code.
Feb. 10th Customer service gets back to me. They said “There was an issue with the promotion code that caused it to work improperly.” “Try it now“ they said. So I do.
Now I get a NEW error saying that I cannot use the code online, and I need to “Call the hotel directly.” CALL? This is a cutting edge company in the heart of Silicon Valley, and I can’t book online? The whole experience is just getting worse and worse.
I call the hotel. A very polite and nice woman answers and tells me two things:
#1 During the 5 days I’ve tried to book this reservation, the room/rate I wanted has sold out.
#2 She has no idea how to process the reservation using the code THEY gave me, and she will have to check with a manager and call me back.
About an hour later, I finally hear back from the hotel. She said the code had “blackout” dates (NOTHING about blackouts mentioned when they gave me the code by the way) and they have made a “one time exception” to let me use the code online. Gee, thanks for making me feel like I’m a pain in the butt.
So I use the code.
According to the website, the “special discount” is the same rate (for the Club King) that I already had with my AAA discount…which is STILL $30/night higher than the rate I originally found when I started this whole mess.
Under normal circumstances, I would have given up long ago, and booked a room at the competition, but after posting such a positive review of the book, I felt I needed to see this thing through to completion.
So I book the reservation at $180 per night.
I’ve now spent 5 days booking this reservation, at least 1 ½- 2 hours of my actual time, and am paying $90 more for the stay than I would have if I would have just booked durng the original session and been done with it. But at least it’s finished.
Or is it?
After booking the reservation, I get the confirmation email. It looks like this:
Daily Rate: Joy of Life Club- New Member Promotion
Day 1, 2009 —— USD 180.00
Day 2, 2009 —— USD 180.00
Day 3, 2009 —— USD 207.00
What? $207.00 for one of the nights? Where did THAT come from? It didn’t say that on the website when I booked. It appears they just slipped it in there.
So, now I’m torn. Should I keep the reservation, and post a review of my actual stay “in the interest of research”…or should I cancel the reservation, and never give them another shot?
I’m going to let YOU decide. Should I stay at Joie de Vivre, or book their competition, where I’ve never had a problem?
Please post your opinion in the comments.
Either way, the bottom line for now: Joie de Vivre, which claims to have a goal of creating “Committed, satisfied evangelist” customers has now created a very annoyed, ticked off customer…and I haven’t even made it to the hotel yet!
UPDATE (2/17/09): I didn’t contact JDV management about this situation, but they proactively contacted ME. I’ve now heard from the CEO (twice), the Chief Revenue Officer, and the hotel Manager. Now THAT’S customer service! They have made me a fair offer if I will keep my reservation at the hotel, which I have accepted. I’m looking forward to (and hoping for) a very pleasant and trouble-free stay with Joie de Vivre. Thanks everyone for your opinions and votes on this ordeal.