Last week, I conducted site visits as part of my search for meeting space for my Getting Started as a Supervisor public workshop. Here's a quick re-cap if you haven't read my previous posts on the subject. I contacted 12 hotels in Los Angeles and Orange County to get a quote on meeting space. Two major hotel chains (previously referred to as Hotel A and Hotel B) were involved.
I visited two properties in LA. The first was near LAX and was a strong contender because they offered good rates, had a fairly central location, and their salesperson, Lori, was one of the most responsive I had dealt with. The site visit was going well and Lori was doing a nice job of showing me some options until one of her co-workers hurt their chances. One of the rooms she wanted to show me was locked, so she called the Banquet Manager to ask him to unlock the door for him. When I arrived, he proceeded to chew her out for not telling him in advance that she'd need the room opened. He seemed oblivious to me standing right next to Lori until he turned to leave and saw me. Suddenly, he was all smiles and graciously said, "Good morning". Yeah right. You are the guy who will supervise my event? No, thank you.
The second property I visited was the Sheraton Delfina in Santa Monica. This had a very different feel than most Sheratons I've been to. It was just off the 10 freeway, but it felt like an oasis and seemed like a boutique hotel. Kylee, their Director of Catering, showed me a few rooms that might fit my needs and did a great job of providing some options. More importantly, I noticed every associate I encountered was polite, friendly, and helpful. The Sheraton Delfina was more expensive, but the location and service definitely made it the winner for my Los Angeles event.
My first site visit was my front runner for Orange County, the Fullerton Marriott. Kevin, my salesperson, was very enthusiastic and really seemed to care about my event. He showed me several options and was willing to provide a lot of flexibility in the booking arrangements. The property itself was centrally located, convenient to the freeway, and looked like a great fit for my event.
My next visit was in Garden Grove. It was frustrating, to say the least. The salesperson showed me several rooms that were not appropriate for my event. She finally led me to a larger room that might work, but couldn't give me a quote other than telling me it would be more expensive than the proposal I had received. She told me I'd "have to talk to Tracy" (another salesperson) to get the price. No need. The Fullerton Marriott will do just fine.
I'll let you guess which hotel chain was "A" and which was "B", but you can now tell the two chains were Marriott and Starwood. It should be noted that I did contact a Hyatt for a quote but didn't hear back from them for several days, so they were automatically eliminated. Hilton brands were never considered given the recent publicity (and possible criminal charges) related to Hilton executives allegedly stealing trade secrets along with computer hardware and files from Starwood.
I have to admit I was very surprised by the relatively poor performance of both Marriott and Starwood during this process. There were a few stars, like Lori and Kevin, but most of the salespeople made me feel unimportant, failed to respond in a timely manner, and left me with the overall impression that they were unaware their industry was in severe trouble. With a little luck, maybe I'll see some of their managers in my workshop!