Have you ever been walked by a Marriott Bonvoy hotel? It’s not as bad as you may think. This summer, my husband and I had big plans. We were going to celebrate our anniversary by a staycation in Marriott’s Laylow in Waikiki. We booked our room far in advance and counted down the days until our first childless vacation in seven years. However, when a freak electrical surge in our hotel room caused us to lose electricity, I was almost ready to throw in the towel and say this vacation just wasn’t meant to be. But in the end, although we did not get the vacation we envisioned, we did get paid by the Marriott to stay at the Hilton. Here’s how everything went down.
My husband and I decided to celebrate 15 years of marriage by splurging on a suite in Waikiki. Since I’m a Marriott Brilliant card holder, we decided to stick with the various hotel options within the Bonvoy system. The Brilliant card comes with a $450 annual fee, but amongst its many benefits includes the fact that I receive up to $300 back for charges at the Marriot. The Laylow, an Autograph Collection (and Bonvoy) Hotel, seemed to meet all of our requirements. We liked its location within Waikiki, the look of the hotel, and the fact that after we received the aforementioned $300 credit for our stay, our junior suite would only cost us a little over $100. We booked our stay, found overnight babysitters for our kids, and we were off.
After navigating the crowded streets of Waikiki and an even more crowded lobby at the Laylow, we entered our room and smiled. The room was more spacious that we envisioned, with two balconies, a private eating nook, and a welcome basket. There was even an ukulele that I drove my husband crazy with by playing the only two notes I know over and over again.
Everything was going great until six hours into our stay. In the midst of getting ready for dinner, the lights and air conditioner in our hotel room all turned off. (Note: our TV worked fine and no other room experienced a similar problem.) We found the fuse box but it was locked. We called the front desk and they said they would send someone right up. Forty-five minutes later, there was still no electrician in sight. We had accomplished getting ready for an evening out via the flashlights from our phone (after finding out the emergency flashlight in our room didn’t work). Before leaving for dinner, we told the front desk that we were going out but that they were welcome to enter the room to fix the electricity.
Arriving back at the Laylow at around 11 PM, we found out that the hotel could not fix our electricity outage. In fact, as a way of trying to explain the issue to us, we were told that sparks started to fly when the electrician opened the fuse box. That didn’t help us feel any safer. But that wasn’t the worst part. The Laylow was fully booked for the night and there was no other room for us to move to. If we wanted to stay in a hotel in Waikiki, we were going to be walked by the Marriott Bonvoy.
“Walking” is the travel industry term for what happens when a hotel is at maximum capacity and cannot provide a room to a traveler with a confirmed reservation. Similar to airlines, hotels try to predict how many last minute cancellations they will have. They allow enough reservations to be booked in order to meet their estimation. Some times their estimate is off and they need to walk their guests. The hotel is on the hook to find a comparable room for their hotel guest at another hotel.
With every other room at the Laylow taken, we were told that our only option would be to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn across the street. They would reimburse us our $400 and we could stay at a junior suite in the Garden Inn for $250. This was not okay. Sure, to the average traveler, and the night clerk at the Laylow, it seemed like we were getting a better rate (albeit because the Hilton Garden Inn was a lower tiered hotel). However, my Brilliant card was going to credit me $300 back for staying at the Laylow. Therefore, instead of paying $100 to stay in a trendy 4-star hotel, we were going to pay $250 for a 3-star hotel that we were being forced to check into around midnight.
While the option available to us seemed ridiculous considering the situation, the night clerk at the Laylow did not have authority to do anything else for us. So we verified that our room charge was reimbursed, obtained the card of the Hotel manager (so that we could contact her in the morning), and slunk back to our pitch-black room to pack up our belongings by the light of our iPhones, and move across the street.
In full disclosure, we didn’t just go quietly into night. While I don’t think we acted inappropriately, we certainly stood up for ourselves. My husband, for example, stated that Laylow should pay for our hotel stay at the Hilton. I was skeptical. Believe me, I was mad at Laylow and Bonvoy as well, but to argue that they should pay for us to stay somewhere else when they already refunded us our entire bill? How in the world did he expect to win that argument? But as I found out later with a little googling, he was right. Marriott Bonvoy has a written policy, called their ultimate reservation guarantee. This guarantee explains exactly what Marriott Bonvoy members are entitled to if they are ever walked.
If you provided your member number when you booked your reservations, Marriott Bonvoy guarantees that if you are walked to another hotel, they will pay for your stay at that hotel AND provide you with monetary compensation for your troubles. The catch? Marriott Bonvoy doesn’t necessarily train their employees to understand the walking policies. We had to point out the walking policy on the Marriott Bonvoy website to the hotel manager. This was after going back and forth with her and Marriott Bonvoy customer service for a couple of hours. However, in the end it was worth it. We received $200 in cash (literally, as in we swung by Laylow on our way home and picked up $200 in cash), 90,000 points deposited into my Bonvoy account, and our Hilton Garden Inn bill settled for us.
Do your research and fight for the policy as laid out by the hotel. There were many things that the Laylow didn’t understand in terms of the Marriott Bonvoy policies. This included protocols surrounding the Safe Travels Hawaii program and late check out options for their members. Marriott Bonvoy seems to be one of the few hotels to explicitly lay out their guarantee if you are walked. Make sure they abide by it!
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